Ranking the NFL playoff teams as we get set for Wild-Card Weekend
The 2012 NFL Playoffs begin Saturday. With that in mind let's do an NFL Power Rankings Playoff Edition. I will rank the 12 playoff teams, using a combination of their regular-season performances, playoff history and my confidence level in each team as the playoffs begin.
The Super Bowl XLVI-winning odds for each team were provided by Bovada.
No. 1: Green Bay Packers, 15-1 (NFC No. 1 seed): It is extremely difficult not to put the defending champion Packers here. They won the big prize last season, they nearly went 16-0 this season, they have the amazing Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Yet, making the Packers No. 1 leaves me a little queasy. The Packers are last in the league in defense, surrendering 411.6 yards per game, and even in this pass-crazy season it is not difficult to see someone knocking them off along the way. Odds: 9-5
Related: SI.com NFL Playoff Power Rankings
No. 2: New Orleans Saints, 13-3 (NFC No. 3 seed): This is the scariest team playing right now. The Saints have that high-powered offensive juggernaut led by quarterback Drew Brees and are a team that has enough offense to go toe-to-toe with Green Bay. They also have a better defense than the Packers, although not exactly a great one (24th in the league). First, though, the Saints have to shoot down Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions. Odds: 9-2
No. 3: New England Patriots, 13-3 (AFC No. 1 seed): Only the Packers have a defense that is statistically worse than the Patriots. Yet, when it comes to the AFC New England is the only team that has Tom Brady and an offense capable of competing in a shootout with NFC teams like Green Bay and New Orleans, New England ranks second in the league in yards per game. Can anyone in the AFC slow New England down enough to keep them out of the Super Bowl? We'll see. Odds: 4-1
Note: I really, really hate trying to sort out the next three teams. I can find reasons to dislike the chances of all three.
No. 4: Baltimore Ravens, 12-4 (AFC No. 2 seed): I keep waiting and waiting and waiting for this Ravens team to take the next step and go from dominant regular-season team to playoff juggernaut that reaches the Super Bowl, and the Ravens keep letting me down. Well, Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense keep letting me down if you want to be precise. Could this be the year that it finally happens for Baltimore. Well, considering the fact that they get a home game, likely against Pittsburgh, and the Steelers are practically crippled on offense, it might be. Then again, I have thought the same thing about Baltimore before. Odds: 8-1
No. 5: San Francisco 49ers, 13-3 (NFC No. 2 seed): I feel like I have to put the NFC West champion 49ers here based on their regular season, but it's another pick I don't feel really good about. Sure, the 49ers have a tremendous defense and they won 13 games, but they still have Alex Smith at quarterback. Can they actually beat Green Bay or New Orleans -- or New England -- in a shootout? I don't think so. Odds: 11-1
No. 6: Pittsburgh Steelers, 12-4 (AFC No. 5 seed): The Steelers have a dominant defense, but a beaten-up offense that has pretty much ground to a halt in recent weeks. Ben Roethlisberger will be playing on one leg and top running back Rashard Mendenhall won't be playing at all. The Steelers could get by the Ravens because, well, mostly because they always seem to. Tough to see them winning it all, however. Odds: 11-1
No. 7: New York Giants, 9-7 (NFC No. 4 seed): Putting the Giants this high, especially above the Detroit Lions, might raise an eyebrow. I did it for a simple reason -- I think the Giants are getting past the Atlanta Falcons this weekend in the first round, and I think the Lions are losing to the New Orleans Saints and going home. The Giants played their best football of the season the final two weeks of the regular season, so let's see if that carries over to the playoffs. Odds: 20-1
No. 8: Detroit Lions, 10-6 (NFC No. 6 seed): The Lions have had a great year and they might deserve more love than this. They have a great quarterback in Matthew Stafford, a great receiver in Calvin Johnson and top-flight defense led by Ndamukong Suh. I just think their season ends Saturday night at the hands of the Saints. Odds: 40-1
No. 9: Atlanta Falcons, 10-6 (NFC No. 5 seed): The Falcons have to come to New Jersey Sunday to face the Giants, taking them out of their indoor comfort zone. Plus, Atlanta's playoff history with quarterback Matt Ryan and coach Mike Smith is not good -- two appearances in the playoffs, zero wins. They could undoubtedly beat the Giants Sunday, but I don't see them going farther than that. Odds: 35-1
No. 10: Houston Texans, 10-6 (AFC No. 3 seed): Houston or Cincinnati? Cincinnati or Houston? These two match up on Saturday and I am soooooo confused when thinking about this game. The Texans are down to their third quarterback, a rookie named T.J. Yates. The Bengals have rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, but at least he has started all season. The Bengals are still the Bengals, though, and Houston is at home. So, I will put the Texans one spot above the Bengals. Odds: 40-1
No. 11: Cincinnati Bengals, 9-7 (AFC No. 6 seed): I must take time out here to thank the Bengals for taking the playoff spot the Jets wanted, leaving us here at SB Nation New York with what promises to be a Jets off-season filled with great headlines and lots of fodder for us to write about as the imploding Jets try to put Humpty Dumpty (come to think of it, Rex Ryan looks a little like Humpty Dumpty) back together again. As for the Bengals, see what I wrote about the Texans. Odds: 65-1
No. 12: Denver Broncos, 8-8 (AFC No. 4 seed): Tebowmania! Hahahahaha! The Broncos beating the Steelers in a playoff game! Hahahahaha! This guy actually picking the Broncos to beat Pittsburgh! Hahahahahahaha! Odds: 50-1