1. Norv Turner:
A year ago, the Chargers fired Marty Schottenheimer in part because he couldn't win in the playoffs.
Turner, who rose to prominence as the coordinator of the Cowboys offense during their dominant years in the 1990s, has struggled as a head coach.
This is his 10th season as a head coach, and he's been to the playoffs only one previous time, reaching the second round with the Redskins in 1999. Turner and the Chargers also got off to a rocky start this season before turning things around.
Chargers' general manager A.J. Smith just received a contract extension, but he badly wants the talent he's assembled to win now. If Turner can't get the Bolts out of the first round, the famously brash Smith could go looking for a new coach again.
The spin for Colts fans? If the Chargers do win, they come to Indianapolis and either Pittsburgh or Jacksonville travels to New England. So keep an eye on the Chargers coach — you might see him in the RCA Dome next weekend, or you may not see him again — at least in San Diego.
The fourth-year Pittsburgh quarterback is going to have to raise his game if the Steelers are going to make any noise in the playoffs.
With Willie Parker on the sidelines and the Steelers once-vaunted defense going downhill, it's on the big quarterback from Miami, Ohio to win games for the team.
Big Ben is certainly capable — he's led the team to a Super Bowl title and just finished his best season as a professional. But he'll have to contend with a Jacksonville team that's riding a confident wave and beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh less than a month ago.
Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes in the two team's first meeting, a 29-22 Jacksonville win on Dec. 16, but completed just 15-of-32 passes. Parker gained 100 yards on the ground for Pittsburgh.
But a 47 percent completion percentage wasn't enough to win that game, and it won't be good enough in the playoffs, either. Roethlisberger will need to be at his best for the Steelers to advance.
Vince Young against Jacksonville
Doug Benc/Getty Images
3. Vince Young
The Titans' young quarterback will be a game-time decision for Sunday's game at San Diego after injuring his quadriceps in Sunday's game against Indianapolis.
Although some pundits have foolishly suggested that the Titans might be better off with Kerry Collins at quarterback, the truth is, Tennessee will only go as far as Young — and LenDale White, who's also nursing an injury — can take them.
Against the Chargers fearsome pass rush, the Titans need Young to be at full strength to use his mobility and make plays. If he can't, then it may be a short playoff experience for the Titans.
4. Todd Collins
Sure, this is an NFC player, but the story of the Redskins is a remarkable one, and Collins has been a pleasure to watch over the last four games.
He came in for an injured Jason Campbell in Week 14 and has led the Redskins to four straight wins and the final NFC playoff berth. Collins has thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions and was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Month for December.
He's also 36 years old and hadn't started a game since 1997 before this season. And he's leading a Redskins team that could have easily folded the tents after the tragic death of Sean Taylor earlier this season.
Do Collins and the Redskins have any magic left for the playoffs? It's worth watching to find out.
Jacksonville's second-year defensive end out of Illinois State had two sacks against Pittsburgh in the Jaguars' 29-22 win earlier this season. That was part of a pass rush that sacked Roethlisberger five times and hurried him six more times.
If Hawkins can dominate Pittsburgh's RT Willie Colon like he did in the team's first meeting, the Steelers — again, without Willie Parker — could be in big trouble Saturday night against Hawkins and the rest of Jacksonville's opportunistic defense.