Is Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers the NFL Playoffs' Most Important Player?
There's little question about the fact that New England's Tom Brady will be named MVP of the National Football League when all is said and done.
He's played in every game, unlike Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick. He's put up better numbers than Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan.
However, as we head into the postseason, there may be one player among those who is more important to his team than even Tom Brady.
The story of Aaron Rodgers is well-documented. After being pegged as a potential No. 1 overall pick, Rodgers sat in the green room for the first 23 picks before Green Bay finally called his name.
The waiting still wasn't over for Rodgers, who still spent three years backing up that "gunslinging" future Hall-of-Famer, Brett Favre.
When the Packers decided it was Rodgers's time, Favre was out and the former Cal standout seized the opportunity to star.
Rodgers' first full season as a starter may have surprised even the most optimistic of fans and experts. No. 4 was a distant memory for Packer fans when Rodgers threw for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns in his first season.
Which NFL quarterback is most important to his team this postseason?
That season was followed by another season of 4,000, with Rodgers adding a pair of touchdowns to the previous total and bringing his interceptions down to just seven. Though it was all for naught in an early playoff exit, Rodgers set the stage for an MVP season in 2010.
Coming into 2010, Rodgers was listed as an MVP candidate, along with the usual names in Brady and Manning. The Packers were nearly unanimous picks to win the NFC and play in the big game in Arlington in February.
Then Ryan Grant went down; then Jermichael Finley.
Before we knew it, six starters were on injured reserve for Green Bay, with a handful of backups and special teamers finding their way onto the list as well, with season-ending injuries.
Still, the Packers continued to prevail. Led by Rodgers, the Packers knocked off teams like the New York Jets and decimated big market teams like the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
With no running game and only one completely healthy No. 1 target, Greg Jennings, Rodgers also nearly engineered a win over the NFC's top seeded Falcons, in Atlanta.
One could also make the case that the Pack may have stolen a win in New England, had Rodgers not been knocked out of the previous weekend's loss to Detroit.
Rodger's most important game of the season was still yet to come. Facing elimination in Week 17 against the NFC North champion Chicago Bears, Rodgers's 229 yards were just enough to break his squad into the postseason.
Facing teams like Atlanta and Chicago have readied Rodgers for a serious playoff run, even if he has to do it himself. While his first start of the season against a contender was less than spectacular, with just 188 yards in Philadelphia, the remainder of the season showed just how serious the damage caused by Rodgers alone can be.
While late mistakes cost the Packers wins against both Chicago and Atlanta earlier in the season, Rodgers surpassed the 300-yard mark in both, while also rushing for over 70 combined yards in the two starts.
His ability to carry Green Bay may not have been more evident than in the Packers' 45-17 win against the Giants. His career-high 404 yards, four touchdowns and 26 yards rushing propelled the Packers to a stomping of a team that was considered a title contender early on.
Time and time again this season, Rodgers has proved he can carry this Packer team on his shoulders. Rather than settle for a nearly non-existent running game from a combination of Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn, Rodgers has created his own opportunities.
His 356 yards are second in Green Bay, while his four touchdown scores on the ground are tied for tops on the squad—not bad for a guy who had questionable mobility coming out of college.
He may not have the weapons that Brady has, the smarts that Manning has or even the footwork that Vick has, but Aaron Rodgers has proved he can hang with the best of them in the NFL.
Almost no one thought he could head into Lambeau and replace Favre not only on the stat sheet, but in the hearts of the Green Bay faithful. He's done both.
As goes Rodgers, so go the Packers.
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