Power Ranking Every Offense in the NFL Playoffs
As the game clock expired at FedEx field in Washington, D.C. last night, the stage was officially set for the NFL's second season.
The field of teams in the 2012 playoffs vary greatly. Some are led by battle-tested veterans with cabinets full of awards, others by rookie and second-year quarterbacks still looking to make a name for themselves. Some are pass heavy, some are run heavy.
No matter how you slice it, the offenses are dominating the storylines heading into Wild Card Weekend.
It's no surprise why, in the immortal words of John Madden "usually the team that scores the most points wins the game."
With this in mind, here is a power ranking of the best offenses in the NFL Playoffs.
#12 Minnesota Vikings
Points/Game: 14 (23.7)
Total Yards/Game: 20 (336.6)
Passing Yards/Game: 31 (171.9)
Rushing Yards/Game: 2 (164.6)
The Vikings are the most one-dimensional offense in the playoffs.
Adrian Peterson carried their team into the postseason with his nearly-record breaking 2012 campaign.
While he did make some crucial plays in their must-win game against Green Bay in Week 17, unlike the other young quarterbacks on playoff teams, Christian Ponder is not an NFL playmaker yet.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph is another noteworthy threat, particularly in the red zone.
Opposing defenses have to concern themselves with stopping "AD." While it is a tall order, if they can do that, they shouldn't struggle with the Vikes.
#11 Cincinatti Bengals
Points/Game: 12 (24.4)
Total Yards/Game: 22 (332.7)
Passing Yards/Game: 17 (223.6)
Rushing Yards/Game: 18 (109.1)
While the Bengals are low on this list, they won't be for long. Young talent like Andy Dalton at quarterback and A.J. Green at wide receiver should have Cincinnati climb this list year after year.
Green proved this season that his rookie year was no fluke, accumulating 1,350 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. For opposing defenses to shut down Dalton, they'll have to lock down, possibly even double cover, Green.
"The Law Firm", Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis, proved to be a solid offseason acquisition, rushing for over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns.
In Dalton's second season, the Bengals have trusted him more with the ball. He threw 27 touchdowns this season, up from 20 last year, but also had a higher interception rate in his sophomore campaign.
#10 Indianapolis Colts
Points/Game: 19 (22.3)
Total Yards/Game: 10 (362.4)
Passing Yards/Game: 7 (258)
Rushing Yards/Game: 22 (104.4)
The "Suck for Luck" campaign clearly paid it's dividends, and then some. Leading the turnaround from a 2-14 team to a 10-6 playoff bound contender is a tall order for anyone, let alone a rookie quarterback.
It's become clear that Andrew Luck is the real deal and that he has the right supporting cast in Indianapolis.
Luck's introduction to the Colts offense returned Reggie Wayne to his 1,000+ yard receiving ways and changed the culture in Indy.
The Colts passing attack has three viable threats with Wayne, Donnie Avery (781 yards, 3 TD's) and T.Y. Hilton (861 yards, 7 TD's).
The issue with the Colts is the running game. They lack the consistent big back that will get his 100 yards and a touchdown nearly every game. Vick Ballard was the team's leading rusher with 814 yards, but only two touchdowns. Andrew Luck actually led the team in rushing touchdowns, with five.
#9 San Francisco 49ers
Total Yards/Game: 11
Passing Yards/Game: 23 (206.1)
Rushing Yards/Game: 4 (155.7)
The San Francisco offense is the shining example of how a team can use a their strong defense and run game to make the game simpler for an uncomfortable quarterback, be it a struggling NFL veteran or a rookie second-round draft pick.
Their system views the quarterback as a plug-in solution, so long as he is somewhat mobile and can make the necessary throws. With their personnel, it works.
Frank Gore continued the career resurgence he enjoyed last year, matching his 2011 totals of 1,200 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
Michael Crabtree finally truly blossomed this year into the matchup nightmare the Niners were expecting when they drafted him. He posted his first 1,000 yard season and caught nine touchdowns.
The concern for the Niners is how the team will handle having to battle back late in a game when the clock requires the passing attack to lead the way. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has played well and made very few mistakes (only three interceptions), but will he be capable of leading a late game charge down the field?
#8 Baltimore Ravens
Points/Game: 10 (24.9)
Total Yards/Game: 16 (352.5)
Passing Yards/Game: 15 (233.7)
Rushing Yards/Game: 11 (118.8)
The Ravens offense is one of the most balanced units left in the NFL playoff picture. Not too reliant on the pass or the run, Baltimore's success cannot be hampered by simply stacking the box and daring them to throw, or dropping eight into coverage.
This is a testament to the continued progress of quarterback Joe Flacco, and the tough rushing of running back Ray Rice.
In 2012, Rice surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the fourth-consecutive season. He also found the end zone nine times.
Anquan Boldin offers some veteran experience and toughness to the team's receiving corps, while Torrey Smith brings big-play potential. Smith has eight touchdowns on just 49 catches and is averaging 17.4 yards per reception.
#7 Seattle Seahawks
Points/Game: 9 (25.8)
Total Yards/Game: 17 (350.6)
Passing Yards/Game: 27 (189.4)
Rushing Yards/Game: 3 (161.2)
Marshawn Lynch has been running in "beast mode" all season. He's posted nearly 1600 yards this season and 11 touchdowns, while running at a clip of 5 yards per carry.
Lynch is the perfect complement to a young, mobile quarterback like Russell Wilson. He moves the offense down the field and puts Wilson in a position where he has to make some plays, not all of them.
The Seahawks have a balanced, dual-threat passing attack with Sidney Rice and Golden Tate. Rice and Tate had 748 and 688 yards receiving, respectively, on the season and each had seven touchdown catches.
The only real question facing the Seahawks offense is whether rookie quarterback Russell Wilson will be able to continue to composed play he has demonstrated throughout the season.
#6 Atlanta Falcons
Points/Game: 7 (26.2)
Total Yards/Game: 8 (369.1)
Passing Yards/Game: 6 (281.8)
Rushing Yards/Game: 29 (87.3)
This was another season in the continued development of Matt Ryan. His 2012 season was marked by a higher completion percentage, total passing yardage, touchdowns and quarterback rating.
One look at the Falcons' depth chart and it is clear why they have one of the best offenses in the NFL; their passing attack is spearheaded by two 1,100-yard receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones. They have one of the most dangerous red-zone targets in the league in TE Tony Gonzalez.
There are concerns with the team's running game. Michael Turner's production has dipped significantly this year. While he has found the end zone 10 times, he rushed for only 800 yards on the season. Atlanta needs to establish a strong running game early so the burden of production doesn't fall solely on the shoulders of Matt Ryan and his receivers.
Until the Falcons break their streak of three-consecutive playoff losses, there is always going to be a hesitation to have high hopes for their playoff fortunes.
#5 Houston Texans
Points/Game: 8 (26.0)
Total Yards/Game: 7 (372.1)
Passing Yards/Game: 11 (239.4)
Rushing Yards/Game: 8 (132.7)
The Texans limp into the playoffs, coming off back-to-back losses marked by anemic offensive efforts that ultimately cost them a first-round bye.
With Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, Houston has elite talent at two of the three skill positions—and a quarterback in Matt Schaub that is capable of getting them the ball. The issue for the Texans lies in whether their offensive potential will materialize on the field.
Foster will be the workhorse back he has been all season, but Schaub and Johnson need to sync up, particularly in the red zone. Johnson has 112 receptions and 1,598 receiving yards on the season, but only four touchdowns. Tight end Owen Daniels has compensated for this dip with six scores, but Johnson needs to help the Texans aerial attack put points on the board.
#4 Green Bay Packers
Points/Game: 5 (27.1)
Total Yards/Game: 13 (359.4)
Passing Yards/Game: 9 (253.1)
Rushing Yards/Game: 20 (106.4)
Come playoff time, the most important player on the field becomes a team's quarterback. This is why, in spite of the Packers middle-of-the-road rushing attack, they still land at No. 4 on this list.
Aaron Rodgers' production this season hasn't experience much of a setback from his MVP season last season—all while missing one of his favorite targets, Jordy Nelson, for four games. Nelson's strong showing in his return against Minnesota in Week 17 bodes well for the Packers as they plan for a rematch against the Vikings in the first round.
Injury concerns don't end there for the Packers though. Randall Cobb, the team's leading receiver, sat out their Week 17 matchup, but is expected to return for the wild-card round of the playoffs. Additionally, the fates of leading rushers Alex Green and James Starks are still unsure. Green missed the team's two final regular season games with a concussion and Starks is out with a knee injury.
This isn't the first time the Packers have entered the playoffs with injuries to key contributors and Rodgers' play can compensate for the missing pieces.
#3 Washington Redskins
Points/Game: 4 (27.2)
Total Yards/Game: 5 (383.2)
Passing Yards/Game: 20 (213.9)
Rushing Yards/Game: 1 (169.3)
By far the biggest surprise on this list. Who would have thought an offense led by a rookie quarterback and running back could be capable of posting the fourth-highest points per game in the league?
The biggest concern for the Redskins offense in the playoffs is being put in a position where they have to throw the ball—and the opposing defense knows it. So much of their success is based on the confusion created by their spread-option attack, a scheme reliant on the feasibility of running the ball in the given game situation. So long as they don't trail by too much, they should be able to continue their success.
The Skins running game is what earns them the No. 3 spot on this list. Alfred Morris was able to rush for 200 yards and three touchdowns at will against the Cowboys to compensate for the hobbling Robert Griffin III's limited play. Most importantly, they were able to control the clock towards the end of the game and run off precious seconds, stifling the Cowboys comeback. Late-game clock management is a must for any playoff offense.
#2 Denver Broncos
Points/Game: 2 (30.1)
Total Yards/Game: 4 (397.9)
Passing Yards/Game: 5 (283.4)
Rushing Yards/Game: 16 (114.5)
Even after losing their premier back in Willis McGahee to an MCL injury, the Broncos were able to plug in Knowshon Moreno. The Broncos originally expected McGahee to be able to return for a playoff run—and with their first-round bye that may be a possibility—but his absence hasn't been felt as harshly as originally expected. Moreno has shown glimpses of a being a legitimate NFL back, posting over 500 yards and three touchdowns in his six games, carrying the load at the end of the season.
Rushing game aside, the Broncos have Peyton Manning at the helm. After 16 games, Manning has established a strong rapport with with receivers like Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas—and their on-field chemistry will only improve as they continue on their march into the playoffs. They also enter the NFL's second season as one of the hottest teams in the league, riding an 11-game win streak.
#1 New England Patriots
Points/Game: 1 (34.8)
Total Yards/Game: 1 (427.9)
Passing Yards/Game: 4 (291.4)
Rushing Yards/Game: 7 (136.5)
Simply put, this season the Patriots returned from their Super Bowl loss with the same offensive attack that has dominated the NFL for a full decade now. Bill Belichick has the most dynamic and difficult to game plan for an offense in the NFL.
Tom Brady has been sharp, as always, and Stevan Ridley has surprised many with his break-out season as the Pats' lead back, posting over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season.
The team has been able to do all of this with their biggest offensive weapon, Rob Gronkowski, appearing in only eleven games. His healthy return and the immediate contribution he made on the field in Week 17 against the Dolphins signals the Patriots will enter the playoffs at full offensive strength.