Something happens when the playoffs start. The field is the same. The rules are the same. Yet, every decision, every action is amplified, and the amplification grows with each tick of the clock as the teams hurdle toward the ultimate prize. Some people are wired to thrive in those moments. Others, become lesser men. It is one of the more fascinating elements to this game we love. Seattle features a number of players who will either be experiencing the playoffs for the first time, or will have far more prominent roles than in the past. They will learn along with us whether they have the mettle of a champion.
Harvin played in two playoff games his rookie year in Minnesota in 2009. Neither game was much to crow about. He had 1 receiving yard and 23 rushing yards in the first game, and 38 receiving yards and 15 rushing yards in the second (a loss to eventual SB Champion New Orleans). That was in Darrell Bevell's offense, but was so long ago, and as a rookie, that there is much left to discover about who Percy Harvin is in the playoffs. His availability for this game remains in doubt, but all eyes will be on him if he plays.
Bennett has never played in a playoff game. He led the Seahawks in sacks, and is among the most emotional and inspired players on the defense. His make-up lends itself to this type of atmosphere. He feels no pressure, and feeds off the energy. Whoever he faces will have their hands full.
Avril made the playoffs in 2011 with Detroit for his one game in the post-season. He registered a half-sack. He is a pro, but we have not seen him play to the home crowd that much. More of his sacks (4.5) came away from CLink. He may be the same player in the post-season that he was in the regular season, which is far from a bad thing.
On the roster for both playoff games last year, Kearse will be a central part of the game plan this time around. He has shown a knack for making tough catches for big plays this year, but he also seems like a guy who cares a fair amount what others think of him. Confidence can be made or broken for him with the first opportunity he gets. It is not hard to imagine him making a national name for himself because so few know him, but what people will say is up to him to determine.
The big fella gets his first taste of playoff action after seven seasons of watching at home. He seems like a guy who will be himself no matter what people say or what the situation brings. He is a mean man, and this moment is not likely to be too big for him. Expect the same steady, quality, play we have seen throughout the year.
Active for the Redskins game last year, Maxwell was out with an injury against the Falcons. He likely starts his first playoff game on Saturday. His play thus far has been top-notch, and this will not be his first start against Drew Brees and the Saints this year. It would be hard for Maxwell to raise his game in the playoffs given his performance thus far. If he can simply maintain it, Seahawks fans would be thrilled.
Walter Thurmond III
Thurmond was around for the two playoff games in 2010 during his rookie year, but his role will be far expanded this time around. He has greatness in him when he is on the field. Injuries and bad decisions have kept him from it. This is a player who could burst onto the national stage this post-season, and make a bundle of cash on free agency doing so.
Smith was active for both playoff games last season, but was still sharing time with Leroy Hill, and mostly sat. He will try to fill the big shoes of K.J. Wright who was a major factor in shutting down Jimmy Graham in the first game. Smith is in his element, and gaining steam with every start. He is built to make impact plays from his WILL position, and I see nothing in his make-up that would change that for the playoffs.
Willson is the most utilized rookie on the roster, and will be questionable to play in the first game due to an ankle sprain. He is steady and smart. Assuming he plays, the stage should not be too big for him.
The other tight end does have some playoff experience that Seahawks fans might remember. Davis' first playoff appearance came in 2010 against the Seahawks, and included a long touchdown over Lawyer Milloy.