We all know the names Patrick Mahomes, Nick Bosa, and Derrick Henry. But, quite often, these Championship games are won by the lesser known players on the roster. They may not get all the publicity but their play will be crucial to reaching Super Bowl LIV.

Here are the under-the-radar players you should watch for on Championship Sunday:

Tennesse Titans – OLB Derick Roberson

One question heading into the AFC Championship is can the Titans pressure Patrick Mahomes. Tennessee doesn’t have an elite pass-rusher. Jurrell Casey is solid up front and can get to the passer and Logan Ryan has been known to blitz from his nickel position and get to the quarterback. On the edge, Harold Landry is the only significant pass-rusher. However, Derick Roberson, an undrafted rookie, could step up huge for Tennessee on Sunday.
Kamalei Correa is the starter opposite Landry at outside linebacker. He has been a quality starter, even coming up with a big sack last week in Baltimore. However, Roberson could be the gamechanger the Titans need. He hasn’t had a large impact in the playoffs, but in the final two games of the regular season, he had 3.5 sacks. Those were his first two games of his career. Roberson probably won’t play more than a dozen snaps on Sunday. However, if he can get off the edge and get to Patrick Mahomes even once, he could play a big role in sending the Titans to Miami.
Jake Lyman – FPC Titans Managing Editor

Kansas City Chiefs – DT Derrick Nnadi

Derrick Nnadi is a player that sticks out to me. With the difficulty of attempting to stop Derrick Henry, as well as, the question of Chris Jones’ availability being there, Nnadi has a real chance to step up. It is hard to get noticed as a defensive tackle, unless you are someone like Aaron Donald. Nnadi was important for the Chiefs in last year’s playoffs, to try and counteract the run. He rotates in and out, so Nnadi is not specifically relegated to run downs or passing downs. His ability to move laterally and swallow ball carriers up is what sticks out for Nnadi.

The Titans also have an underrated offensive line that plays big bully football. If there is a guy who can match that intensity, it is Nnadi. He is a hard worker. Furthermore, Nnadi is yet another guy who brings a fiery energy to this confident defense. While there will be a lot at stake for the Kansas City D, Nnadi is one player who will be up for the challenge. Watch for him to have chances at some TFLs.

Braden Holecek – FPC Chiefs Managing Editor

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Green Bay Packers – Corey Linsley

Football is a game that is typically won in the trenches and I expect that the upcoming NFC Championship game will be no different. The Green Bay Packers will have to contend with a 49ers defense that was 2nd in the NFL in pressures per dropbacks at 28.7%. The Packers’ offensive line will certainly have their hands full. During their regular-season meeting, Green Bay suffered five sacks and could produce only eight points. However, Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga was injured during that contest and only ended up playing nine snaps on offense. In his absence, Alex Light took over at right tackle. The undrafted free-agent in his second season was painfully outmatched by San Francisco’s pass rush. Now, Bulaga did miss the Divisional Round matchup with an illness. He is expected to return, but should he miss this game as well, then it will be Jared Veldheer to take over at right tackle, certainly a better option than Light.
Due to the talent all across that San Francisco front, whoever plays at right tackle will likely be tasked with winning one-on-one matchups often. There is one more offensive lineman who could make a sizable impact on this game. The center is not just the player who snaps the ball to the quarterback, but they are also usually identifying blitz, and making line calls to set up optimal pass-protection. For the Packers, they have Corey Linsley in the middle of the offensive line. There were two games this year where Linsley really struggled. Namely the Chargers game, and the 49ers contest. Especially in the Chargers game, Linsley made some mistakes in identifying pass-rushing threats and figuring out which side of the line to help out. If Linsley can learn from those prior matches and make the proper line calls and adjustments, then it will go a long way for the Packers’ success on offense.
Kyle Senra – FPC Packers Managing Editor

San Francisco 49ers – C Ben Garland

While the 49ers have star power in the likes of Richard Sherman, Nick Bosa, George Kittle, and Jimmy Garoppo, the vast majority of the roster is littered with players who remain relatively anonymous. While undervalued by the rest of the league, some of these players are paramount to the success in San Francisco. Perhaps the biggest of these is the starting center, Ben Garland.

Garland is a graduate of the Air Force Academy who was thrust into the starting lineup towards the end of the thrilling victory against New Orleans. The usual starter, Weston Richburg, picked up an injury in the second half. Garland finished the game quite well and has been the man ever since. He is quick on his feet and has the intelligence to match his athleticism. Although slightly undersized, he has shown a knack for getting proper leverage and rarely gets out of position. He has stabilized the center of the offensive line and proved to be a valuable member of the offense. The fact that the offense has not sustained a significant regression since the change, shows how high Garland’s level of play has been.

Against the Packers, Garland will need to call protections against an attacking Mike Pettine defense. Garland will find himself against talented defensive lineman, Kenny Clark. The Green Bay defensive tackle produced six sacks on the year with 5.5 coming over the last five weeks. The 49ers will need another solid performance by Garland if they hope to book their trip to Miami and the Super Bowl.

Ryan Adverderada – FPC 49ers Managing Editor

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