This is the follow up article to yesterday's Ranking of the Playoff Quarterbacks piece.
The criteria for today's rankings of the playoff teams are based on their chances to win the Super Bowl. This means that even if I have one team above another on this list, that doesn't necessarily mean that I'd pick that team to win that particular game. It just means they'd have a better chance at winning it all. Potential plays a great role in these rankings.
Take it with you......
1. Pittsburgh Steelers- Whaaa? Not the Patriots?!? Nope, no sir, unh-uh. While I acknowledge the advantage the Patriots hold on the offensive side of the ball, as well as the homefield advantage, I cannot go against the best defense in the league. Combine that with a 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, and a team that's peaking at the right time, and you have my Super Bowl XLV favorites. Remember, the only reason the Steelers missed the playoffs last year was because Troy Polamalu (the best player in the NFL) got hurt, at which point they fell apart. I'm sure in their minds, they are still the defending Super Bowl champs.
2. New England Patriots- I really believe the Super Bowl may be decided in the AFC Championship Game between the Steelers and Patriots (haven't we been there before?). New England has overachieved all season long, which is a testament to their coaching. They are not a great team. However, they have played great (there's a difference). Now, if they continue to play at that same level, then they will most likely win the Super Bowl, but it is very difficult to maintain that level throughout the NFL playoffs, when you get every team's best shot. This team does feel a lot more like the Patriots teams of old that won Super Bowls, as opposed to the Patriots teams of recent, who have dominated stat sheets, but come up short in the playoffs.
3. New Orleans Saints- Yes, I declare a team that will have to win 3 road games in order to advance to the Super Bowl the favorites in the NFC. I don't believe in either of the teams with bye weeks in the NFC (the exact opposite of the AFC). The Saints are the one team with Super Bowl experience (besides the Seahawks, but they don't count), which goes a long way in the NFL. They are banged up at the running back position, but since when has that been an issue for the Saints? In fact, it's best to feed a back (even if lesser skilled) with fresh legs this time of year (Shonn Greene last season). And don't forget that they are hypothetically the 5th team with a bye week in these playoffs, with their Seattle draw in the opening round.
4. Atlanta Falcons- No, I'm not fully sold on Matt Ryan's iciness. No, I don't believe the Falcons boast a Super Bowl quality defense (although John Abraham would be the reason they could). I think I got overly soured on the Falcons when Merrill Hoge started spouting off about how the only rushing attack better than the Chiefs was that of the Atlanta Falcons. I'm sorry but 1st > 12th, 164.2 > 118.2, and 4.7 > 3.8. All that said, I will be rooting for Tony G to experience some postseason success for the first time in his career. I should like these Falcons, but I just don't. The good news for the Falcons is that I said most of these same things about the New Orleans Saints last season, and things turned out alright for them.
5. Philadelphia Eagles- Has Michael Vick run out of magic? Or was he a little hampered by injuries that have since healed with his week off? If he returns to his midseason form, then the Eagles could become Super Bowl favorites. The problem is, I haven't seen it for a handful of weeks now. I don't think Vick will ever stay healthy for an entire season again if he continues to put his body in harm's way. However, DeSean Jackson (most explosive player in the NFL), Trent Cole (could be NFL's most underrated player), and Asante Samuel (NFL's best playoff CB) give the Eagles the necessary components to make a run. Remember the rules of Andy Reid though: His teams never lose following a bye week (last week was basically a bye week for the Eagles), and he's one of the worst in-game managers in the NFL (forgets that running the ball is an option, challenges are always an adventure, really needs to hire a 25 year old Madden player as a consultant).
6. Green Bay Packers- The Intercontinental Champion (Rodgers) is looking to join the big boys and become the Heavyweight Champion of the World (seriously, Rodgers must've been a huge WWF fan with all his belt signaling). The Packers are easy to figure out, but tough to solve. They can throw the ball around the schoolyard (extraordinarily good YAC!), play stout defense (surprisingly 2nd in the NFL in points allowed), and can't run the ball worth a lick (Hi, I'm John Kuhn). So in order for Rodgers to make the Shawn Michaels leap (besides Superkicking Marty Jannetty through a glass window-check out that mullet), he'll have to be near perfect (very possible).
7. Baltimore Ravens- The Ravens are all about intimidation. If you can get past their scary superficialities, and look deep down into their souls, then they can be beaten. But that's no easy task. They're strategy is to hit you in the mouth and make you beg for mercy in the 1st quarter. They want to make you think you can't run the ball on them, and gobble up turnovers when you believe that fact. They want you to feel that murder is a real possibility with them, but.....well, nevermind. The Ravens force more teams to fold than any other team in the NFL, but teams that have what it takes to stand up to them can defeat them. Also, Joe Flacco's unibrow is heinous.
8. Indianapolis Colts- The similarities between the Colts 2007 Super Bowl Championship team and this year's team are there: 3 seeds, improved run defense over the course of the season, and struggling through their worst regular seasons of the Peyton is God era. However, the similarities end there. Peyton isn't what he used to be. Dallas Clark isn't walking through those doors. Bob Sanders is in an old folks home somewhere. Jim Caldwell is as pointless as a circle. The Colts could beat the Patriots but could not, would not, beat the Steelers.
9. Chicago Bears- I've doubted da Bears throughout the entirety of the season, and I ain't about to quit now. Butt Ugly Jay Cutler is gonna try and do too much and most likely cost the Bears their first playoff game. Anybody remember how he blew the Broncos' playoff opportunities year after year? Man, I do. It was great. However, I am very impressed by the Bears defense, and would probably rank them 2nd behind the Steelers in that category. Also, playoff games in Chicago are always fun. I like the cold, the good fans, and the overwhelming sense of doom that runs throughout the stadium when anything bad happens.
10. New York Jets- Anybody else tired of Rex Ryan's schtick? We get it Rex, you think your team is great, and you can't wait to tell us all about it. I can't wait till your team encounters major adversity and starts to doubt the bullcorn you've been feeding them since you took over. I'm calling Sexy Rexy doesn't last two more years after this season. He might even get fired before then on account of podophilia (8 year olds, Dude). I also can't wait to see Sanchez blow it, L.T. sit out another playoff game, Santonio Holmes celebrate in the midst of an ass-kicking, Bill Callahan make his face like he's about to yawn, or Antonio Cromartie conceive another child during halftime of one of their games.
11. Kansas City Chiefs- Hate to put my beloved Chiefs this low on the list, but they would have to go through #7, #1, and #2 (most likely) just to even get there. I believe the Chiefs could be better than half of the teams in the NFC, but aren't fortunate enough to share the same path. It was very interesting hearing Trent Dilfer (ESPN's best TV guy) on The Sports Guy's podcast this week utter these surprising words, "I think the Chiefs could really give the Patriots some problems." I almost fell back in my chair at work (crashing into all the finest cheap vodkas we have to offer here at Kreitzer Liquors) when I heard that. His explanation centered around Romeo Crennel being able to control Brady. Now all I want is that opportunity to see if he could possibly be right. Dear 6 pound 8 ounce baby Jesus (I like to picture Jesus as an ice dancer, dressed in an all-white jumpsuit, and doing an interpretive dance of my life), please let this happen.
12. Seattle Seahawks- It will be interesting to see if the Seahawks can ride their homefield momentum wave enough to even draw close to the New Orleans Saints. I'm secretly very excited for this game just because of how much this Seabags team has been mocked nationally throughout the week. Aside from that, I would create a rule that says a team must win atleast 9 games to represent your division in the playoffs. In addition, a team would have to win 10 games in order to host a playoff game. This would end the silly charade of a team like Seattle hosting a playoff game in the future, and would create more purpose for late season games that would be lacking meaning without this rule. Win-win.