I'm not talking MVP candidates. I'm talking about the guy who the team absolutely cannot do without. The guy who, if he goes down for any extended period of time, will ruin the season for their respective team. Think Peyton Manning last year with the Colts.
The NFL is a Quarterback driven league, so to make sure I don't hear complaints from readers about me being biased to QB's I'll sneak in some positional players as well.
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
This new offense was tailored specifically for him, not Caleb Hanie or Brock Osweiler. Hanie has never proven he can be a full time starter. Meanwhile, Osweiler just is not ready to lead this team. The Broncos have talent around Manning, but not enough to still make the playoffs without him.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
The Saints, in theory, have one of the most talented teams in the league. However, Brees is the emotional leader that keeps this team afloat. Could Chase Daniel, a preseason legend in Washington, lead this team in Brees' absence? No.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
I know what you are thinking -- Didn't Matt Flynn come in and throw for nearly 500 yards in a game in place of Rodgers last season. Well, the answer is obviously yes and I cannot refute that. However, Graham Harrell is no Matt Flynn. If Rodgers were to go down, the Packers would be in a world of trouble.
Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dan Orlovsky stinks. I'm sorry Mr. and Mrs. Orlovsky, but how your son still has a job -- let alone a backup job -- in the NFL is mind-boggling. Okay, that was a little harsh. Dan, you're better than Brett Ratliff, so that's all that matters.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
See: Grossman, Rex.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
He didn't get the nickname Revis Island by being a mediocre cover corner.
Wide Receiver's Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson
The two most dominant receivers in the league help mask offensive deficiencies around them. Fitzgerald helps inexperienced/incompetent Quarterbacks around him. Meanwhile, Johnson helps make up for the lack of a consistent running game in Detroit.
Linebacker Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers
Willis is the heart and soul of one of the top defensive units in the league. Would San Francisco have a good defense without him? Yes. Would it be elite? No. Carolina really missed Jon Beason last year, so lets not pretend like an inside linebacker couldn't be missed that badly.
Obviously, there are a lot of players in the league that teams would sorely miss. These just stand out amongst the rest.