NFL players of the week: Peyton Manning rises once again

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The top players in the conference championship round typified their team's path to the Super Bowl.

It seems like a cop-out to award the top players of the week to the winners from the weekend, but in this case the shoe fits.

Passer of the week: Peyton Manning, 32/43, 400 yards, two touchdowns

There's no confusion why the Broncos are in the Super Bowl -- it's because of Peyton Manning's arm. Maybe the quarterback gets too much credit, which overshadows coaching and his teammates, but against the Patriots he was the catalyst for his team on an afternoon Knowshon Moreno largely struggled.

Manning's game was helped by the absence of Aqib Talib, but at the end of the day it was about taking advantage of the matchups.

Rusher of the week: Marshawn Lynch, 22 attempts, 109 yards, one touchdown

There were big plays, a beast quake and a Seahawks victory. There's no question Lynch is the best running back left, and against the 49ers he showed sides to his game that were often absent.

It was clear from early on that outmuscling the 49ers wasn't going to work against a strong defensive line, so the Seahawks shifted into an outside running game that allowed Lynch to work in space. It was a perfect move and more importantly, the team didn't give up on the run despite some early struggles. This allowed Lynch to bash against the door before scoring the vital touchdown that started some seismic activity.

Receiver of the week: Demaryius Thomas, seven receptions, 134 yards, one touchdown

Thomas has been Peyton Manning's favorite target all season, and that didn't stop against the Patriots. The battle between the receiver and New England's defensive backs was extremely compelling until Aqib Talib left the field. It blew up the game in a way that was almost impossible to defend a receiver of his caliber.

Now we get to see the matchup between Thomas and Richard Sherman, which will be one of the most fascinating Super Bowl battles in recent memory.

Defender of the week: Bobby Wagner, five solo tackles, 10 assisted tackles

There wasn't a lot of pass rushing in the conference championship round, so it's important to change the focus to a complete defender who took away his opponent's heart.

Wagner was key in derailing the San Francisco run game. He was excellent at moving to the line of scrimmage and swarming Frank Gore, who finished with a paltry 14 rushing yards on 11 attempts. If the Seattle middle linebacker can put that kind of performance into the Super Bowl, it will be hard for Denver to run a balanced offense.

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