The 2011 NFL playoffs have already seen its fair share of intrigue and surprises.
The Seattle Seahawks shocked the world by upsetting the New Orleans Saints. Rex Ryan finally got his revenge on Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
The Michael Vick comeback story ended early courtesy of the Green Bay Packers. The Baltimore Ravens displayed their playoff experience on the road against the upstart Kansas City Chiefs.
Already, the NFL playoffs have been more exciting than anything in recent years. Undoubtedly, the excitement will continue through to the second round of the playoffs.
The AFC features two rivalry matchups that have become both heated and personal between the teams. The NFC is full of question marks.
Can the Seahawks continue a magical run towards the Super Bowl? Are the Falcons really as good as their record would suggest? Can Aaron Rodgers bring glory back to Green Bay?
Here are 10 reasons why this year's Super Bowl could be the best in years...
Nobody expected the seven-win Seattle Seahawks to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. Even at home, the Seahawks were major underdogs to the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.
Matt Hasselbeck took a time machine back five years and passed for 272 yards and four touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch had one of the best carries in playoff history, a 67-yard run in the fourth quarter which sealed the game.
It's a longshot, but Seattle still has a chance to make the Super Bowl this year. If they did, the Seahawks would be the least likely Super Bowl team in the history of the NFL.
Over the last two years, Mark Sanchez has only been an obstacle in New York's road to the Super Bowl. The Jets have had some of the most talented receivers, running backs and offensive linemen in the league to complement Sanchez throughout his short time in the NFL.
New York's defense has been one of the best in the NFL over the past couple of seasons. Clearly, the defense has carried the Jets in their pursuit of a Super Bowl berth.
If New York is to make the 2011 Super Bowl, Mark Sanchez must take the next step in his progression as a quarterback. Against the Colts in the Wild Card round, Sanchez had 189 passing yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
If Sanchez finds himself in the Super Bowl this year, it will be because he has developed into an impressive quarterback.
Ben Roethlisberger began the 2010-2011 NFL season suspended for off-the-field conduct. In 2010, Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault for the second time over the past couple of years.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Roethlisberger six games (later reduced to four) for his conduct off the field. While it was never found that Roethlisberger committed a crime, his conduct certainly reflected poorly upon himself, the Steelers and the entire NFL.
Now Roethlisberger is back in the playoffs after a terrific season in which he compiled 3,200 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions in a 12-game span.
Roethlisberger's teammates say he has changed since his suspension becoming more of a leader and better teammate. If the Steelers can make it back to the Super Bowl, Roethlisberger will be a story of redemption after a tumultuous offseason.
Matt Ryan took an enormous step forward in the 2010 season after a sophomore season in which Ryan slumped for the Atlanta Falcons. Ryan has come a long way since his AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2008.
In 2010, Ryan led the Falcons to the best record in the NFC and a No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. Moreover, the Atlanta quarterback laid claim to his first NFC Pro Bowl nomination after a season in which he passed for 3,705 yards and 28 touchdowns. However, all that will be for naught if Ryan cannot find a way to be successful against the Packers this weekend and beyond.
If Ryan can continue to lead the Falcons to victories in the playoffs, then it will an enormous step forward for the third-year quarterback. A Super Bowl berth could see Ryan join the elite quarterback ranks with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.
We are less than two weeks into the NFL playoffs, and Rex Ryan has already made waves throughout the media.
Last week against the Indianapolis Colts, Ryan called out Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts saying the game was "personal." The Colts knocked the Jets out last year and had dominated New York in recent years. Peyton Manning had Ryan's number even going back to the days when Ryan was defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.
Already, Ryan has called out New England coach Bill Belichick before this week's looming matchup between the Jets and the Patriots. Ryan is quoted as saying, "[t]his is about Bill Belichick versus Rex Ryan. There's no question, it's personal. It's about him against myself. That's what it's going to come down to."
If Ryan's Jets could make the Super Bowl this year, the media coverage would be far more entertaining than any other coach could ever provide.
Tom Brady is unquestionably one of the best quarterbacks of the decade and of all time; however, the Patriots who had so much success in the first half of the decade have not won a Super Bowl since the 2004-2005 season. Of course, everyone remembers the 2007 season in which the Patriots won 18 straight games to start the season only to fall to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
Brady is surely itching to get back on top. After a 14-win regular season, Brady and the Patriots appear poised to get back to the big game. New England still has a tough road ahead but will have a rematch with the Jets who they dominated by 42 points in their last meeting.
Tom Brady, back in the Super Bowl, could make it one of the better games in recent years.
Since taking over for Brett Favre in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers has had his fair share of personal accolades but minimal playoff success. The Packers lost in the Wild Card round to the Arizona Cardinals, despite an 11 win season last year.
Now, Rodgers already has his first playoff victory under his belt against a tough Philadelphia team on the road. Rodgers and the Packers will have a difficult road to the Super Bowl through Atlanta this weekend.
However, if Green Bay is able to make it, Aaron Rodgers will finally be able to begin a new era of winning in Green Bay helping fans to forget about the departure of Brett Favre to the rival Vikings.
There is no question that Ray Lewis is one of the best linebackers in the history of the game, elevating his play and those of others with his incredible intensity. In 2001, Lewis and the Ravens won a Super Bowl against the New York Giants.
Now in 2011, Lewis has an opportunity to get back to the big game. The Ravens defense absolutely swamped Matt Cassel and the Kansas City offense last week. This week, Baltimore will have an opportunity for a grudge match against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Lewis turns 36 this year and probably will have few opportunities left to get back to a Super Bowl. Winning a second Super Bowl one decade after a first is quite an impressive feat which would demonstrate just how incredible it is that Lewis has maintained his abilities as an NFL player.
The Chicago Bears are one of the least exciting teams in the playoffs this season; however, they do have one of the most electrifying players in all of football. Hester is already the first player to return an opening kickoff in the Super Bowl for a touchdown.
Hester has the type of game-changing ability in returning kicks or punts that can shift the momentum of a game. Every time he touches the ball, spectators hold their breath to see just how far he can get.
If the Bears find themselves in the Super Bowl this year, it will likely have something to do with the contributions of Hester. Seeing Hester in the big game would add much excitement to a Bears team that doesn't exactly scream excitement.
The new Cowboys Stadium is one of the most impressive venues in all of sports. The stadium boasts the largest high definition video screen in the world, the largest column free interior in the world and is the largest domed stadium in the world.
Including standing room, the Cowboys Stadium can host 110,000 spectators making it one of the largest venues ever for a Super Bowl. Everything about the stadium is state of the art, and it is sure to be one of the best venues ever if not the best.