Due to his fantastic leadership and excellent play for the best team in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers is likely a shoo-in for the MVP award this season. As the playoffs enter the divisional round, the stakes get higher and the best players rise to the top like cream on milk.
Let's examine the key reasons why Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers' mobile, accurate and strong-armed quarterback, isn't the best player still alive in the postseason.
Who are these incredible players who eclipse the talents of the Packers' leader? Read on for details on each of these amazing seven.
Aaron Rodgers has been spectacular all year, but the Green Bay Packers rarely had to scrap and fight to win close games. Instead, they typically put up plenty of points and ended up thrashing their opponents.
Eli Manning's New York Giants, however, had their mettle tested throughout the season with numerous games that came down to the wire. Manning's late game heroics were on display for the New York Giants with six come-from-behind wins and 14 touchdowns in the fourth quarter this season.
Both Rodgers and Manning have Super Bowl rings, but in a pinch, I'd tend to trust the guy who's been through the fire a few more times this year.
Heading into their matchup with the New Orleans Saints, the most important player for the San Francisco 49ers is their punishing running back Frank Gore.
He can make the suspect Saints run defense hurt and will be able to keep the ball away from Drew Brees and his talented receivers by eating up the clock.
Gore (and his 4.3 yards per carry rushing average) will be absolutely key for the 49ers if they are to pull out a victory at Candlestick Park this Saturday.
Ray Rice is a fantastic pass-catching running back and he pounds out yards on the ground with alacrity. The Baltimore Ravens will need to go to Rice consistently to get a victory over the Texans.
Rice will be able to ease the load on Joe Flacco and run the Ravens to the AFC Championship Game. While Aaron Rodgers is clearly an amazing talent at quarterback, he'll struggle against the Giants relentless pass rush.
Rice will show that he's the game-changing offensive threat that can bring the Ravens closer to the Super Bowl.
The Texans star receiver Andre Johnson will have to have a big game if Houston is to have a chance against the Ravens.
Recently back on the field after a midseason injury, Johnson can stretch the field against the Ravens secondary. If Yates is able to have enough time to throw the ball, getting Johnson going should be his first priority.
Pounding the ball with beastly running back Arian Foster may not work against the Ravens. In their regular season matchup with the Ravens, Foster only rushed for 49 yards on 15 attempts. If Baltimore's front four can stymie Foster, Yates will need to open up through the air to Johnson and tight end Owen Daniels.
The Broncos defense proved all year that they can keep games close in order to give Tebow enough time to pull out games in the waning moments. Denver's surprisingly effective defense was keyed by rookie linebacker Von Miller, who showed that he was perhaps the biggest game-changer on their defense.
Miller has the speed, strength and power at the point of attack to punish offensive linemen and to get to the quarterback. Tom Brady will need to be made thoroughly uncomfortable by Miller and defensive end Elvis Dumervil in order for the Broncos to stay within range of the New England Patriots.
Miller will need to be even better than his [most likely] defensive rookie of the year pace from the regular season. He has that capability, however and will be even more important to his team than Rodgers will be for the Packers.
The New England Patriots are looking for their first postseason win in four years. No one will be more essential to the Patriots' hopes for further glory than All-Pro quarterback Tom Brady.
With a suspect defense and a barely competent running game, the Patriots passing game will need to be special. His quick release and pinpoint accuracy will need to keep the Broncos secondary and linebackers on their heels with passes to Wes Welker and his tight ends.
In the Patriots regular season win over the Broncos, Rob Gronkowski was marginalized by tight coverage, but Aaron Hernandez broke out for a huge game. Brady will need to find the favorable matchups and pick apart the Broncos so that Tim Tebow's magic stays safely out of range of the high point totals that Brady racks up.
With a record-setting regular season and a dominating performance against the out-manned Detroit Lions in the Wild Card Round under his belt, Drew Brees is poised to carve out a legendary place for himself in the NFL quarterback pantheon.
While Aaron Rodgers had a more efficient start to the season, Brees has come alive in the second half of the year and has shown that he knows how to use all the talented weapons at his disposal.
Brees will show why he is the best quarterback in the playoffs when he's able to gain traction against the tough defense of the San Francisco 49ers.