Updated NFL Playoff Power Rankings
Pretenders were exposed last weekend, and now the most captivating weekend of the NFL season is here.
The divisional round.
With the games underway, here are our updated NFL playoff power rankings.
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Denver Broncos: Anyone else stunned?
The Broncos got a tremendous effort from their special teams ace Trindon Holliday, and Peyton Manning was spectacular for most of the game.
However, Denver safety Rahim Moore gave up a last-minute touchdown to Jacoby Jones—what was Moore doing?—and Manning threw an ill-advised pass across his body in overtime that resulted in Corey Graham's second interception of the day.
So much for that Manning vs. Brady AFC title game matchup.
Green Bay Packers: The Packers are the most recent victim of the exceedingly vaunted read-option. Colin Kaepernick shredded Green Bay through the air and with his legs, and the San Francisco offense racked up 581 yards of total offense.
You're not going to win many games allowing nearly 600 yards and 45 points.
The 49ers defense held Aaron Rodgers' offense to 352 yards—the presence of Justin Smith undoubtedly helped.
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson showed impressive resiliency after a dreadful first half, leading the Seahawks all the way back and giving his team the lead with 31 seconds remaining.
However, the intimidating Seattle defense wasn't able to slow down Matt Ryan's offense for most of the afternoon, and it allowed the Falcons to get into Matt Bryant's field goal range.
A tough end to a magical season.
Houston Texans: The Texans hung in against the Patriots in Foxborough, but in the end, Tom Brady's uptempo offense was too much for Houston's defense.
The legendary quarterback put on a masterful performance and delivered a multitude of pinpoint throws en route to a 344-yard, three-touchdown evening.
4. Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens were inspired for Ray Lewis' final home contest, and balanced play on offense and defense led to a convincing win over Andrew Luck and the upstart Indianapolis Colts.
In the frigid tilt with the Denver Broncos, John Harbaugh's club played spirited football and ultimately made more plays on both sides of the football in a thrilling overtime victory.
Flacco silenced his critics with an array of assertive throws down the field when Baltimore needed them most.
Suddenly, the Ravens have loads of momentum.
3. Atlanta Falcons
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Good for Matt Ryan.
Actually, good for Tony Gonzalez.
Both stars got their career first playoff win in a wild affair with the pesky Seattle Seahawks, and Ryan's connection with Gonzalez set up the game-winning field goal.
Although the second half meltdown is worrisome, the Falcons will host the NFC title game and Atlanta plays much better inside the raucous Georgia Dome.
If Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers can continue to revitalize the Falcons' running game, Mike Smith's team will be hard to beat.
2. San Francisco 49ers
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The San Francisco 49ers turned in their best overall performance against the high-powered Green Bay Packers in the divisional round.
Colin Kaepernick was a terror on the ground and through the air, and the defense kept Aaron Rodgers' attack under wraps for most of the evening.
With defensive lineman Justin Smith back, San Francisco's defense is nearly impossible to run on, and Aldon Smith can focus most of his effort on getting after the quarterback.
There's not a better linebacker corps in all of football, and the secondary has plenty of hard-hitting playmakers.
When you think well-rounded, you think the 49ers.
Their resounding win against a good Packers team will send a message to everyone still alive in the postseason.
1. New England Patriots
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The New England Patriots have Tom Brady, therefore, they retain the top spot heading into conference championship weekend.
However, an underrated aspect of this year's Pats: their running game.
Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen combined for over 120 yards on the ground and had three touchdowns, and the Patriots racked up 457 total yards against the Houston Texans.
On defense, only the Chicago Bears were more turnover-happy in 2012, and the Patriots' defensive line remains one of the better and more disruptive units in the league.
An AFC title game rematch with the Baltimore Ravens?
Bring it on.