There is a hero in every deep playoff run, someone who makes a huge impactful play or two that elevates his team to victory. Sometimes this unexpected heroic player, an underdog and not on anyone's radar.
As the #2 seed New Orleans Saints (13-4) enter Sunday to battle the #5 seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5), they are searching for that hero, the X-Factor, to help lead the team to victory in the Divisional Round matchup.
The three New Orleans Saints players that could prove to be an X-Factor on Sunday against the Bucs.
OFFENSIVE X-FACTOR: RB ALVIN KAMARA
Tampa Bay's #1 ranked rush defense in 2020 accomplished what most of the NFL failed to do, slow down the 2017 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara. In two games against their NFC South rivals, Kamara recorded 56 rushing yards (28 rushing yards per game) and 116 scrimmage yards (58 scrimmage yards per game). Despite his lack of yards, the 4x Pro-Bowl selection had the last laugh scoring 3 touchdowns in the two contests, leading New Orleans to 2 victories.
In the third edition of Bucs vs. Saints in 2020, Kamara's already large role could increase with his running mate RB Latavius Murray listed as questionable with a quad injury. AK's ability to affect the game, particularly in the red-zone, could prove the difference in the Saints' advancement to the NFC title game or the season ending in the Divisional Round. Kamara recorded 20 regular-season touchdowns and is coming off a playoff career-high 99 rushing yards in the NFC Wild-Card Round win over the Bears.
DEFENSIVE X-FACTOR: FS MARCUS WILLIAMS
New Orleans' defense has proven to be Bucs' quarterback Tom Brady's Kryptonite in 2020. The six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback has thrown five of his twelve interceptions this season to the Black and Gold's defense, including two to FS Marcus Williams. The fourth-year defensive back from Utah has been an underrated piece to the Saints' defensive backfield recording 59 tackles and three picks in 14 starts.
The playoff veteran Tom Brady brings his play to another level in the playoffs, but luckily for the Saints, their defense appears to be as healthy as they have been entering the second round of the NFC playoff. With DE Trey Hendrickson returning to the lineup, pressure should force Brady into a rushed throw or two. New Orleans must pounce on these opportunities, and who better than the “center-fielder” that has done that twice this season.
WILD-CARD X-FACTOR: TE ADAM TRAUTMAN
The Saints made a splash late on night two of the 2020 NFL Draft, trading the remainder of their 2020 draft picks to trade back into the third round and select tight end Adam Trautman (Dayton), the 105th overall pick. “The Big Fish,” standing at 6-5, has received huge praise this season. Saints head coach Sean Payton and Pro Football Focus lauded him for his blocking ability and being a red-zone threat. These qualities at a young age in the NFL makes him this week's Wild-Card X-Factor.
Trautman recorded 15 receptions on 16 targets during his rookie season, including 1 touchdown. His first NFL touchdown came back in Week 9 in the Saints 38-3 rout of the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. In the NFC Divisional Round, New Orleans may be without one of their most dangerous red-zone weapons, QB/TE Taysom Hill. With Hill's status in question, Sean Payton could look towards Trautman as a target against the Buccaneers.
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