The AFC playoffs are full of intrigue this season. For the first time since Patrick Mahomes became a starting quarterback, the Chiefs don't have a top-two seed in the playoffs (if the opening round goes chalk, Mahomes will play a playoff game on the road for the first time in his career). This makes the conference wide open for the taking.

Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens have plenty to prove in the coming weeks, same with Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. The quarterback play will play a major factor in how the AFC playoffs turn out, but what about the teams that have impact players at other positions? 

Not just impact players, but difference-makers. Players who can turn the course of the game around or preserve a lead, ensuring the team advances to the next round of the postseason. Presented are the five most important players who aren't quarterbacks heading into the AFC playoffs. 

5. Terrel Bernard (Buffalo Bills)

Bernard was the breakout player in the NFL this season, as the 2022 third-round pick got an opportunity to play thanks to the free agent departure of Tremaine Edmunds. The season-ending injury to Matt Milano put Bernard in charge of the defense at the MIKE and he thrived, finishing with 143 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and three interceptions in his first season with significant playing time. 

Bernard was the first player since Seth Joyner (1991) to have a season with six-plus sacks, three-plus interceptions and three-plus fumble recoveries, showcasing his value as one of  the top playmakers in the NFL. 

The Bills defense was rattled by injuries this season and Bernard kept the unit afloat. The defense will remain a key cog in the Bills' postseason hopes as long as Bernard is on the field. 

4. Myles Garrett (Cleveland Browns)

If there was any season Garrett should capture Defensive Player of the Year, it's this one. Garrett finished with 86 pressures (seventh in NFL), 14.0 sacks (tied for seventh). The pressure rate of 18.3% was second only to Micah Parsons (21.8%).

Garrett has the third-most pressures (293) since the start of the 2020 season and the second-most sacks (58) in that span. He's the only player to record 14-plus sacks in each of the last three seasons and the only player to record 10-plus sacks in each of the last six seasons -- the definition of consistency. 

The Browns defense was No. 1 in yards allowed per possession (20.7) and No. 2 in points allowed per possession (1.43). The unit finished second in pressure rate (42.6%) thanks to the presence of Garrett. 

Garrett has seven pressures and a sack in two postseason games in his career. If the Browns want to make a deep playoff run, Garrett will be called upon to lead the way. Their defense is good enough to carry the team to a Super Bowl.

3. Roquan Smith (Baltimore Ravens)

What Smith has been able to accomplish since he arrived in Baltimore has significantly impacted the Ravens defense. Smith had five-plus tackles in every game he's played this season, and has 850 total tackles since entering the league in 2018 -- second only to Bobby Wagner. Smith also leads all linebackers in solo tackles (534) since the 2018 season. 

The Ravens defense is full of playmakers, but Smith is the captain and the best player of the bunch. He finished with 158 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and an interception in 16 games this year -- just a 0.5 sack shy of the first player in league history to post 100-plus tackles, two sacks, and one interception in each of his first six seasons. 

Baltimore's defense finished first in points allowed per game (16.5) and points allowed per possession (1.35). Having Smith command the middle of the defense was a huge reason why. 

2. Tyreek Hill (Miami Dolphins)

There's no denying how much the Dolphins offense is impacted with Hill in the lineup. Hill only led the NFL in receiving yards (1,799), receiving touchdowns (13), and receiving yards per game (112.4) this season, topping 100-plus yards eight times. 

The picture couldn't be painted clearer in regards to Hill's success. The Dolphins are 8-0 when Hill has 100-plus receiving yards, averaging 38.6 points per game. All those opponents also were non-playoff teams.  

Hill has only averaged 77.5 receiving yards against playoff teams, and the Dolphins went 1-5 in those games. He only had 90-plus receiving yards in one of those games.

Bottom line: Hill needs a monster day to get the Dolphins to advance in the playoffs. His impact on this offense is massive. 

1. Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs)

Is there any player who has a bigger impact on his team's success? Especially given the state of the Chiefs offense throughout the season. 

Even though Kelce failed to record a 1,000-yard season for the first since since 2015 (along with a career-low 10.6 yards per catch), his impact on the Chiefs' postseason success can not be denied. Kelce has 133 catches with 1,548 receiving yards and 16 receiving touchdowns in his postseason career -- all NFL records for a tight end. Only Jerry Rice has more receptions (151), yards (2,245), and receiving touchdowns (22) in the postseason. 

The Chiefs are 6-1 in the postseaosn when Kelce has 100-plus receiving yards and 8-2 when he has seven-plus catches. The Chiefs will force-feed Kelce if they have to in order to get the offense moving. Kelce is the difference between a Super Bowl and an early playoff exit.