When Eli Manning beat Atlanta, Green Bay, San Francisco and eventually New England on the way to a Super Bowl title, many in the sports media world lauded his veteran toughness and moxie.
His experience in the playoffs as a Super Bowl champion carried the day.
Facing Tom Brady in the title game, Manning was a quarterback who stood nose to nose with the Hall of Fame Patriot and made more plays. Having a significantly better defense certainly helped.
So why, then, is the narrative not the same for Aaron Rodgers? It should be and it should make Green Bay the favorite to come out of the NFC.
Rodgers did the same thing Eli did in 2007, winning three road playoff games and the Super Bowl.
Rodgers is 4-2 in the post-season with 15 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. His debut against Arizona was arguably the greatest playoff debut by a quarterback in the history of the league.
The Packers signal-caller is the only NFC quarterback with even just one playoff win, making him head and shoulders the most veteran leader of his respective team.
San Francisco has a first-year starter who doesn't even a full season under his belt. Washington has a banged-up rookie with a porous offensive line and no receivers. Seattle has a rookie under center who has been erratic on the road - a foreboding sign given the Seahawks can only play on the road unless the Vikings make a miraculous run through the playoffs.
You can point to the punishing defenses of Seattle and San Francisco, or the pulverizing ground games of Minnesota and Washington, but recent history suggests that's not enough.
Starting with last year, the Super Bowl has seen Eli Manning vs. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers vs. Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning, Roethlisberger vs. Kurt Warner, and Manning vs. Brady the first time.
In other words, the last five years a Pro Bowl quarterback has played in the Super Bowl for both teams every single season. In most cases, you're talking about either a likely or guaranteed Hall of Fame quarterback.
This isn't 2000 where Ray Lewis can carry a Trent Dilfer-lead offense. It's not even 2007 where an elite defense carried Rex Grossman and remember the Bears lost that game to Peyton Manning. In fact, you have to go back to 2003 to find a Super Bowl won by a non-elite quarterback when Brad Johnson won it for Tampa Bay.
Robert Griffin III is on his way to being elite, but his best skill is hindered by a knee injury. Wilson too, has shown flashes of being elite, but has struggled on the road - the Seahawks were 3-5 on the road this season. Colin Kaepernick hasn't even started half a season in San Francisco and he hasn't played as well lately as he did early in his starts.
Christian Ponder is...well Christian Ponder, an athletic quarterback with questionable accuracy, a mediocre arm, and poor decision-making skills. Basically, if Ponder played in Jacksonville, he'd be Blaine Gabbert. He essentially is anyway. That, as much as anything, is reason enough to believe Adrian Peterson should be considered for that the MVP.
That leaves just Ryan and Rodgers. Green Bay beat Atlanta en route to a Super Bowl title then beat up the Falcons last year in Atlanta. Rodgers has lit up the Falcons and is unstoppable on turf. No Packers fans fear the Falcons, nor should they. Atlanta is better than they were as a 1 seed in 2010, but not by much. Green Bay knows they can win there and Atlanta's defense knows they can't hope to slow down Rodgers.
The Giants had a chance last season because Eli Manning and the Giants had been down the road before. They proved why they deserved the benefit of the doubt.
Green Bay is playing better this season than those Giants were at the end of last season and Aaron Rodgers is on an absolute tear. Over the last three weeks, Rodgers is 78/114 for 998 yards, 10 touchdowns with no interceptions, plus he ran for a score against Tennessee.
That's a staggering 124.8 quarterback rating.
No one in the league, save for Adrian Peterson, is playing better at any position heading into the postseason. Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFC playoff race and it frankly isn't close, despite Matt Ryan's ascension this year into elite status.
Ryan still has never won a playoff game and playing Green Bay on the fast track in Atlanta, which is normally beneficial to their high-powered offense, is a wash given the weapons Green Bay has and Rodgers' record in domes.
Of course, Rodgers was 0-1 in the playoffs until he won, but once he got the first one, he won three more to win a title. And while his wins came against Pro Bowl quarterbacks, none of them had significant postseason experience. It wasn't until the Super Bowl that he faced a quarterback with the kind of playoff credentials that can tip the scales.
This season, Rodgers will be the veteran, the experienced Super Bowl champion who stands in the way of the upstart young guns. Just as Manning and Brady get the benefit of the doubt, so too should Rodgers.
The 2011 MVP, along with a stable of receivers that is finally healthy, should make Green Bay the favorite in the NFC no matter who they play or where. Rodgers has proven he can win anywhere and everywhere and he's hitting on all cylinders.
No one should be surprised if he leads this team through the NFC. He's the best in the NFC and probably the league. That's what it takes to win in the postseason and that's why Green Bay will win in the postseason.
Peter Bukowski is a Wisconsin transplant living in New York and has been covering sports since 2007. He is an award-winning television and newspaper reporter. Follow him on Twitter @BukoTime