After seeing teams throw it in the bag for the last two weeks and see some teams lay some mighty large eggs, its good to know that the playoffs and the chance to win Super Bowl 44 are now officially on the line beginning this Saturday.
However, in this season of all seasons...I can truly say that I have no idea who's going to either play in the Super Bowl or even win it. I truly believe that all 12 teams all have a legitimate shot, all 12 teams have exceptional strengths, and all 12 teams are significantly flawed. Sounds like I need to break down all 12 of these teams and figure this thing out. POWER RANKINGS TIME!
12. New York Jets, AFC Wild Card #5 Seed (9-7)
Last year, we saw not one but two rookie quarterbacks (Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco) lead their teams to the playoffs. This season, we're witnessing the Jets drag their rookie quarterback, Mark Sanchez, into the playoffs. However, ranking them #12 doesn't mean they have a chance in hell to make the playoffs. They have an elite defense, an elite running game, and a coach who doesn't give a damn. That's the exact team you don't want to see in the playoffs.
Biggest Strengths: Strong run game, best lockdown corner in football, elite defensive unit.
Biggest Weaknesses: That guy that wears #6 who takes the snaps.
Most Important Player: That guy that wears #6 who takes the snaps.
11. Cincinnati Bengals, AFC North Champion (10-6)
In the city I currently reside, there hasn't been a team that has dealt with a more tumultuous season with tremendous highs and sensational lows then the Bengals. However, the Bengals fans perceive their team to be a high-flying offensive unit which is not the case. The Bengals are a run-first organization with a defense who flies around. Even though we couldn't tell yesterday, the difference between the Jets and Bengals is that (supposedly) Carson Palmer is better than Mark Sanchez. If Nueve can connect with Ochenta y Cinco then they've got a shot to make a major run.
Biggest Strengths: Strong run game, best corner duo in football, strong run defense.
Biggest Weaknesses: Lack of chemistry in the passing game.
Most Important Player: Cedric Benson, if he gets 100 then Cincy can win.
10. Arizona Cardinals, NFC West Champion (10-6)
The defending NFC champion Cardinals can finally claim victory against the Steelers in one respect, at least they were able to defend their conference crown the following year. The Cardinals come into the playoffs in the same position they were in last year. The playoffs biggest X-Factor. If they play their A game, the chances of beating them are slim. Can they make the run again, their line play will make the difference. If they protect Warner, they've got a shot. If they get to the opposing teams QB, they'll be in Super Bowl 44.
Biggest Strengths: Elite passing game
Biggest Weaknesses: Suspect defense, inconsistent running game.
Most Important Player: Jeremy Bridges, converted LG now starting at LT must protect Warner's blind side.
9. Baltimore Ravens, AFC Wild Card #6 Seed (9-7)
The Ravens lost 7 games this season by a combined 38 points, or just over 5.5/game. Other than a two point loss to a 9-7 Pittsburgh team, every team they lost to are currently in the playoffs. In short, Baltimore could EASILY be 11-5 or 12-4. With an emerging pass offense and great runningback core, the biggest factor for Baltimore will surprisingly be on their defense. Can Ray-Ray rally the young boys for one more championship run? We'll find out...
Biggest Strengths: Great run game, battle-tested core of players.
Biggest Weaknesses: A young defensive set of players who can't be willed to greatness by Ray Lewis alone.
Most Important Player: Ed Reed. If he can make 1-2 dynamic plays a game, the Ravens could shock the world.
8. New England Patriots, AFC East Champion (10-6)
How big is the loss of Wes Welker? Who knows, I've watched Julian Edelman (who for a caucasian man has one of the blackest names I've ever heard of) come in an play the slot position like he was a Wes Welker clone. The bigger issue is that shoddy defense, they have no pass rush, no experienced LBs (58 year old Junior Seau doesn't count), and a very green secondary. But hey, they have Brady and Belichick...who's betting against them?
Biggest Strengths: Brady and Belichick.
Biggest Weaknesses: Can you name more than 4 players on their defense? (Waiting...)
Most important player: Randy Moss. Either by decoy or deep ball TD, he's gotta find a way.
7. Green Bay Packers, NFC Wild Card #5 Seed (11-5)
Probably the hottest in all of the NFC, winning 7 of the last 8. Aaron Rodgers is now a pro bowler, the offensive line has suddenly figured out how to block someone, and the defensive 11 is now an elite unit. Charles Woodson (Kenny's getting ready to faint) is the defensive player of the year, Clay Matthews might be the NFC defensive rookie of the year, and they've got young players who could help lead Green Bay to being perennial contenders for years to come. As for this year? Well...
Biggest Strengths: Smart and savvy defensive unit who plays tough. Strong passing game.
Biggest Weaknesses: Running the ball, do we REALLY believe in Ryan Grant?
Most important player: JerMichael Finley, he's become the x-factor in this offense and big plays from Finley could take GB a long way.
Come back tomorrow for part 2 of the Power Rankings.
THOUGHTS ON 12 THRU 7? SHOULD SOMEONE BE IN THE TOP 6? LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!