Aaron Rodgers: He clearly wasn’t at the peak of his powers Sunday. But his game-winning TD rocket to rookie Richard Rodgers was vintage Aaron Rodgers. Hopefully he’ll be physically well enough to hold up against the swarming Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.
Jim Irsay: He surely won’t admit it publicly, but you know he has to feel giddy about picking the correct quarterback three years ago.
Tom Brady: His third TD pass Saturday was the record-setting 46th of his playoff career and put the Patriots up for good in their 35-31 escape act against the Ravens. Brady carried a one-dimensional offense and less-than-reliable defense all night, completing 33 of his 50 throws for 367 yards.
Julian Edelman: His first TD pass Saturday — incidentally, Edelman’s first throw since he was Kent State’s quarterback —spanned 51 yards for a game-tying score with Danny Amendola on the receiving end. Edelman also pitched in eight catches for 74 yards and averaged 15 yards on three punt returns.
Russell Wilson: Amazingly, his postseason winning percentage (.833), exceeds his enviable regular-season mark (.750). Wilson’s three TD tosses established a personal best for the playoffs, as did his near-perfect 149.2 rating.
Andrew Luck: His steady ascent continues. Not only did he dispatch Colts predecessor Peyton Manning in fairly easy fashion Sunday, Luck has advanced one rung up the playoff ladder in each of his three seasons. So even if Indy loses to the Patriots in the AFC title game, fear not, Colts fans – 2015 is clearly your year.
Panthers run defense: It was the first to hold Marshawn Lynch below 100 rushing yards in a playoff game at Seattle. Beast Mode (59 yards) had averaged 127 rushing yards in his first three postseason appearances at CenturyLink Field.
Seahawks receiving corps: Three different players scored on Wilson’s trio of TDs. A little egg on the face of their critics? Yup.
Justin Forsett: He concluded the greatest season of his journeyman career with 129 rushing yards in Baltimore’s loss. Forsett will deservedly cash in somewhere when he reaps the benefits of free agency in a few months.
NFC South: The Panthers were 3-8-1 six weeks ago before winning their laughingstock division with a December surge. But they knocked off the Cardinals in the wild-card round and gave the Seahawks almost all they could handle. Maybe the NFC South wasn’t that bad after all.
Rex Ryan: He was unemployed for all of two weeks before agreeing to coach the Bills.
Adam Gase: With the Broncos finished, arguably the league’s hottest assistant can now devote himself to assessing the remaining coaching openings he might covet.
Kam: Chancellor, the Seahawks’ hard-hitting safety (10 tackles), played mind games with Carolina by nearly blocking a pair of field-goal attempts before halftime. Then he iced Seattle’s divisional win with a 90-yard pick six in the fourth quarter, the first of his career.