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Swept Under The Turf: Week 16

Three offensive contributors flying under the radar right now, but primed for potential playoff heroics.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Last week's SUTT column dove deeper into the linebacker crew's stats, discovered that the defense and ST play just as well on the road, and that only the Patriots stay in every game like the Seahawks.

This week, as Browner v. Goodell rages, as Percy Harvin ages, and as combat for the NFC's second seed wages, we get reacquainted here with three players on the periphery of the roster -- three of the X-factors who could end up playing a outsized role in the playoffs, when compared with their regular-season contributions.

1. FB Michael Robinson.

Since returning during the mini-bye between Weeks 7 and 8, Robinson has logged 112 snaps on offense. That's a quarter of the unit's plays during that time. He's been around, but we're not talking about him very much... because he's not on the field a whole lot.

What's interesting is, Marshawn's 2013 rushing stats show a marginally better performance for the Beast without RealRob clearing the way.

Time period Att-Yds-TD YPC Opponents' avg. defensive rating*
Weeks 1-7 138-578-6 4.2 15.0
Weeks 8-15 132-511-5 3.9 13.6

*by DVOA, source

For all of the praise Lynch heaps on his favorite fullback, Michael Robinson isn't having a very discernible impact on the stat sheet. The data suggest Derrick Coleman is just as effective.

The eyes also suggest that Coleman is more athletic and explosive (there's that word again Pete!). How can I then be touting Robinson as a playoff X-factor?

Three reasons.

A) RealRob is thought to be a superior pass blocker; Coleman isn't. This line can use all the protection help it can get. More on that in a bit.

B) He's been in the playoffs before; Coleman hasn't. Experience matters; the only debate is how much.

C) He's caught a crucial TD pass in the postseason (happy link); obviously no dice for Coleman. Been there, done that.

If two players exhibit similar skills and records, I'll take the one with the intangibles in the playoffs, where every play's importance is heightened.

2. OL James Carpenter

We talk about the tackles, and we keep an eye on Max Unger's up-and-down health, but unless the coaches are trying a fancy new rotational system with the guards, those guys get largely ignored. That may well continue, but without or without the attention, we're probably going to see more James Carpenter than ever before. Don't cringe. I think it's a good thing.

Carpenter garners regular praise as a run blocker in relative obscurity. Danny's story from Thursday is a perfect example of what the first-round draft pick can do, complete with pretty giffy pictures. If you haven't already read it, do it. Now is good. Pay special attention to the first four gifs.

Now consider J.R. Sweezy's concussion, in tandem with Carpenter's emergence as a better-than-average run blocker, under the umbrella of how much Carroll likes to run the ball, and how the run game's importance tends to grow in the playoffs. All of the above these are presently collaborating to put more on Carpenter's plate, at the most wonderful time of the year.

Football Outsiders informs us that the Hawks are good at run blocking in general. They rate Seattle as the ninth-best run blocking line... while placing them 31st in pass protection. A competent-to-good Carpenter and no Sweezy (whose purported strength is pass pro) might well lead to Carroll and Bevell calling even more running plays than ever before.

Let's not forget that for the first time in his pro career, James Carpenter is staying on the field, avoiding injury. If his good health a factor too, like, are we finally seeing the "real" JC, whoever that is? And can he be an even more valuable asset down the stretch? Likely we'll find out soon.

3. WR Jermaine Kearse

Kearse's game log is interesting. He can be Sidney Rice-lite, just like he was up until Week 10, pre-concussion. He can also be Just Another Possession Guy, like he has been since Week 11.

You asked for another table. This is another table.

Time period Catches Yards Y/C Touchdownies
Weeks 1-10 13 246 18.9 4
Weeks 11-15 6 65 10.8 nope

Kearse's targets are not down, though -- they're actually UP since his bell got rung, from 1.9 per game to 3.0. It's the explosive plays(TM) that have briefly stepped away.

There are several reasons that could happen -- defenses are accounting for him more, the quarterback isn't taking as many chances downfield in his direction, the game plan/game calling have changed, or the sample size is too small. Either way, he's laying low now, with hardly anyone talking about him, but we've all seen what he can do. Kearse's upside is still something approximating Rice. That hasn't changed. I'd still expect him to make one significant, game-altering play in one of the playoff games... just like I thought Sidney would have done.

Closing thoughts

This is the beauty of a deep, deep, deep 53-man roster. These guys, or ten others, could rise up and make a huge impact on the hugest games of their career, on the hugest stage. The team doesn't need them to, but there's really no reason they can't.

In the comments, feel free to add any other candidates to the three dudes above. As long as nobody's been taking about them too much recently.