As we move closer to the Super Bowl it is important for star players to step up and be able to take over games. We have seen that in recent weeks from Panthers WR Steve Smith. Cornerback Champ Bailey played a huge role in Denver's win over the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots.
Last week we talked about tight ends' playing key roles. Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller's ability to make plays early against the Colts opened up the Steelers' run game. Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James did not have their best games last week, but TE Dallas Clark provided the spark to get the Colts back in a game they eventually lost.
Great players tend to show up in big games. So we can assume that Smith will have another big day this week. Running back Shaun Alexander (concussion) has been cleared to play and should be able to carry the load for the Seahawks. Pittsburgh SS Troy Polamalu is going to be all over the field making plays again this week. Bailey will be able to take half the field away.
However, no matter how well these guys play, it is rare one player can beat another team on his own. Every star player needs help, and that is where the X factor comes into play.
Here are four players, one from each team, who could determine the outcome of this weekend's conference championship games. They are not superstars, but if they perform well, they will give their teams an excellent opportunity to advance to the Super Bowl.