Power Ranking the NFL's 5 Hottest Teams Heading into the Playoffs

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IDecember 17, 2012

Power Ranking the NFL's 5 Hottest Teams Heading into the Playoffs

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    The 2012 NFL postseason is shaping up to be a showcase of five of the league's hottest teams. 

    In fact, each of the teams we'll rank in the following slides have won three straight games and at least four of the last five.

    These are the teams playing the best in December, the most important time in any season. If history holds, the Super Bowl champion could very well come from this group of five. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Minnesota Vikings (8-6)

    Minnesota has won two straight games against NFC wild card contenders (Chicago, St. Louis), which gives the surprising Vikings a chance to win out and lock in a playoff spot. 

    Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

    In beating the Steelers in overtime Sunday, the Cowboys now control their own destiny in the NFC East. A Week 17 meeting with Washington looms large. 

    New York Jets (6-7)

    The Jets haven't won pretty, but with victories in each of the last three games (all to teams under .500), New York can make a late run towards a wild card spot. 

Seattle Seahawks (9-5)

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    Does anyone really want to play this Seahawks team right now?

    Winners of three straight games and four of their last five, Seattle has gained the inside track for one of the NFC's Wild Card slots. And once there, the Seahawks likely won't find many teams that want to face a team playing as well as this one. 

    In blowouts wins the last two weeks, Seattle has put up over 100 combined points and looked good doing it. 

    With an attacking defense, strong running game and a quarterback playing as well as any in the game right now, the Seahawks are going to be one of the toughest outs in the NFC come playoff time. 

Washington Redskins (8-6)

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    Once an afterthought at 3-6, the Redskins have won five straight games and are now leading the NFC East. 

    To their credit, Washington has continued this current winning streak both with and without Robert Griffin III. On Sunday, the Redskins went into Cleveland—another team playing well lately—and left with Kirk Cousins' first career win. A week earlier, Cousins rallied Washington past the Ravens in overtime. 

    Griffin III (sprained LCL) should be healthy for the final two weeks. If the Redskins can extend their win streak to seven games, a trip to the postseason should follow. 

Green Bay Packers (10-4)

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    Quietly, the Packers have won seven of their last eight games after a 2-3 start. Their 21-13 win in Chicago Sunday clinched the NFC North with two games left.

    With the division out of the way, Green Bay can now set its sights on securing a first-round bye. Considering the schedule finishes up with Tennessee and Minnesota, the Packers could be expected to finish the 2012 season with a 12-4 record.

    If that scenario came to fruition, Green Bay would then have a chance to clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC—guaranteeing a playoff game at Lambeau Field in January.

New England Patriots (10-3)

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    The Patriots are an easy team to forget in lists like these. While they've won seven straight games after an average 3-3 start, New England is now expected to put together these kind of runs year-after-year. 

    But regardless of whether we've been numbed by the Patriots' success, there's no discounting how well New England is playing late in the season. Their finest hour came last Monday night, when the Patriots dismantled the AFC-leading Houston Texans in the national spotlight. 

    Like always, the Patriots will be one of the favorites this postseason. It's possible they could enter the dance winners of their last 10 games in 2012. 

Denver Broncos (11-3)

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    A disappointing 2-3 start has been completely erased by Denver's current nine-game winning streak, the longest of the 2012 season.

    Anchoring the Broncos' run is a two-headed monster that might just make Denver the favorite to win it all. Quarterback Peyton Manning is obviously the man on offense, but what Von Miller and the Broncos' defense have been able to accomplish this season is what makes this team such a tough matchup every Sunday. 

    Denver finishes the regular season with Cleveland and Kansas City. An 11-game win streak would be a nice thing to take into the postseason.