5 Players Whose Legacies Are on the Line in Divisional Round of NFL Playoffs

Dan PizzutaContributor IIIJanuary 9, 2013

5 Players Whose Legacies Are on the Line in Divisional Round of NFL Playoffs

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    Ah, the legacy. The perceived legacy of a player usually starts and ends with playoff success.

    Eli Manning is an elite quarterback because he has won two Super Bowls. Tony Romo is not because he cant win a big game. That's usually how the process goes, whether it's true or not.

    To be a great player, that player must come through with great moments—at least in our minds. The greatest moments come in the playoffs.

    This list is of players who can build on and improve their legacies with playoff success and players who need to win to not have their legacies revolve around playoff failure.

Ray Lewis

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    Ray Lewis already has a Super Bowl ring and is considered one of the best defensive players of all time.

    The legend of Ray Lewis could grow even more if he led his team to another Super Bowl victory after announcing his retirement after the season.

    It would end up being one of the first things brought up in any Lewis retrospective—one of the greatest leaders in the sport and went out on top in his last season.

    The Ravens will have to make it through Peyton Manning and the Broncos first.

Aaron Rodgers

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    Aaron Rodgers could start throwing his name into the best quarterbacks of all time conversation with another Super Bowl victory. He already has one, and an MVP award, but a second Lombardi Trophy in three years would be impressive.

    Rodgers could prove the "elite QB" theory by beating an inferior quarterback in Colin Kaepernick when the Packers play the 49ers.

    Rodgers and the Packers will want to avoid a second straight exit in the divisional round after a dominant regular season.

Matt Ryan

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    Matt Ryan needs to win this game. Ryan has yet to win a playoff game in his career (0-3) and has more interceptions (four) than touchdowns (three).

    Ryan has taken the Falcons to plenty of regular-season success, but has yet to come through in the playoffs. With a loss, Ryan would be 0-4 in the playoffs with two of those losses coming after having a first-round bye.

    That first win could be what Ryan needs to gain confidence and could lead to a deeper run for the Falcons. 

Matt Schaub

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    For the past couple weeks, Matt Schaub has looked incredibly average at quarterback. It doesn't seem as if any teams are looking at Schaub and coming away afraid of what he will do throwing the ball.

    Schaub could take a step up from incredibly average with a win against the Patriots. The best way to beat New England is to strike with a big play downfield.

    If Schaub can find away to make big plays in the passing game, he could look like more than an average quarterback on a decent team.

Joe Flacco

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    Joe Flacco has slightly more at stake here because his next contract could directly correlate to his performance in the playoffs.

    Flacco has won at least one game every time he has taken the Ravens to the playoffs, but he has yet to lead the team to the Super Bowl.

    As the once dominant defense for the Ravens is getting older, more falls onto the shoulders of Flacco for success for Baltimore.

    Flacco could insure his return to Baltimore—and maybe a couple extra million dollars—by outdueling Peyton Manning in Denver to send the Ravens to the AFC Championship Game.