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Players to watch, Saints vs. Eagles: Kenny Stills, Brent Celek could turn tides Saturday

You know the major players: Drew Brees, Nick Foles, Jimmy Graham, LeSean McCoy, etc. Here are a few other perhaps (slightly) overlooked players who could change momentum during Saturday's playoff bout between the Saints and the Eagles.

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SB Nation 2014 NFL Playoff Coverage

Saturday's game between the New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles has the potential to be the most entertaining of Wild Card weekend. Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles for the Saints and Nick Foles, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy for the Eagles are sure to provide fireworks. The outcome of the game may hinge on the efforts of a few non-headliners, however.

Be sure to keep an eye on the players below:


Kenny Stills, WR

One could make the argument that the entire Saints wide receiver corps is underrated, given how productive the unit has been and how little praise it has received as a side show to Jimmy Graham. Kenny Stills, in particular, has shown flashes of being an elite talent hiding beneath the radar. He is averaging a league-leading 20 yards per reception on 32 receptions, and he has a nose for the end zone as he proved when he caught four touchdowns over a four-game stretch from October into November. The Eagles will need to account for Still, or he could burn them.

Pierre Thomas, RB

The Saints are willing to feed Pierre Thomas when he's productive. Unfortunately, that hasn't been often this season. Over the last five weeks, he has had just 30 total carries for 63 yards, which is 10 yards fewer than the 73 yards he gained on 10 carries against the Falcons just before Thanksgiving. The Eagles' run defense is stout, giving up just 3.8 yards per carry on the season. Thomas has produced in the past, however, and with the Eagles concerned about slowing down Brees, he could flip the table in favor of the Saints with a big effort.

Junior Galette, LB

When Victor Butler went down before the season, many wondered how the Saints respond. Junior Galette has emerged as a more-than suitable replacement, however. The fourth-year outside linebacker has 12 sacks this season to go with a forced fumble and 40 total tackles. If he is on top of his game, he may be the Saints' best chance to disrupt an Eagles' offense that has been rolling lately, but still struggles at times to protect the quarterback. He will also need to be an above average run defender when the Eagles attack the edge.


Brent Celek, TE

Brent Celek is often a forgotten man in the Eagles' offense, which makes sense given the team's plethora weapons. He quietly had one of the best seasons of his career in 2013, however. Celek averaged a career-best 15.7 yards per reception on his way to 32 catches for 502 yards. His six touchdowns were the most he has had since notching eight as part of a 76-reception effort in 2009. Celek has also graded out as the second-best run blocking tight end in the league by Pro Football Focus. He is averaging nearly 50 snaps a game, making his efforts an important part of the Eagles' success.

Jason Peters, LT

Peters graded at out among the best left tackles in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus. He will have his hands full trying to slow down Cameron Jordan, however. Jordan may be the best edge rusher the Eagles face this season, unless they run into Robert Mathis in the Super Bowl. Jordan has 12.5 sacks and two forced fumbles among 47 tackles this season. If Peters can get the better of him Saturday, it will go a long towards helping the Eagles advance.

Cary Williams, CB

Perhaps it would be better to shout out the entire Eagles secondary. Williams is as good a player as any in a unit that will have its hands full trying to corral a deep pass-catching corps. Williams played very well in the Eagles' two wins over the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys to close the regular season, two teams that also have a lot of skill. If he can get a handle on his matchup, perhaps against Marques Colston, the Saints' offense will be that much more limited.

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