NFL Playoffs 2013: Power Ranking Remaining Teams Entering Divisional Round
Just eight teams remain in the quest for Super Bowl glory, and they will all have a chance to prove themselves again in the divisional round.
While all of them have earned their spot in the NFL's elite eight, there is still a clear pecking order at this point. Some teams are legitimate title contenders, while others are simply pretenders that will head home after this weekend.
Things may look different after Sunday evening, but here's how the teams stack up heading into the second round of the playoffs.
8. Houston Texans
The Texans lost three of their last four regular-season games, and I refuse to say that they won last week; they merely didn't lose.
Houston hardly looked championship-worthy in its Wild Card Game, out-lasting the Cincinnati Bengals 19-13. Matt Schaub finished with a very good completion percentage (76.3), but he threw one interception, missed several easy throws and generally looked lost in his first postseason game.
Although Arian Foster was great, I'd be shocked if the Texans advanced past Sunday.
7. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons might be the most disrespected 13-3 team in NFL history. That's because they lost two of their last four regular-season games, Matt Ryan is 0-3 in the playoffs and they haven't beaten a playoff team since Oct. 7.
They also have a porous defense, which ranks 23rd in opponent passing yards (242.4 per game) and 21st in opponent rushing yards (123.2 per game). With Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch coming to town, I'm not exactly confident in Atlanta.
6. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are a dangerous team, so this ranking speaks to the power at the top of the NFL this season.
Baltimore's defense was dominant last week, Ray Rice is amazing, and as long as Joe Flacco doesn't screw up too badly, this team can beat anybody. I just don't think Flacco could keep up with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, so the Ravens are relegated to third in the AFC.
5. San Francisco 49ers
The Niners looked like the best team in football for much of this season. Their defense ranked third in the NFL in yards allowed (294.4 per game) and second in points allowed (17.1). They also have a great running back in Frank Gore and they've already beaten three of the four teams ahead of them on this list.
The reason I have them at No. 5? I just don't trust Colin Kaepernick in the playoffs. The kid has played very well since taking over in November, but the postseason is an entirely different animal. All of the pressure will be on San Francisco this week, and if Green Bay jumps out to an early lead, I don't think Kaepernick is capable of leading a comeback.
4. Green Bay Packers
The Packers flamed out of last year's playoffs, but this team looks like the squad that made the Super Bowl in 2011.
Aaron Rodgers is absolutely on fire, throwing for 1,272 yards and 11 touchdowns in his last four games. He's also completed 68.7 percent of his passes during that stretch, and he added a rushing touchdown three weeks ago.
The Packers have multiple weapons in the passing game, and their running backs accounted for three touchdowns in their wild-card win against Minnesota. As long as their defense keeps the other team's offense in the 30s, the Packers can win it all.
3. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are the most complete team in the NFL. They have the league's best defense (15.3 points per allowed per game), a top-five running back in Marshawn Lynch and an unflappable quarterback in Russell Wilson.
Their version of the read-option offense is a nightmare to defend, and this team just always seems to get lucky at the perfect time. They have won six consecutive games, and they were very impressive last week when they recovered from a 14-0 first quarter deficit to beat Washington.
As of now, the Seahawks are the best team in the NFC.
2. New England Patriots
At this point, I'd pick the Patriots to beat the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, but I just can't rank them ahead of Denver seeing as how the Broncos haven't lost since Oct. 7. Of course, that loss came against New England. But still, 11 straight wins is 11 straight wins.
The Patriots have also been impressive lately, winning nine of their last 10. They lead the league in scoring (34.8 per game) and rank ninth in opponent points per game (20.7).
Stevan Ridley has proven to be a reliable option in the backfield, and Tom Brady can make up for any problems in the running game.
The Patriots are also 10-2 in home playoff games since Tom Brady became the starter. I'm expecting them to blow out the Texans on Sunday.
1. Denver Broncos
The Broncos have 11 straight wins, they are the second-highest scoring team in the league (30.1 points per game) and only Pittsburgh gave up fewer yards per game this season. Add in Peyton Manning, who would be the MVP this season if not for Adrian Peterson, and Denver is the most dangerous team in the league.
Of course, the Broncos are certainly beatable. Their three losses came against the Texans, Falcons and Patriots.
All three defeats came before the Broncos hit their stride, though. With Manning healthy and the team riding a tidal wave of confidence, Denver is clearly on top of the NFL right now.
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