|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, playoff edition: Peyton Manning’s Broncos No. 1||01.02.13 at 9:40 am ET|
It’s finally here. The postseason kicks off this Saturday and there are many teams capable of raising the Vince Lombardi trophy in New Orleans. Of the 12 playoff teams, four were not in the postseason last year (Colts, Seahawks, Redskins, Vikings). Three of those teams will have rookie quarterbacks leading the offense. Football fans are in for an entertaining postseason.
Leading the way are the Broncos (1). With 11 straight wins and as the only team to have both a top-five offense and defense, Denver is poised for a deep run. The No. 1 seed in the NFC is at No. 4 in the Power Rankings. The Falcons will enjoy a week off before Matt Ryan attempts to win his first playoff game. The two other teams that will enjoy a first-round bye are the Niners (3) and Patriots (4).
Will wild card weekend produce a few upsets? The Seahawks (6) could deliver one on the road against the Redskins (10).
1. Broncos (13-3) — Peyton Manning has led the Broncos to 11 straight wins and guaranteed Denver home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The veteran quarterback has done a tremendous job getting the offense in sync. The passing attack is one of the most dynamic in the league. The defense is ranked in the top five of the league as well.
2. 49ers (11-4-1) — One thing to watch is how Justin Smith deals with his triceps injury. The dominant D-lineman is a big reason why the 49ers defense is the best in the league. San Francisco will be facing some high-powered offenses in the postseason and will need Smith to wreak havoc up front like he usually does.
3. Patriots (12-4) — We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, but doesn’t it seem like the Patriots and Broncos are on a collision course for an AFC championship showdown? Grabbing a first-week bye puts the veteran Pats in a great position to return to the Super Bowl. A healthy Rob Gronkowski is key to this team’s success.
4. Falcons (13-3) — The No. 1 seed in the AFC has a lot of doubters. The Falcons have been in this position before and have failed. The difference now is Matt Ryan is playing better, the offensive is filled with explosive playmakers, and new coordinator Mike Nolan has the defense playing inspired football.
5. Packers (11-5) — No one wants to play the Packers in the playoffs, but Green Bay is vulnerable with a beat-up offensive line, shaky defense, and only one guaranteed game on the friendly confines of the frozen tundra.
6. Seahawks (11-5) — Russell Wilson‘s ability as a rookie to minimize turnovers and lead fourth-quarter game-winning drives is very impressive. The Seahawks are flying into the playoffs with plenty of confidence and are known for their ability to pull off miracles at the end of games.
7. Texans (12-4) — The Texans stagger into the playoffs after losing three of their last four. They’ve been outscored 110-65 in that span. The defense has allowed many big passing plays over the last month and won’t be able to match up against the high-flying offenses of the Patriots and Broncos.
8. Ravens (10-6) — It’s never good to back into the playoffs, and the Ravens did just that. Losing four of their last five games, Baltimore clearly played its best football earlier in the season. Before the season began, players and coaches discussed how important getting home-field advantage was. That was a goal set by the Ravens that they let slip away.
9. Colts (11-5) — Three of the Colts’ 11 wins have come against playoff teams (Vikings, Packers, Texans). Chuck Pagano‘s decision to play his starters was not only a good thing for the Patriots but a good thing for the Colts as well. Beating the Texans in the last game of the regular season will give this young team plenty of confidence heading into the playoffs. The Colts should play like they have nothing to lose.
10. Redskins (10-6) — If it weren’t for the Broncos winning 11 straight, the Redskins would be the hottest team entering the playoffs with seven in a row. Mike Shanahan clearly has his team focused and playing well when it matters most. Defensively, the ‘Skins have shown great improvement and are doing a solid job keeping offenses off balance.
11. Bengals (10-6) — Wondering the last time the Bengals won a playoff game? It was Jan. 6, 1991. Cincinnati defeated the Houston Oilers, 41-14, before losing to Bo Jackson and the Los Angeles Raiders in the divisional round. Andy Dalton has a great opportunity to snap the horrid streak. The Bengals defense has been playing great and A.J. Green should be able to make some big plays against the struggling Texans secondary.
12. Vikings (10-6) — The Vikings are a great story, as no one predicted them to make the playoffs. However, a deep postseason run is unrealistic. Home-field advantage means a lot, especially in the playoffs, and the Vikings’ road starts in Green Bay. Their best cornerback, Antoine Winfield, has a broken hand.
Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your comments below or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.
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