As the 2011-2012 NFL regular season comes to an end it brings even more excitement to football fanatics around the world. It’s playoff time! We’ve seen the best of teams and the worst. From the one-loss Packers to the one-win Colts, we’ve seen it all. It’s time to decide who will make it to Indianapolis on Feb. 5 to play for the beloved Lombardi Trophy.
AFC No. 1 Seed: New England Patriots 13-3
At 13-3, the New England Patriots are the most efficient offensive team in the AFC. Led by legendary quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots will have some tough defenses to decipher and will be successful for the most part. However, the Patriot defense has been abysmal consistently throughout the season and I don’t predict any changes in the playoffs. Ranking worst in opposing passing yards, and sub par in rushing defense, I do not see the Patriots being able to get through a tough AFC division.
AFC No. 2 Seed: Baltimore Ravens 12-4
The Baltimore Ravens will finish the season 12-4, and clinch a first round bye along with home field advantage for at least one playoff game and depending on the Patriots success, possibly another game. With a 7-0 record at home thus far, the Ravens have clearly proven to be unstoppable at home in front of the rowdy Ravens’ fans. It’s been no walk in the park at home for the Ravens as they have beaten conference foe Pittsburgh as well as the New York Jets, Houston, Cincinnati and San Francisco. Going into M&T Bank Stadium is a daunting task for opposing teams and creates a tough environment to pull out a win. The playoff adrenaline will be running, and there will be no stopping Baltimore.
AFC No. 3 Seed: Houston Texans 12-4
The Houston Texans have been great so far this season, but with season ending injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, it is hard to see the Texans making any serious run in the AFC. The Texans have declared that it is too late in the season to sign a free agent, therefore, it looks as if they will be moving forward with rookie quarterback T.J. Yates. Yates has done the job so far mainly because of the spectacular running game in Arian Foster and Ben Tate, who have averaged 151 yards a game. The Texans have been able to compensate with their stellar defense ranking second in the pass, and fifth on the ground. In any event, it is the year of the quarterback, and the Texans will not be able to advance with a third-string rookie.
AFC No. 4 Seed: Denver Broncos 10-6
It’s Tebow Time! Yes, as much as it hurts you to hear it, Mr. Tebow has done a remarkable job since he took over for Kyle Orton in week six. The Broncos have dedicated themselves to running the ball and have been quite successful, ranking first with 163 yards a game. However, even with all the hoopla surrounding Denver, the Broncos have yet to prove they can beat a championship-worthy team, or even win a game comfortably as Tebow has taken every game down to the wire. Having said that, I am passing on the Broncos to advance much further than winning their division.
AFC No. 5 Seed: Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
The defending AFC champions will only be able to hold on to a wild card spot this year because the Baltimore Ravens have just been too much. Despite their wildcard status, the Steelers are still one of the best teams in the league, led by their renown defense and a potent offense. The Steelers have lost a handful of games and it seems like they can make a serious run like they did last year. The difference is, they just haven’t been able to pull off wins against real Super Bowl contenders, with the exception of New England. Don’t get me wrong, Pittsburgh is still a strong team, but they are just too old to beat the powerhouses of the AFC.
AFC No. 6 Seed: New York Jets 9-7
The Jets have yet again found a way to sneak into the playoffs by taking the last wild card spot available. Keeping that in mind, the Jets will have to be able to win on the road because of the situation they are in, and that is the last thing Rex Ryan wants since they have lost 5 out of their 6 games on the road. The Jets are led by their defense, which has been losing their effectiveness near the end of the season. Mark Sanchez and the offense has been nothing better than average all year, and I don’t see that changing in the playoffs.
NFC No.1 Seed: Green Bay Packers 15-1
The Green Bay Packers have dominated for most of the season and had not lost a game until their unexpected loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 18. Other than that fluke of a loss, no other team has been able to stop them all year. They have the best player in the league in Aaron Rodgers, and he is surrounded by weapons everywhere. The Packers won the Super Bowl last year without star tight-end Jermichael Finley and running back Ryan Grant. I know they aren’t the same team, but that says something on its own.
NFC No. 2 Seed: San Francisco 13-3
When you look at this team you don’t understand how they continue to win. Alex Smith under center isn’t anything special and Frank Gore running is good, but not great. So how do they keep doing it? Defense! The 49ers are led by their defense. If they don’t play well, they won’t be able to win. They haven’t had much competition all year because they are in arguably the worst division in the NFL. Don’t bet on the 49ers doing well in the playoffs when they have real competition.
NFC No. 3 Seed: New Orleans Saints 13-3
As long as the Saints keep Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton, they will continue to make some noise in the playoffs. The Saints are similar to the Patriots in that they have a high-powered offense led by a remarkable quarterback. Having said that, the NFC overall is an offense heavy division, and the Saints will continue to outscore opponents. They’re nothing special on defense, ranking 30th in opposing passing yards and 15th in rushing yards. However, their offense is good enough to raise some speculation in that they could be the team to knock off the Packers. Was the first game of the season (Packers 42- Saints 34) a preview for the NFC championship?
NFC No.4 Seed: Dallas Cowboys 10-6
Despite their closing games issue, the Dallas Cowboys are still a very good team. Considering that all of their losses, with the exception of Philadelphia, have been a narrow one-possession loss, they could have been competing for home-field advantage. Sadly, for Cowboys fans, they are struggling to win the NFC East, and have a tough task in front of them.
Although a good team, they make too many mistakes at critical times in games, and there is no room for mistakes in the playoffs.
NFC No. 5 Seed: Atlanta Falcons 10-6
The Atlanta Falcons seem to always be in the playoff picture. They are a talented, young team who is very good at home. By making the wild card, the Falcons will need to show that they can beat great teams on the road and they just haven’t proven that they can do that this year. The only road win against a playoff team was against the Lions, but other than that they have lost in Chicago, Tampa Bay and Houston. Houston is the only playoff team out of that group. I don’t see them advancing in the playoffs.
NFC No. 6 Seed: Detroit Lions 10-6
They started off hot and went head-to-head for awhile with Green Bay until falling off. The Lions have proven to be good on the road, so what’s the problem? The Lions are considered the dirtiest team in the NFL and have been known to deliver cheap shots. If you Google Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, you’ll find a string of YouTube videos of cheap shots and articles about the fines he’s had to pay this season. All of this physical play has led to numerous penalties and this has offset a lot of Detroit’s success.