|WEEI NFL Playoff Power Rankings and Predictions||01.05.10 at 3:52 am ET|
1. (Last week, 1) 13-3 Right now, San Diego is the best team in the NFL. This offense is a nightmare to game-plan against. The Chargers have a great quarterback in Philip Rivers, a solid running game and great balance at the receiver position. San Diego plays the Colts well every year and will give Peyton Manning and Co. a lot of trouble if the two teams collide in Indianapolis for the AFC championship.
2. (2) 14-2 The Colts are great on both sides of the ball. On defense, they’ve got one of best lines in the game with Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney coming off the edge and getting pressure on the passer. Offensively, Manning has proven he can do it all, and he has the luxury of passing the ball to receivers such as Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark.
3. (3) 13-3 One of the most important statistics in the playoffs is turnovers. The Saints were the best team in the NFL this year in creating turnovers. They had a total of 39 takeaways. The Saints also have the luxury of having Drew Brees leading the way. The road to Miami in the NFC goes through the Superdome and “Who Dat” Nation.
4. (6) 11-5 With all the weapons the Eagles have on offense, the Cowboys managed to shut them out Sunday. Dallas’ defense, led by the defensive line, has been outstanding over the past couple of weeks and there are no signs to make you think things will be any different Saturday night. Tony Romo has been terrific, throwing just two interceptions in the last six games.
5. (9) 12-4 Lots of question marks surround this team as it enters the playoffs. Minnesota has played very inconsistently down the stretch. A blowout win over a Giants team that gave up three weeks ago means nothing. The Vikings offensive line needs to step up, Adrian Peterson needs to protect the football, and Jared Allen and the Vikings defensive line need to return to that dominant form Minnesota fans got accustomed to watching in the beginning of the season.
6. (4) 11-5 Six straight wins for the Eagles means nothing after their demolition by the Cowboys. The loss to Dallas had huge consequences. Now Donovan McNabb and the Eagles have to win three road games instead of having a first-round bye and home-field advantage against every NFC playoff team except the Saints.
7. (5) 11-5 Green Bay has played well down the stretch, but is the Packers offensive line strong enough to last throughout the playoffs? Although the O-line was much improved the last three weeks of the season, many question marks surround a line that contributed to Aaron Rodgers being sacked 50 times this year.
8. (7) 10-6 The loss of Wes Welker all but put a fork in the Patriots’ playoff chances. Without Welker, this offense will have a rough time getting into a rhythm and moving the chains. Julian Edelman and Ben Watson will have to step up if the Patriots want to make noise in the playoffs. The Patriots defense will have to do a better job containing Ravens running back Ray Rice. Rice averaged 9.4 yards per carry the last time Baltimore and New England met.
9. (8) 10-6 The injuries are piling up for the Bengals. Chad Ochocinco has a banged-up knee, but more importantly, defensive tackle Pat Sims is out. With Rey Maualuga already out and Domata Peko still recovering from a knee injury, the Bengals will have a very difficult time defending the run.
10. (10) 10-6 The loss of Anquan Boldin could really slow down the Cardinals offense. The defense has an extremely tough task ahead as it tries to stop Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Grant. Arizona has played well all year on the road (6-2) but has struggled at home (4-4). The defending NFC champs will have a tough time getting out of the first round.
11. (12) 9-7 I don’t like the Ravens’ chances when their road to the Super Bowl likely would have to go through New England, Indianapolis and San Diego.
12. (15) 9-7 A few weeks ago, coach Rex Ryan apologized to fans for failing to make the playoffs; a few breaks and weeks later, the Jets find themselves sitting in the No.5 seed in the AFC playoffs. Super Bowl teams can only get as far as their quarterback can take them, and despite a great running game and solid defense, Mark Sanchez won’t be able to lead his team to victory in the postseason.
NFL Playoff Predictions:
AFC Wild Card
NFC Wild Card
AFC Divisional Round
NFC Divisional Round
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