With the playoff picture starting to take its introductory shape, it might be fun to spin the dial forward and talk about which players are most likely to shine if their team wins the Super Bowl.
Obviously the Super Bowl MVP is most often awarded to the quarterback of the winning team. Therefore, on teams where the quarterback is favored to win there will be a bonus dark horse pick for the award as well.
Enjoy the list but take it for what it is worth...the odds of Dexter Jackson making this list in 2003 for the Buccaneers is highly unlikely, but that is part of the fun!
FAVORITE: AARON RODGERS
The Packers are the favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champions and if that were to be true, their All-Star quarterback should be a heavy favorite to win his second MVP award in as many years, becoming the first player to win back to back since Terry Bradshaw.
DARK HORSE: JORDY NELSON
There were many who believed that Nelson was deserving of consideration for the award last year. He used that performance as a launching pad for the success he is enjoying this season, and as the playoff stretch is unwinding he is becoming a favorite target of Rodgers.
FAVORITE: BEN ROETHLISBERGER
Big Ben has got two Super Bowl rings, but no MVPs to his name for all his work. He is clearly the wheel that turns the Steelers' offense and does an excellent job of extending plays so that his receivers can get open and make big grabs.
DARK HORSE: TROY POLAMALU
On a team where the defense can be as big of a game changer as the offense, Troy Polamalu is the home run hitter when it comes to big plays. It would not be a surprise to see Polamalu make a play and score the winning points himself in the big game.
FAVORITE: FRANK GORE
This team will make it to the Super Bowl and win if they can grind every opponent into the ground and control the clock. Frank Gore is the key to that equation and if the running game is firing in the Super Bowl, he will find pay dirt multiple times for sure.
DARK HORSE: ALEX SMITH
A lot of experts are predicting that Alex Smith could be the Achilles heel of this team in big situations. That remains to be seen, but if the Niners make it to the Super Bowl and need a big play to win it late, than Smith will have to be the guy to do it. Just ask Eli Manning what kind of respect a game-winning drive gets a quarterback with a short resume up to that point.
FAVORITE: TOM BRADY
Just when people think the Patriots are down for the count they author an impressive victory over the Jets and look to have the type of schedule that will allow them to coast into the playoffs. Once in the playoffs they have a man at QB who knows the way to the Super Bowl. Brady will look to win his third MVP award and tie Joe Montana for most ever.
DARK HORSE: DEION BRANCH
If the defense chooses to key on Wes Welker, than look for Deion Branch to make like it's 2005 again and connect with Tom Brady on a regular basis. Branch has not let age slow him down and can definitely be a factor in pursuit of his second MVP award.
FAVORITE: DREW BREES
The accomplishments of Drew Brees this season are going largely unnoticed due to the stellar play from other quarterbacks around the league. Regardless, it may be Brees who has the last laugh as his forgotten Saints make another run to the Super Bowl. The Saints will run just enough to get the job done but the game would be won through the air.
CO-FAVORITE: JIMMY GRAHAM
There is a new favorite target in New Orleans and it is tight end Jimmy Graham. His athletic ability and route-running prowess have made him almost impossible to cover, and if the Saints take to the air in order to win their second Super Bowl he will lead the way.
FAVORITE: RAY RICE
The Baltimore Ravens are a true Super Bowl contender when Ray Rice carries the load in their games. If the Ravens are going to win the Super Bowl they are going to run their way there, and Rice will be the workhorse who should be rewarded with a lot of goal line carries in the big game.
DARK HORSE: TORREY SMITH
If the Ravens are consistently pounding Rice on the inside they may be setting up their opponent to allow Torrey Smith to run right behind them. His big-play ability may help him outshine the more workmanlike Rice in a Super Bowl Victory.