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Patriots vs. Broncos: Playoff Playmakers

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Since I can't sit still at the moment, I've decided to compile a list of players I think will have an important contribution in tonight's game against the Denver Broncos:

1. Brandon Spikes

I think everyone here recognizes the impact Brandon Spikes can have on a game. The former Florida Gator brings an attitude, aggression, energy, and identity to the Patriots' defense when he's on the field. I think that he was given ample time to recover from his knee injury, and seemed to have a very positive return two weeks ago against the Bills.

Brandon's best known for aiding New England's run defense, however we began to see in the few games before he went down with an MCL sprain that he also had the ability to blitz interior offensive lineman and disrupt the matchups that the offense were looking for. Both of these talents will come in handy, as Denver finds most of their success running the ball, and Tim Tebow is proven to be a worse passer under pressure.

2. Julian Edelman

This one is a hunch, but I truly expect to see a healthy dose of the WR/ DB/ KR/ PR in this game. I think that Julian has steadily earned a reputation as a gamer, and someone who can make plays if he's given the chance. In one of Tedy Bruschi's columns this week, he also spoke about how he believed Edelman has proved that he's more than just a fill-in on defense. I completely agree. I hope to see Julian play a lot at slot corner, and if so I think we might see him pick up his first career sack.

3. Kevin Faulk

I know, this one is a long shot. BenJarvus is the goal line back, Stevan Ridley has proven himself as an explosive weapon that can get 5 yards/ carry, and Danny Woodhead has done an excellent job as a change-of-pace back.

That all being said, Kevin Faulk is historically the most clutch offensive weapon on the Patriots roster not named Tom Brady. If Faulk is active you're going to hear his name at some crucial moment; and even though we've all been saying that the old Kevin is gone I don't think there will be a single surprised fan at that moment.

4. Rob Ninkovich

This one was hard choice for me between Rob and Mark Anderson, because I believe that Mark is going to have success again against the Broncos today. However, Ninkovich has been a gamer at times and I think he was extremely close to making key plays against Denver in the first game. I really like that Rob has steadily improved over his time with the Patriots, and I think that he will have learned from his mistakes in the first matchup and will convert the plays he nearly made in that game.

5. Rob Gronkowski

This one might be a little obvious, but at the same time, it's Gronk's time. We all know what he's capable of, and considering the game Aaron Hernandez had in the first meeting I'm not sure if the Broncos' defense will be able to focus as much attention on Rob this time around.