NFL Playoff Teams: Strengths and Weaknesses of the Four Super Bowl Hopefuls

Greg RiotAnalyst IJanuary 19, 2010

We’ve reached the best part of the season and are about to find out which teams out of the NFL Conference Championship matchups will make it to Super Bowl XLIV at Miami this Feb. 7.

In order to win big this season, NFL bettors need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of all four teams that have made it this far in the playoffs.  Making smart bets is crucial this time of year, especially since all four teams have a lot in common, which could make it difficult to decide who to lay your money on.

The following is a breakdown of each team's strengths and weaknesses with their odds to win the Super Bowl.  Keep these in mind when betting this upcoming weekend.


Indianapolis Colts 6/5 to win the Super Bowl

Strengths: You don’t have to be a genius to know the Colts’ best weapon is Peyton Manning. This is not the same guy who choked under pressure years ago; he has matured and knows the game probably better than anyone right now.

On defense, Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are two of the best pass rushers in the league. Offenses that will face the Colts are already trying to make a plan to stop these two guys, as they know how to really pressure opposing offensive lines and QBs. The two are set to face arguably the best offensive line in the game this weekend.

The Colts secondary has some essential playmakers; Antoine Bethea and Marlin Jackson will be key players in these upcoming games.

Weakness: The Colts' biggest disadvantage is their running game; they don’t seem to know how to make a statement running the ball and that might be trouble against a defense that will be prepared for the passing game.

Despite the fact that they stopped the Ravens, their stats say they can’t stop the run.  Handling the best running game in the league will be a tough task for them.


New York Jets 7/1 to win the Super Bowl

Strengths:  The Jets' biggest advantage is their defense (which ranked No. 1 in the regular season and has shut down Cincinnati and San Diego in the playoffs so far) led by Darrelle Revis; he is one of a kind and can shutdown anybody that you put him against in a one on one situation.

Drew Coleman, Lito Sheppard, and Shaun Ellis are also big complements to a destructive defensive scheme well organized by the aggressive, big-mouth coach Rex Ryan.

On offense, if they can run the ball effectively, they will run you over and punish you with those big offensive linemen and that will, without a question, tire your defense.

The Jets have nothing to lose but everything to gain and that makes them a dangerous threat.

Weakness: Without a doubt, their biggest question mark is rookie QB Mark Sanchez.   Even though he’s playing really well and not making a lot of mistakes right now, he’s still a rookie, and rookies tend to fall under pressure.


Minnesota Vikings  7/4 to win the Super Bowl

Strengths: The way Brett Favre is playing, with his rhythm, and with his experience, there is no question that he is the most valuable player on this squad.  Who would have thought Favre would be playing the best football of his career as a Viking at the age of 40?

Favre didn’t get a lot of time to throw the ball against the Dallas defense, but he managed to hit Sidney Rice in the end zone three times.  Those are signs that his arm hasn’t fatigued after playing a full season.

Another strength the Vikings have at their disposal is their defensive line led by Jared Allen; he has become a pain in the butt for any offensive coordinator trying to make a game plan.

Weaknesses: It’s hard to believe that Adrian Peterson isn’t making a notable impact.  The Vikings need to establish the run, and he is not getting the job done.  He ran for 63 yards against the Cowboys and was not a factor in the game.

Think about it, against a well prepared, play-making defense that will probably be playing the pass, the Vikings need to run the ball to surprise and punish them.  Then, when the run is properly established, a play action pass could be all Minnesota needs to shock the New Orleans' secondary. 

Another issue for the Vikings is their secondary.  They managed to only allow three points from the Cowboys, but don’t expect that to happen against New Orleans.

Tony Romo didn’t find time to throw the ball.  That’s something that won’t happen to Brees because their offense is more complex and he has many more weapons than Dallas.


New Orleans Saints 2/1 to win the Super Bowl

Strengths: The Saints have an offense that could put up 45 points any day of the week running or passing the ball. Their offense is their best strength; they are creative and don’t fall into a tendency of making the same plays over and over.

Most importantly, I don’t think there is a set of playmakers on defense like the ones the Saints have right now.  They recorded 39 takeaways in the regular season, the most by any team in the NFL.

Weaknesses: The Saints are so talented that everyone expects them to win; their only weakness might be fear. Fear of failing under the pressure of the media and fans. Their record shows that they don’t handle pressure well, but now that they have made it this far and are playing at home, maybe they can turn things around.  

The Superdome has re-opened after Hurricane Katrina, spirits are high, fans are psyched; the Saints have every excuse to make it to the Super Bowl and win it.