Now that Wild-Card Weekend is in the books let's take another look at our playoff edition NFL Power Rankings. I am ranking only the 12 playoff teams here, being just a touch more selective than Peter King in his 'Fine Fifteen.'
No. 1: Green Bay Packers, 15-1 (NFC No. 1 seed): Green Bay was No. 1 when we did this ranking for the first time a week ago, and there is no reason to change that now. The Packers, though, face a serious challenge to their second straight Super Bowl title on Sunday at Lambeau Field when the red-hot New York Giants visit Green Bay. The Giants ended the Packers' Super Bowl dreams four years ago en route to an unexpected title, and hope to do it again.
No. 2: New Orleans Saints, 14-3 (NFC No. 3 seed): The Saints dispatched the Detroit Lions, 45-28, once again showing why they are a team to be feared in these playoffs. They can score with any team in the league, and can score on anyone at any time.
No. 3: New England Patriots, 13-3 (AFC No. 1 seed): The Patriots will be the next team to get a crack at derailing the Tebow-mania train. New England defeated Tebow and the Denver Broncos once already, has a superior offense and has the home-field advantage. This should not be a problem for Tom Brady and his team.
No. 4: New York Giants, 10-7 (NFC No. 4 seed): Maybe this pick is made a little bit with my heart and not my head. I know the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens were better than the Giants during the regular season, but we are talking exclusively about playoff power rankings here. The Giants are playing defense as well as anyone in the league right now and they have rediscovered their running game. Plus, the Giants have Eli Manning at quarterback and none of the teams below them in this ranking do. You trust Joe Flacco (Ravens), Alex Smith (Broncos), T.J. Yates (Texans) and Tebow (Broncos) more than Eli? I sure don't, so the Giants go No. 4.
No. 5: Baltimore Ravens, 12-4 (AFC No. 2 seed): The Ravens face the Houston Texans. Flacco has not been good in seven playoff games, throwing for four touchdowns, seven interceptions, completing just 53.3 percent of his passes and compiling a 61.6 passer rating as Baltimore has gone 4-3, but the Ravens should have enough to defeat Houston this weekend.
No. 6: San Francisco 49ers, 13-3 (NFC No. 2 seed): This might amount to dissing the NFC West champions, especially since they did defeat the Giants this season. But, that was then and this now. Again, Eli Manning or Alex Smith? I know you understand the difference.
No. 7: Houston Texans, 11-6 (AFC No. 3 seed): Yates outperformed Andy Dalton is a match-up of rookie quarterbacks as the Texans defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 31-10, on Saturday. The Bengals, though, are not exactly Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the Ravens on defense.
No. 8: Denver Broncos, 8-8 (AFC No. 4 seed): OK, so last week I laughed at anyone picking the Broncos to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. That, however, does not mean I am still all that impressed by Tebow and the Broncos after they defeated a beaten-up Steelers team that seemed hell-bent on destroying its own chances by playing very oddly on defense.
No. 9: Detroit Lions, 10-7: The Lions are only down this far because I felt like the teams still in the top eight had to get those eight slots. The Lions could not keep up with New Orleans in a track meet, which you had to figure would be the case, but Detroit should feel really good about its future.
No. 10: Pittsburgh Steelers, 12-5: The Steelers should still be playing, but they are the latest victims of Tebow magic. With a gimpy Ben Roethlisberger and without top running back Rashard Mendenhall the Steelers needed to lock down Tebow and the Denver offense. They couldn't do it, often leaving themselves out of position, strange for the vaunted Steeler defense.
No. 11: Atlanta Falcons (10-7): Three playoff appearances for coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan, three playoff losses. The Falcons embarrassed themselves on Sunday against the Giants, and you have to think there will be a lot of heat on the coach and quarterback in 2012.
No. 12: Cincinnati Bengals (9-8): The Bengals had a golden opportunity for an upset, facing Houston with the Texans down to their third quarterback. Cincinnati could not get it done, though.