The most impressive player I have ever seen in person is Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
I saw him play in Week 3 last season, Green Bay at Chicago, and then again in the Super Bowl in Dallas.
He is not the most impressive defensive end I have ever seen (Julius Peppers) and he is not the most impressive defensive back I have ever seen (Troy Polamalu) but if I had to pick a player from the 1,900 in the NFL, it's Rodgers.
It is also why Green Bay has a real opportunity to repeat as Super Bowl winners for the first time since the New England Patriots did it in 2004 (over the Panthers) and 2005 (over the Eagles). Brady, Manning and Brees are all 30 years or older while Rodgers is 27. He can throw a football with accuracy, velocity and consistency of efficiency better than anybody right now. That in association with a calmness that is surreal makes Green Bay a safe and logical Super Bowl pick as along as Rodgers stays healthy.
But there is so much more.
1) After their Super Bowl win, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said, "we're just getting started," which is a very confident statement. But you would have to think it was not said out of arrogance or emotional bravado, just logic and knowledge.
2) Tight end Jermichael Finley is part Tony Gonzalez, part Dallas Clark, part Kevin Boss. He has the confidence of Gonzalez, the smooth athletic flow of Clark and the physical build of Boss.
3) The Packers are young and hungry with LB Clay Matthews (age 25), TE Jermichael Finley (24), NT B.J. Raji (25), S Nick Collins (27) and WR Greg Jennings (27). The only player of significant age is Charles Woodson at 35. When you're young, you desire; when you're older, you contemplate. Green Bay fits the statement "old enough to have seen it all and young enough to do it again."
4) Cornerback Sam Shields was an undrafted rookie that is equal to any player at his position in the league. Finding Shields is not lucky, it is a compliment to the scouting staff in every way that they can recognize pro football players. There are other Sam Shields out there waiting to be found.
5) At 35, injuries started to limit the abilities of offensive tackle Chad Clifton but he played the last third of the season like he played 10 years ago. Logic says he has another good year in him and if so, that allows last year's first round pick Derek Sherrod to develop into the next Bryan Bulaga.
Yes, you can rationalize that if Brian Urlacher had not been tackled by Rodgers and run back that interception for a touchdown, it may have been a Bears-Steelers Super Bowl. Or if Ben Roethlisberger had not thrown an interception to Nick Collins for a touchdown, the six-point win by Green Bay could have been a one-point win for Pittsburgh. But no other team had 15 quality players not on the roster due to injury like the Packers. Some had a similar number but not of the same quality.
This summer, the Eagles signed more talented free agents than anyone after winning the NFC East but the Packers have been very quiet. Last year, the Packers were quiet again while the free agent market was very active. If free agency was a determining factor in winning games, the Washington Redskins should have been the most successful team of the last decade.
It is easy to pick Green Bay as the NFC representative in the Super Bowl and other teams know it. It is why Atlanta traded so much away for wide receiver Julio Jones because they know that to beat the Packers, they will have to outscore them. It is why the Eagles signed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha because they know to beat the Packers, they have to keep it close.
And it is why Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said after the Super Bowl win, "We're just getting started."