Sometimes, the X-factor is the obvious one. The Eagles have big-time weapons all over the field, including Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin. But just ask the Giants ... or ask anyone who has held their breath whenever the ball winds up in Jackson's hands. He's a bolt of lightning. Sure, he can hurt his own team with celebration antics or other bad moments, but that's all part of the "X-factor." You won't know exactly how he will affect the game, or if it will be in a good way or a bad way. But Jackson definitely will have an impact.
2 of 12Damian Strohmeyer/SI
He's not an MVP-type player like Tom Brady, but has there ever been a player who epitomizes the Patriots' winning culture more than the diminutive Woodhead. Part Wes Welker, part Kevin Faulk, part Tedy Bruschi, Woodhead had a superb 2010 and can do every little thing that comes up big in wins.
3 of 12David E. Klutho/SI
Arguably the league's comeback player of the year, Washington could be Seattle's ONLY chance against the heavily favored Saints and any potential opponent. After suffering a gruesome leg injury that easily could have ended his career, Washington has returned, excelled and stayed healthy. With three touchdown returns already, Washington's special teams and big-play potential are exactly the kinds of things that might ignite a crowd and his team.
4 of 12Peter Read Miller/SI
He's never been the featured, every-down back some projected him to be. Well, there's no choice now. After top back Chris Ivory was sent to the I.R., Pierre Thomas followed on Wednesday. Now it's time to see if Bush can carry the load. He certainly is explosive. And against the Cardinals last year in the playoffs, Bush came up huge, with four TDs. With a productive running game keyed by Bush, the Saints could still defend their title. Without him, it would be unlikely.
5 of 12David Bergman/SI
This may not be the most creative pick as an, "X-factor," but any other would be a reach. And a lie. When Polamalu is right and healthy and on the field, the Steelers are a dominant team. Simple as that. He stuffs the run, covers the pass, is an inspirational leader and if the ball hits the dirt, or is batted into the air, somehow it always finds a way into his arms.
6 of 12Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Matt Forte will be key and Jay Cutler will operate the controls. But when Johnny Knox stretches the field and/or shortens it with a kick return, the Bears win. A fifth-round pick out of Abilene Christian, Knox has been quite the find. In the playoffs, when one big play can often be all a team needs to break a game open, Knox can offer exactly that.
7 of 12Bob Rosato/SI
The Falcons are not statistically overwhelming in any defensive category, but rank consistently high and have made key plays and key tackles at key moments. Lofton is a rising star and the rock in the middle of the Falcons' D, finishing with 118 tackles, adding two sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. Even in games involving high-flying teams like the Falcons, key defensive plays always are necessary in the postseason. Lofton can provide exactly that.
8 of 12Peter Read Miller/SI
It's no secret the Chiefs will try to pound the ball with what can be an overwhelming ground game and play-action deep with Dwayne Bowe. A talented rookie whose numbers compare more than favorably to Tony Gonzalez' rookie stats, Moeaki has been an X-factor in every way for the Chiefs this year. He's a superb blocker, which could hold the edge against the Ravens' defense. He also has terrific hands and has become a Matt Cassel favorite, which could wind up being huge against banged-up Ravens safety Ed Reed.
9 of 12George Gojkovich/Getty Images
No team has epitomized just how important an offensive line can be more than the Baltimore Ravens. With exceptional skill players everywhere, the Ravens' offense has struggled, fallen short of expectations and given up big sack numbers (40 in the regular season). Center Matt Birk (77) is a six-time Pro Bowler who can see the end of his career closing fast. Yanda (73) has been abused of late at the point of attack. Oher (74) has been hampered by injuries. If Birk can't gather the troops, Tamba Hali and Wallace Gilberry will spend the game in Joe Flacco's lap.
10 of 12AP
It took Walden (93) three years and four teams to become an overnight sensation. But as a testament to both his perseverance and Dom Capers' mastery of the 3-4 defense, Walden has become exactly that after registering 11 tackles and two sacks in the Pack's 10-3 playoff-clinching victory over the Bears. Playing opposite Clay Matthews, Walden could be hugely important against Michael Vick, both in pass-rush situations and as a spy versus Vick's scrambles.
11 of 12Bob Rosato/SI
Peyton Manning could not be happier or more dangerous going into the postseason. He has Joseph Addai back in the fold after battling neck and shoulder issues. He also has Dominic Rhodes. The Colts' running game revival over the past four games coincides directly with a four-game win streak, Manning finding a dominant groove and the ground attack keeping defenses honest. Against the Jets or any potential playoff opponent, Addai's and Rhodes' pass protection alone makes Manning better. The much-improved rushing game only doubles the pleasure. Don't count the Colts out of the Super Bowl hunt just yet.
12 of 12Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
The Colts are quite familiar with Tomlinson's work. He was supposed to be on his last legs when he left San Diego for New York. Tomlinson was a huge reason the Jets started the 2010 season strongly. After slowing late in the year, Tomlinson is rested, and with Shonn Greene will be a big part of any plans the Jets have for a strong finish to the season. Here's a little clip-and-save, too, considering Rex Ryan's personality and Tomlinson's passing abilities. With the Colts stacked against the Jets' ground game, don't be surprised to see Tomlinson loft a pass off a rushing attempt. He's completed eight NFL passes -- seven for touchdowns.
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