The NFL conference championships are right around the corner, but that isn’t going to stop us from power ranking every single team in the league.
With just four contenders remaining, there has been plenty of shakeup down at the bottom of the league, especially when it comes to coaching.
Let’s take a look at the four franchises still hoping to hoist the Lombardi Trophy after the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, and then comment on the other 28 teams on the outside looking in.
1. New England Patriots
The Pats are the best remaining team in the “Final Four” of the playoffs and are favorites to win the Super Bowl for good reason.
This is the most complete squad, complete with an elite quarterback, a top-notch coach, tons of solid role players and bench contributors, plus much more.
If New England gets to the “Big Game,” we aren’t expecting Brady and Co. to lose their third straight title, but rather hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the first time since 2004.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick and the Niners are clicking on all cylinders, but they still have a tough test against a strong Falcons team in the Georgia Dome on Sunday.
3. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons needed some luck and perseverance after blowing a huge lead in the divisional round against Seattle, but should be regrouped and ready to go for the NFC Championship after securing Matt Ryan’s first playoff win.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Don’t sleep on the Ravens pulling out another miracle victory against the Pats in the AFC Championship.
It may be Ray Lewis’ last hurrah, but that team has rallied around its leader, and this group proved that anything could happen after a double-overtime win over the Broncos.
The odds are long, but anything is possible.
5. Denver Broncos
6. Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson nearly guided the ‘Hawks to an NFC Championship in his first season, an impressive feat for the young signal-caller.
7. Green Bay Packers
The Pack was absolutely embarrassed by the Niners in the divisional round, and it’s going to be a long offseason in Green Bay. It’ll be interesting to see where the hammer drops this offseason.
8. Houston Texans
As expected, the Texans defense could not hang with the Pats, and Matt Schaub faltered down the stretch in a must-win game.
9. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck and the Chuckstrong movement were enough to will the Colts to the postseason, but not enough to bring them any good fortune once they got there.
10. Washington Redskins
RGIII’s preventable injury in the postseason undermined everything this organization worked towards during a brilliant 2012 campaign.
11. Cincinnati Bengals
After losing to the Texans for the second straight year, the Bengals need to find a way to improve in the playoffs.
12. Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson willed his team to the playoffs, but Joe Webb couldn’t do anything once the Vikings got there. It’ll be interesting to see what the organization does if Christian Ponder is again unreliable in 2013.
13. Chicago Bears
The Bears started hot, but poor offensive-line play, injuries and other problems soon mounted, resulting in coach Lovie Smith’s dismissal.
14. New York Giants
The G-Men had the same record last year but have no shot at Super Bowl glory, thanks to the rest of the NFC finally stepping up and becoming mildly competitive.
15. Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones and Tony Romo are on Dallas fans’ last nerve. If things don’t change in 2013, it’s time for a new regime in Big “D.”
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers defense was—as usual—great this year, but the offense and injuries to Ben Roethlisberger were insurmountable in a down year for the AFC North competitors.
17. St. Louis Rams
The Rams' resurgence, coupled with the Seahawks and 49ers postseason successes, prove that the NFC West is one of the best divisions in football. Quite a quick turnaround after years of being the laughingstock of the NFL
18. New Orleans Saints
This was a strange season for NOLA, as BountyGate and suspensions rocked the franchise—while former commissioner Paul Tagliabue later vacated many punishments.
We expect to see a more stable Saints unit in 2013, with Drew Brees, Sean Payton and the rest of the cast back in action and ready to go for 16 straight games.
19. Carolina Panthers
After a dismal start, the Panthers turned things around and wound up finishing on a high note, winning five of their last six contests and building an immense amount of hope for next year.
20. Miami Dolphins
The ‘Phins finally got some good play out of rookie Ryan Tannehill to close the campaign, but they desperately need to upgrade a number of positions to compete with the Pats for the AFC East next year.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No one expected the Bucs to start hot, but they cooled down over the final few weeks and fell out of playoff contention with a bad losing streak. Greg Schiano has to earn the respect of his players and get some consistent performances out of this group.
22. San Diego Chargers
Norv Turner is finally gone, and that should bring a wave of relief over this squad and their fans.
Mike McCoy of the AFC West rival Denver Broncos is slated to become the new HC, and his knowledge of that organization, plus offensive genius, should help the Bolts compete for the divisional crown as early as next year.
23. Buffalo Bills
The Bills direly needed some new personnel, but we’re not sure Doug Marrone was the guy to replace HC Chan Gailey.
24. New York Jets
Rex Ryan is on the hot seat, and the QB situation is an absolute mess for Gang Green.
25. Cleveland Browns
Pat Shurmur is gone, Rob Chudzinski is in and we’re not sure the Browns are better off for it.
26. Tennessee Titans
Somehow, coach Mike Munchak kept his job and will have to do a heck of a job in 2013 to keep it. He has his work cut out for him with this roster, especially on the offensive end.
27. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals poor QB play led to Ken Whisenhunt’s dismissal, which isn’t exactly fair but that’s the way things go in the NFL at times.
It’ll be interesting to see how the organization addresses its woes at the quarterback position and coaching vacancy.
28. Detroit Lions
Matt Stafford, Ndamukong Suh and Calvin Johnson are clogging the cap—due to their pre-lockout salary figures—and it’s tough to see how these Lions are going to improve with hardly any money to spend.
29. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs capitalized on Andy Reid’s firing by almost immediately hiring the Eagles longtime coach.
There’s still the question of how to get a franchise signal-caller, as there aren’t any available in the draft (we don’t believe Geno Smith has the right stuff), but anything could happen now that Reid is in place.
30. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles' coaching quest continues, and we expect this organization to swing or the fences when they finally make a hire.
31. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders seem mired in mediocrity and don’t look to be going up anytime soon.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
With Tebow reportedly not in the Jags' plans, there isn’t much excitement to look forward to for fans in northern Florida.
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