When looking at past Super Bowl champions, including the Patriots, there is always certain players that always make key contributions throughout their playoff run. It will be no different this year if the Patriots want to make another run to the Super Bowl and get to New Orleans.
The first player you have to focus on is obviously Mr. Brady, he is a future hall of fame quarterback and possibly the best quarterback in the NFL. The Pats need him to continue to play at the high level he always does if they want any shot at going to New Orleans. Everybody talks about his physical abilities, the way he moves in the pocket, his laser sharp accuracy, and all of this is true. In my opinion however it is his mental abilities that set him apart, the way he can read defenses so quickly and identify where the best place to go with the ball is, and how he never makes a huge mistake. It is because of this that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and easily the Patriots best player. No matter what weapons are around him he has a unique ability to make them better, so in the event that some of his receivers or running backs hit a wall during the playoffs, the Pats can count on Brady to pull them through.
The second player that the Pats need to produce is Wes Welker. Everybody talks about ‘Gronk’ and Aaron Hernandez, and they are well deserving of the talk too, but Welker makes the Pats lethal offense go. When Brady needs a first down he always looks for Welker, he is as dependable as they get and one of the toughest players in the NFL. Defenses are stuck when it comes to defending Welker, because if they decide to play 1 on 1 with him that defender will most likely not be able to stop his short routes over the middle. Then, when the defense plays a zone, Welker is smart enough to just find the hole in the zone and make the catch. Because of his abilities to make plays over the middle it opens some 1 on 1 coverage for Brady’s other weapons on the outside.
The 3rd player the Pats need to play well in the playoffs is Vince Wilfork. Everybody knows Big Vince, even if they don’t know football they will eventually know him because of his massive frame. But for those that watch and know some football they know that he can take over a game, even though he does not gain the stats that some players get. He is an anchor in the middle of the defense, he is almost impossible to push off the line and that opens things up for his buddy’s on defense to come in and make the play. What makes it even more impressive is that he is doubled almost every single play, and he is still immovable. The Patriots are going to need him to be that run stuffer if they want to advance in the playoffs, specifically this weekend against the Texans and their dynamic running back, Arian Foster.
The 4th player you need to focus on is Devin McCourty, the converted safety. Just two years ago McCourty was a Pro Bowl cornerback playing at a very high level, now he is has moved to safety because of the Pats horrible safety play at the beginning of the year. McCourty has stepped in and played very well, he has helped the Pats limit the big plays that they were giving up at the beginning of the year and that will be important if they are to make a run. In particular if they are to meet up with Peyton Manning and his Broncos, McCourty is going to need to keep the cap on the big play bottle. Denver likes to go deep and they are successful at it so McCourty and the rest of Pats secondary are going to have a tough task.
For the last player I am going to include the whole offensive line, because as Pats fans know all too well a bad performance by the O line can totally stall an offense, no matter how good that offense is (see 07 Giants Super Bowl). Overall the Pats O line has played very well this season, especially considering they lost 2 starters this off-season (Matt Light and Brian Waters). They finished tied for 4th in the NFL for least sacks allowed this year and the Pats rushing attack finished 7th in the NFL. I would definitely consider that a successful year and the Pats will need more of that, especially with a showdown against the Texans and possibly Broncos on the horizon.
If the Pats can get all of these players to play at a high level throughout the playoffs, I see no reason why they do not get back to the Super Bowl again this year.