As we prepare for the 2011/2012 NFL playoffs to get underway, there are a few teams that will be favorites to win the Super Bowl.
The first and most obvious is the defending champion Green Bay Packers, who have lost just once going into this week's game against the Detroit Lions and have been getting unprecedented quarterback play from Aaron Rodgers.
The New Orleans Saints are also on everyone's radar. They seem to be peaking at the right time and a huge NFC Championship rematch between the Saints and the Packers could be in the works.
As a result of recent games, the New England Patriots will likely end up with the first seed in the AFC, automatically making them another team to beat. The defense is suspect, but Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have a lot of experience in the postseason.
However, I think this year's Super Bowl champs will be the Baltimore Ravens.
After a few successive weeks of unimpressive games against inferior opponents, that may seem like a bold prediction, at best. But a look at the Ravens' full body of work over the season proves that they have the tools to make a playoff run and win the Super Bowl.
One monkey the Ravens got off their back this year is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Baltimore finally swept their bitter rivals this season after playing second fiddle for several years. Pittsburgh could still end up winning the division, but the Ravens control their own destiny going into the final week.
Beyond that, the Ravens have shown an ability to show up and beat great teams this year. Their tendency to come out flat against inferior opponents was concerning, but they shouldn't have that problem in the playoffs. Big wins over the Steelers (twice), Jets, Texans, Bengals and 49ers has shown their ability to win against playoff-caliber teams.
The Ravens have a balanced offense led by running back Ray Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco that also has an explosive element thanks to the selection of receiver Torrey Smith.
What really gives this team a chance, though, is their defense. They are ranked third, third, fourth and second in points allowed, total defense, pass defense and run defense, respectively, and they can put enough pressure on the quarterback to give them a chance to beat the likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.