Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers QB, Among 20 Postseason Breakout Players

Brandon Galvin@bgny3Featured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2011

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers QB, Among 20 Postseason Breakout Players

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    GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a touchdown against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on January 2, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Each postseason, we see players amplify their talents and perform out of this world.

    On their way to the Super Bowl two years ago, Larry Fitzgerald put on a historic performance.

    Last year, Drew Brees showed the will and determination to march the Saints to the promised land. This year, there are dozens of players who have breakout potential to help their teams accomplish their goal of reaching a Super Bowl.

    From rookies to superstars to Hall of Famers, here are 20 players with postseason breakout potential.

Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs WR

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 26:  Dexter McCluster #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball during the game against the Tennessee Titans on December 26, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The rookie had a poor regular season campaign due to lingering injuries in the middle of the season, yet this explosive wide receiver has a ton of untapped superstar potential.

    As evident by his debut, McCluster has the speed and agility to evade and outrun any defender in this league. Against San Diego Week 1, McCluster returned a punt for a 94-yard touchdown.

    Charlie Weis has the perfect weapon to exploit defenses on offense, but McCluster has the potential to change a game on special teams. This is where McCluster can truly breakout this postseason. McCluster has Devin Hester-like game-changing potential.

    If Kansas City advances in the playoffs, there is a great chance that McCluster makes a monster play or two to help the team.

Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens LB

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    BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 2:  Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens is introduced before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals  at M&T Bank Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 13-6. (Photo by Larry French
    Larry French/Getty Images

    The veteran linebacker has been a ferocious monster for the Baltimore Ravens since entering the league. He is one of the most dominating defenders in the game in both run stopping and pass rushing. Working alongside Ray Lewis, it is often difficult for both of them to be double-teamed.

    Suggs, however, has excellent ability to get past double teams.

    Ray Lewis may be the leader of the Ravens defense, but at this point in their careers, Suggs is the more explosive of the two and will disrupt opposing quarterbacks in each game.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs RB

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 02:  Running back Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs down field in a game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Raiders won 31-10 (Photo by Tim Umphrey/G
    Tim Umphrey/Getty Images

    Charles was .02 inches of a yard shy from passing Jim Brown’s 6.4 yards per carry record.

    Charles is one of the NFL’s most explosive players in the game. Equipped with fantastic field vision, speed and agility, Charles is a threat to take each and every carry to the house.

    Charles has stayed fresh all season since he is paired with workhorse Thomas Jones. Since Charles had limited touches in each game, he was able to exploit defenses in each game and is now ready to showcase his ability in front of every NFL viewer.

    Dwayne Bowe and Matt Cassel were an unstoppable force in the middle of the season, but Jamaal Charles is the driving force behind this Kansas City Chiefs team.

    Their success will be dictated by Charles.

Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints RB

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    SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 20:  Reggie Bush #25 of the New Orleans Saints in action during their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on September 20, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Reggie Bush was enjoying arguably his best season running the football prior to missing time with a leg injury. Bush ran with more determination and power than ever before.

    Now that he is finally healthy, Bush will be ready to regain his preseason form in the postseason.

    Bush is a dual-threat for the Saints, as he is arguably their best receiver yet can still make an impact in the run game and special teams.

Mike Williams, Seattle Seahawks WR

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    SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 02:  Wide receiver Mike Williams #17 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the St. Louis Rams during their game at Qwest Field on January 2, 2011 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto G
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Williams had a great season for the Seahawks and is one of the leading candidates for Comeback Player of the Year.

    If the Seahawks have any hope of advancing in the playoffs, they need Williams to continue his breakout season. He is their best playmaker, and the rushing attack is extremely inconsistent.

    Williams is a big target for either Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst and will need to dominate opposing cornerbacks with his size.

Santonio Holmes, New York Jets WR

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 21:  Santonio Holmes #10 of the New York Jets celebrates after his fourth quarter touhdown against the Houston Texans on November 21, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets defeated the
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Since his debut after his four-game season opening suspension, Santonio Holmes has been the clear cut top playmaker for the New York Jets offense.

    The offense has been up and down to close out the year due to Mark Sanchez’ waning confidence, but Holmes’ play (aside from a dropped touchdown against Miami) has been top notch.

    He has been their most clutch player, as evident by his late game heroics against Cleveland, Detroit and Houston.

    This former Super Bowl MVP will make his presence known once again in the postseason.

Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons RB

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 02:  Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons runs upfield during the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on January 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    If the Falcons want to continue their dominance over the NFC in the postseason, they desperately need Michael “The Burner” Turner to carry them.

    Turner is a complete running back. His bruising style and breakaway speed is the ideal combination to compliment a passing attack led by Matt Ryan and Roddy White.

    Turner has his ups and downs, but when he is on his game, he is one of the best backs in the league. If he can unleash his dominance, there is no stopping this well-oiled Falcon offense.

Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears DE

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 26: Julius Peppers #90 of the Chicago Bears runs onto the field during player introductions before a game against the New York Jets at Soldier Field on December 26, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Jets 38-34.  (Pho
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Peppers is one of the elite defenders in the game, let alone one of the elite pass rushers.

    Peppers has a nonstop motor and is one of the most athletic players in the NFL. Peppers is a fantastic run stopper, pass rusher and can even drop back in pass defense and intercept the rock.

    It is no coincidence that with Peppers on board, the Chicago Bears have one of the most dominant and scariest defenses in the league.

    If the Chicago Bears advance, guarantee that you’ll see a few plays each game out of this beast.

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears QB

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 26: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears looks for a receiver against the New York Jets at Soldier Field on December 26, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Jets 38-34.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Here’s the thing with Jay Cutler (and Mike Martz’ offense for that matter).

    Cutler can either be excellent or a disaster thanks to his offense.

    Cutler, at times, will trust his arm more often than his head and will force throws after making quick, rash decisions because he is often unprotected adequately due to Martz’ all-or-nothing offense.

    Cutler has the potential to throw three touchdowns and win the game.

    He also has the potential to throw three interceptions and lose the game.

    It all depends on what we get.

Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers WR

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 23:  Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the game on December 23, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Ima
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Wallace was primed for a breakout regular season and delivered for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, he exceeded expectations.

    He caught 60 passes for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    Wallace is not just a big-play threat; he is a monster-play threat. He has excellent downfield speed, vision and hands equipped with solid leaping ability.

    With Ben Roethlisberger’s strong arm, Wallace is the ideal option for his quarterback. Wallace is good for at least one bomb a play, but with Hines Ward’s fantastic possession-receiving ability, Wallace just may erupt this postseason.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons QB

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons waits for a play call against the Carolina Panthers at Georgia Dome on January 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Ryan led the NFC-leading Atlanta Falcons to a 13-3 record with just one home loss.

    Ryan was on point throughout the entire season, but more importantly, in clutch time.

    With a suspect defense, the Falcons success rests on the vision, intelligence and arm of Matt Ryan. Luckily for Atlanta nation, Ryan has the wherewithal to do just that.

    This kid is a winner.

    He is ready to make that leap into the upper echelon of quarterbacks in just his third season in the NFL. Ryan is one of the top breakout players to look out for this postseason.

Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots TE

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 26: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots celebrates with fans after playing the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. Gronkowski is a Buffalo native and had two touchdow
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The rookie tight end has been arguably Tom Brady’s favorite target this season.

    Gronkowski runs excellent routes, has great speed for an athlete his size and reliable hands. The Patriots used Gronkowski all over the field, in short, quick routes, over the middle and over the top, so there is no telling where Gronkowski will be on any given play.

    Gronkowski finished the regular season with 10 touchdowns and could very well have a multi-touchdown performance or two this postseason.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots QB

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 02:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown by teammate BenJarvis Green-Ellis in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins on January 2, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa
    Elsa/Getty Images

    I know what you’re thinking.

    How could a Hall of Famer like Tom Brady be primed for a “breakout” postseason?

    Simple.

    Brady has been on a historic pace. He has not thrown an interception in 11 straight games. He has thrown at least two touchdowns and zero interceptions in nine straight games.

    If Brady continues this remarkable, MVP performance, he just may cement his legacy as quite possibly the greatest quarterback ever.

Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens WR

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11:  Anquan Boldin #81 of the Baltimore Ravens against Brent Grimes #20 of the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    This is what Anquan Boldin has waited his entire career for.

    Boldin took a backseat to Larry Fitzgerald’s historic postseason performance when the Arizona Cardinals advance to the Super Bowl. Boldin is one of the toughest, most physical and gifted receivers in the game. Now is his time to shine.

    This is what the Ravens desperately needed last season, a superstar wide receiver who can dominate a game.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens QB

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    BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 2:  Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens walks off the field after the game against the Cincinnati Bengals  at M&T Bank Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 13-6. (Photo by Larry Frenc
    Larry French/Getty Images

    Flacco was on his way to a breakout postseason last year but slipped up against the Indianapolis Colts.

    This year, Flacco has a far superior supporting cast on offense and is one of the top players primed to make the leap to the upper echelon of quarterbacks.

    Flacco is a big body with a strong arm and great accuracy. Now that he has a physical superstar receiver to depend on, the sky is the limit for these Baltimore Ravens.

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles QB

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    One of the top two candidates for MVP, the Philadelphia Eagles' success this postseason rests on the arm and legs of Michael Vick.

    Vick had a breakout regular season, as he threw for career highs in yards and touchdowns with 3,018 yards and 21 touchdowns. He threw just six interceptions the entire year. He also rushed for a career high nine touchdowns.

    Vick’s running threat, vision, improved accuracy and rocket arm makes him arguably the most unstoppable player in the entire NFL. At the very least, he is clearly the most dangerous.

    If Vick can keep up his regular season performance without getting flustered from containment, the Eagles will be soaring to the Super Bowl.

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles RB

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 28, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Although Michael Vick is clearly the most important player on the Philadelphia Eagles, LeSean McCoy may just be the most overlooked and undervalued player on the team.

    With all of the pressure and attention on Vick, McCoy is going to need to excel this postseason.

    If the Eagles have the lead, McCoy will be counted on to run out the clock. Luckily for them, McCoy has shown the vision, power and shiftiness to do just that in crunch time.

Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers LB

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 31:  Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a play as LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the New York Jets looks on on October 31, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIs
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Clay Matthews is one of the most important defenders for any one team in the league. He is the motor that makes the Packers defense run.

    This unit has been fantastic over the past month of the season and will need to continue that pace if they hope to advance.

    Most likely, Matthews will be asked to shadow the dangerous Michael Vick in the Wild Card round if the Packers hope to contain one of the league’s leading MVP-candidates.

    Matthews, who totaled 14 sacks this season, has the talent to do so, and if he succeeds, will be praised beyond belief.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets QB

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 02:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets reacts on the side lines during their game against the Buffalo Bills at New Meadowlands Stadium on January 2, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Last year, Mark Sanchez flipped a switch in the postseason and led the New York Jets all the way to the AFC Championship.

    In order for the Jets to make it to the Super Bowl, they need Sanchez to magically flip that same switch again. Sanchez was enjoying a great opening to the season but fell apart midway and clearly lost his confidence.

    Sanchez has a far superior supporting cast this time around and all eyes will be on him. If they succeed, he will be the hero. If they fail, he will most likely be the scapegoat.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers QB

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    GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 26:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers rolls out of the pocket against the New York Giants at Lambeau Field on December 26, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Aaron Rodgers is already one of the most talented and purest passers in the game. He is already one of the better regular season quarterbacks.

    Now is his time to prove to everyone is one of the very best when it counts the most: In the postseason.

    This will be his second year taking the Packers to the playoffs, and the way the offense and defense is playing heading into the postseason, they have all of the momentum.

    This is Rodgers’ time; he needs to seize his moment.

Five More Players Primed for a Breakout Postseason

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 02:  Roddy White #84 of the Atlanta Falcons waits on the sidelines during the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on January 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    1. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons WR

    2. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts WR

    3. Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers DB

    4. LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets RB

    5. Patrick Chung, New England Patriots DB

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