NFL Playoff Picture 2012: Ranking the Most Dangerous Teams in the Playoff Race

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NFL Playoff Picture 2012: Ranking the Most Dangerous Teams in the Playoff Race
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Some teams are made to win in the NFL playoffs, and others are just happy they got there.

The Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals limped to the finish line last season, facing each other in the “Dog Game” of the Wild Card Round. Even though Houston emerged as the victor, even the Texans knew that with a backup quarterback their ceiling didn’t go much higher.

One year later, though, a muddled playoff race is full of capable teams that can make a run to “The Big Game.”

Many teams on the outside especially, seem even more dangerous than those currently inside the bubble.

Which teams does nobody want to face as of Week 15? Let’s rank ‘em.

Missed the Cut: Dallas Cowboys

 

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Yes, I know that Pittsburgh just went down to the team above it this past Sunday. The win doesn’t justify an easier road through the AFC, which the Steelers can take part in.

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The Cowboys do not have that luxury. Just getting to the playoffs will almost be a victory unto itself.

Meanwhile, the Steelers may be on the outside of the playoff picture, but at full strength they’re more talented and well-rounded than both Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

Not to mention their big game experience by virtue of Ben Roethlisberger and the Steeler defense. They can play smash-mouth football in the elements and have been successful doing it in previous years.

 

3. Washington Redskins

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Beating the Browns without Robert Griffin III demonstrated the potential of Washington’s units beside the QB position.

The ‘Skins are not just an explosive offensive-minded squad with a dual-threat QB phenom, far from it.

In their last three weeks against the Giants, Ravens and Browns, London Fletcher and Co. have played playoff-level defense. 

Griffin’s injury may have not been such a bad thing. The rest of this team has gotten stronger by the “next man up” approach.

 

2. New York Giants

Elsa/Getty Images

The G-Men may have made a case for being off this list altogether, but then they’ll turn on the switch and make me wish I did.

This writer is not falling for their tricks this year.

During the Falcons blowout, I questioned whether the Giants were playing possum. That’s how much I expect New York to sneak into the wild-card round and get the hype engine revved up once again.

The key to the Giants’ postseason hopes once again rests on their pass rush. If they can play like the best collective unit in football, they’ll mask their inefficiencies in the secondary and plague opposing QBs in January.

 

1. Seattle Seahawks

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Two games and more than 100 points later, the Seattle Seahawks cannot be labeled just a grinding football team. 

They are reestablishing their identity as a pure well-oiled machine, armed with a quarterback who may be the most dangerous weapon in the league.

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That’s a scary thought for the NFC’s elite. They can outplay  the spread teams in Green Bay and Atlanta. They can push back against fellow grinders in San Francisco and Minnesota.

Now with this passing game at full force, the Seahawks have become a matchup nightmare on both sides of the ball.

Plus, if they can get a home game in the Wild Card Round then you might as well sign them up for the divisional.

 

AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE

DIVISION LEADERS

 No. 1 Seed Houston Texans (12-2) Clinched AFC South

 No. 2 Seed Denver Broncos (11-3) Clinched AFC West

 No. 3 Seed New England Patriots (10-4) Clinched AFC East

 No. 4 Seed Baltimore Ravens (9-5) Lead AFC South; Clinched Playoff Berth

 

WILD CARD LEADERS

 No. 5 Seed Indianapolis Colts (9-5)

 No. 6 Seed Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)

 

IN THE HUNT

 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)

 New York Jets (6-7)

 Miami Dolphins (6-8)

 

NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE

DIVISION LEADERS

 No. 1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (12-2) Clinched NFC South

 No. 2 Seed San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) Lead NFC West; Clinched Playoff Berth

 No. 3 Seed Green Bay Packers (9-4) Clinched NFC North

 No. 4 Seed Washington Redskins (8-6) Lead NFC East

 

WILD CARD LEADERS

 No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (9-5)

 No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (8-6)

 

IN THE HUNT

 Chicago Bears (8-6)

 Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

 New York Giants (8-6)

 St. Louis Rams (6-7-1)

 New Orleans Saints (6-8)

 

Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him for fantasy advice and NFL musings @TheRealShiek

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