Last year marked an incredible run for the Green Bay Packers, who almost didn't even make the playoffs. They snuck their way in towards the end of the season, and then rolled over everyone on the way to winning the Lombardi Trophy.
Aaron Rodgers carried his injury-rattled team all the way to a Super Bowl victory. Who is next in line to do the same?
Looking at the list of candidates this year that have a chance to do what Rodgers and the Packers did last year, there is one guy that stands out to me. Joe Flacco has been the quiet and humble guy on a very good team that just hasn't gotten over the hump in the playoffs.
Much like Green Bay, his Baltimore Ravens team is one of the best defensive teams in the league, but their offense is also very lethal.
While the Ravens were mostly a team that loved to run the ball, this year they will probably look to throw it around a little more. With Flacco getting more experience under his belt, and the departure of Willis McGahee, the offense should go more through Flacco and his receivers.
Despite the loss of McGahee, LeRon McClain and Derrick Mason, they still have outstanding weapons in Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice.
Much like the Packers last year, the Ravens will have a tough time winning their division, with the Pittsburgh Steelers sure to be great once again. The other two teams in the division, though, should not be a factor, as it will be another down year for the state of Ohio.
This means the Ravens will probably be fighting it out with either the New England Patriots or New York Jets for a wild-card spot in the playoffs, which is where Green Bay landed last season.
While they have all aged another year, we should still see another elite Ravens defense. They clearly have the star power on that side of the ball, and if they can stay healthy, they should be one of the top six or seven defenses in the league once again. That, combined with the added development of Flacco's game, should translate into a deep run into the playoffs.
Flacco's postseason success, or lack thereof, probably has the closest resemblance to Rodgers' right now. They both struggled in their first couple of years, but Aaron was able to get over that hurdle last year, and it has put him on the same level as other Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.
Joe Cool will look to add his name to that list as he takes the Ravens to new heights in 2011.