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NFL Playoff Predictions: The Top Player at Each Position Heading into Playoffs

Jacqueline KirbyContributor IIIDecember 28, 2011

NFL Playoff Predictions: The Top Player at Each Position Heading into Playoffs

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    It's that time of year again! With the Pro Bowl roster announced last night and the last week of the regular season upon us, playoffs seem to be the only thing on everyone's minds.

    Eight teams have clinched their spots, and Green Bay has sealed home-field advantage.

    Some players have really stood out and made names for themselves this season after emerging from the lockout.  Here are the top players at each position.

Offense

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    Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers has led his team to 14-1, and what could possibly be an 18-1 season.  He's got a QB Passer Rating of 122.5 and has thrown for 4,643 yards so far.

    Running Back: Ray Rice rushed for over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns, while receiving for over 600 yards and 3 touchdowns.  He currently ranks fifth in the NFL in yards and touchdowns.

    Fullback: James Casey didn't get the Pro Bowl nod like he had probably hoped for.  Casey missed a few games this season with a torn hamstring but still had almost 200 yards and 1 touchdown in the regular season.  He will be one to watch when the playoffs roll around.

    Tight End: The most successful of the three Gronkowski brothers in the NFL, Rob, has really come out and wowed the NFL.  Last season as a rookie, Gronk scored 10 touchdowns; this season he is up to 16.

    Wide Receiver: A.J. Green has had a phenomenal rookie season and is headed to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.  He and Andy Dalton are going to make Cincinnati a tough team to beat next year.

    Tackle: The 49ers have had one hell of a season and part of that is thanks to Joe Staley, who will be one of eight players representing San Francisco in the Pro Bowl. 

    Guard: Carl Nicks has spent four seasons with the Saints and played in all but three games.  He and teammate Jahri Evans will be starting in the Pro Bowl for the NFC.

    Center: The Panthers gave Ryan Kalil their franchise tag and have probably not looked back since. Kalil will be heading to the Pro Bowl for the third straight year.

Defense

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    Defensive End: The second-year Giant, Jason Pierre-Paul, has racked up 81 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 15.5 sacks.  If the Giants make it into the playoffs, he will be one to look out for.

    Interior Lineman: B.J. Raji has helped the Packers get to where they are right now, and he could be a huge factor in them potentially becoming back-to-back Super Bowl Champs.

    Outside Linebacker: Denver has had a great year with Tim Tebow leading the offense, but Von Miller's name has been said almost as much. Like Tebow, Miller is in his second year with the Broncos, and he has 64 tackles and 2 forced fumbles this season.

    Inside/ Middle Linebacker: Ray Lewis is a beast all around and will be going to his fifth Pro Bowl, which ties him at third for most Pro Bowl selections.

    Cornerback: Green Bay's Charles Woodson has had a great season and will definitely keep going through the playoffs. He's had 74 tackles and 7 interceptions, making for career totals of 883 tackles and 54 interceptions.  Woodson is ranked first in the NFL in interceptions.

    Free Safety: Ed Reed will be representing the Ravens in his eighth Pro Bowl this season.  He has 1,463 yards on interceptions and is just 21 away from setting a new NFL record.

    Strong Safety: Troy Polamalu has had 89 tackles this season and will be helping the Steelers make another run to the Super Bowl in the playoffs.

Special Teams

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    Punter and Placekicker: This goes to teammates Andy Lee and David Akers of the 49ers, who will be making the trip to the Pro Bowl.

    Kick Returner: Patrick Peterson has been phenomenal this year with kick returns.  He is going to be a player who helps Arizona for a long time.

    Special Teamer: New England's Matthew Slater will be heading to the Pro Bowl thanks to his performance this season.  He is one of eight representing the Pats.

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