NFL Power Rankings, Playoff Edition: The Patriots, Falcons and Other Contenders
The NFL regular season was a great one full of spectacular plays, controversial decisions and competitive games.
It was one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory and hopefully that is good news for what promises to be a great postseason.
As we enter into the wild-card round of the 2011 NFL Playoffs, we are greeted with a competitive field where anything could happen. It's the Playoffs, and one wrong move could send a team packing for the year.
This article will power rank the 12 teams in the 2011 NFL Playoffs.
12. Seattle Seahawks
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The Pete Carroll led Seattle Seahawks made it back to the playoff for the first time since 2007. The Seahawks come into the post season with a record of 7-9 and are the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record.
The Seahawks have a quarterback controversy on their hands, as they prepare to take on the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
They were led to victory against the Rams, in a game that determined their playoff fate, by quarterback Charlie Whitehurst in place of injured veteran Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck is ready to play now, but the question remains who will play at the quarterback position.
The Seahawks are virtually dependent on the passing game, as they have a dismal running game that is ranked 31st in the NFL.
Their defense is not great at all and will need to step up big time if they expect to stop the super-charged Saint's passing attack. Their defense is giving up on average 250 yards per game through the air and Drew Brees might have a field day against the Seahawks defensive backs.
The big advantage for the Seahawks in this one is the fact that they will get to play at Qwest Field, one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.
If this game was in the Superdome they would have no shot, but since it's being played at home one has to give the Seahawks the slightest of chances.
11. Baltimore Ravens
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Here is when ranking these teams gets tricky. Besides the Seahawks, every team in the playoffs deserves to be there and has a legitimate shot at advancing in the postseason.
The Ravens come into this season's playoffs with a record of 12-4, and are a team that seems to just figure out how to win close games.
They are led by quarterback Joe Flacco who is having a great season this year. Flacco has passed for 3,622 yards for 25 touchdowns while only being intercepted 10 times on the year.
Along with Flacco, the Ravens have a great receiving corps including Anquan Boldin who has had 837 yards and seven touchdowns on the year.
Not only can they pass, but they can run.
They have one of the most sought after fantasy running backs in the league in Ray Rice, who has rushed for 1,220 yards and five touchdowns on the season. He is an explosive back that can make a huge difference if not accounted for.
The Ravens defense is very storied and is led by middle linebacker Ray Lewis. The defense is hard hitting and knows how to stop the rushing game, which is key when facing the Chiefs.
The Ravens have a real shot at beating the Chiefs if they can force Matt Cassel to pass the ball more and cause him to make mistakes.
10. Kansas City Chiefs
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The Kansas City Chiefs were the AFC West Champions and will face the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs. They had a regular season record of 10-6 on the season.
It will be the Chiefs' first playoff appearance since 2006 when they were beat by the would be Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round.
The Chiefs are led by quarterback Matt Cassel who has thrown for only 3166 yards but has had 27 touchdowns while throwing only seven interceptions. Although the Chiefs are ranked towards the bottom of the league in passing, they still know how to get it done when it counts.
Along with a decent passing game, they have a superior running game that is led by running back Jamaal Charles who has run for 1,467 yards but has only reached the end zone five times this season.
They have also received some great numbers from "washed up" running back Thomas Jones who has played this season with something to prove; amassing 896 yards for six touchdowns on the year, which is great for someone who is on the down-slope of his career.
The Chiefs defense is mediocre at best giving up on average, 339 yards per game to opposing offenses.
The Chiefs will need to play a great game to beat the Ravens. One thing that the Chiefs do have on their side is the crowd noise at Arrowhead which is by-far the loudest outdoor stadium in the NFL.
9. Green Bay Packers
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The Packers came dangerously close to not making the playoffs, being forced to win the last game of the season to make the postseason. They finished with a record of 10-6 finishing just behind the Chicago Bears in the NFC North.
Green Bay is led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers who is having an excellent year even though it has been marred by concussions. He has still managed to pass for 3,922 yards and 28 touchdowns while only giving up 11 interceptions on the season.
Although they lack a run game, they have had one big time receiver really step up to provide a huge spark in this offense. Greg Jennings has emerged as a star, catching 76 passes for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. Jennings has had a great year and has really led this offense to a successful season.
The Packers' defense is led by defensive end Clay Matthews who has had 13.5 sacks on the season along with five tackles for a loss. Matthews is a great player and is a candidate for defensive player of the year.
Green Bay's defense, as a whole, is great at limiting opponents passing. They are ranked fifth in the league in this category only giving up on average 194 passing yards per game.
The Packers are a team to watch as they could sneak up and steal the NFC spot in the Super Bowl if the teams they face are not careful. It all starts this weekend as they will face the Philadelphia Eagles.
8. New York Jets
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The New York Jets will be the only team from the Big Apple in the playoffs this season as they are set to face off against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. The Jets finished the season with a record of 11-5, second in the AFC East behind the New England Patriots.
This team has been known throughout the season as the bad-boys of the NFL, always talking in the media, mainly led by head coach Rex Ryan.
The Jets are led by quarterback Mark Sanchez who has not had a very good season at all.
He has thrown for 3,291 yards for 17 touchdowns along with 13 interceptions. Sanchez has not made great decisions this season that have caused the Jets to lose a few games.
Thankfully for the Jets, they have a great running back in LaDainian Tomlinson who was thought to be done after a bad season last year. Tomlinson has rushed for 914 yards and six touchdowns on the season while leading the rushing attack for the Jets.
They are also receiving a great boost in the running game from Shonn Greene who has rushed for 762 yards and two touchdowns on the season.
Braylon Edwards led the team in receiving catching 53 passes for 904 yards and seven touchdowns on the season.
The Jets' main threat is on the defensive end.
The defense is led by cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis who are two of the best in the league. They play the position with a hard-nosed attitude and shutdown the opposing receivers.
The Jets as a team have only allowed on average 200 passing yards per game.
They will need to have a great game to go into Indianapolis and beat a hot Colts team.
7. New Orleans Saints
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The defending Super Bowl champions did not have the kind of season they were looking for and didn't even end up winning their division, although it was one of the toughest in the league. They finished with a record of 11-5.
The Saints are led by quarterback Drew Brees who has turned into a fan favorite almost overnight. Brees the former Purdue Boilermaker (shameless plug), has passed for 4,620 yards and 33 touchdowns on the season while getting picked off 22 times.
Drew Brees spread the ball out quite often, but his favorite target was Marques Colston who caught 84 passes for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns on the season.
The Saints running game wasn't that great this season, with them as a team running for only 1,599 yards and nine touchdowns.
They are very one dimensional and depend on Drew Brees to make big plays and win the game for the Saints.
New Orleans' defense has been great against the pass this season. They have only allowed on average 194 yards per game through the air, few enough to put them ranked fourth in that category.
The rushing defense needs work, but will be able to hold up against an average rushing attack.
The Saints will be facing the Seahawks in the first round and should get through that easily, but then have to go to Atlanta for a rubber-match which could prove deadly.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
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Philadelphia is a very explosive team and are champions of the NFC East with a record of 10-6 on the season. Following an offseason full of questions, the Eagles are back in the playoffs and are ready to make a run for the Super Bowl.
They are led by quarterback Michael Vick who has passed for 3,108 yards and 28 touchdowns while only throwing six interceptions on the season.
Along with those great passing statistics, Vick has rushed for 676 yards and nine touchdowns on the season, in what has been an MVP caliber year for the formerly troubled Vick.
Although Vick has been the integral part of the offense this season, he has been helped by another one of the most exciting players in the league, DeSean Jackson who has had over 1,056 yards and six touchdowns on the season.
DeSean is also a main part of the special teams, including running back a game winning punt return against the New York Giants.
The Eagles' defense is a hard-hitting group and is basically average when it comes to numbers, averaging around 326 yards given up per game on offense.
The defense are very explosive and fun to watch and should be a great match for anyone in the playoffs. They will face off against the Green Bay Packers in the wild-card round.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
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The Pittsburgh Steelers had an offseason they would like to forget, and virtually have with the success of their football team this season.
The Steelers finished atop the AFC North with a record of 12-4 following the suspension of their franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games of the season.
In the 12 games he has played this season, Big Ben has thrown for 3,200 yards and 17 touchdowns while only giving up the ball five times.
Since Big Ben's return, the Steelers have been playing great and are a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs.
Rushing the ball they have running back Rashard Mendenhall who has had a tremendous year. He has rushed for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season. Mendenhall has the ability to break it open, while still running north and south.
On the receiving end, the Steelers were led by Mike Wallace who finished the season with 60 receptions for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The defense is tough as usual and is led by a plethora of talent, including the best safety in the league, Troy Polamalu, who has had eight interceptions on the season.
They also have hard hitting linebacker Joey Porter who has the ability to knock anyone out.
The Steelers are that team that you don't want to meet in the playoffs as they are a great all around football team.
4. Chicago Bears
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The Chicago Bears came out of nowhere this season, blindsiding the NFL with their great start to the season. The Bears finished the year on top of the NFC North with a record of 11-5.
They are led by quarterback Jay Cutler who started off the season rocky, but has since gotten it together and played great. He has passed for 3,724 yards and 23 touchdowns while throwing 16 interceptions on the season.
In the running game, Matt Forte has led the team rushing for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns on the season. Forte is stepping up and needs to continue for the team to do well in the playoffs this season against some tough defenses.
The key to the Bears is the defense, yet they are also led by a special teams player that has really made a difference in the return game and in the offense. Devin Hester has caught four touchdown passes as a receiver and returned three more on the season. If Hester is given the ball on the kickoff, he has the ability to score.
The Bears defense is playing well too as they are led by Brian Urlacher. The middle linebacker is finally healthy and is wreaking havoc to opponents once again.
Their offseason acquisition of Julius Peppers has also been a great help as he is getting to the quarterbacks and making the secondaries' job a little bit easier.
The Bears on average are giving up 224 yards through the air, but only allowing 90 yards on the ground.
Chicago will be a tough team to beat as they move forward in the playoffs.
3. Indianapolis Colts
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The Indianapolis Colts had a mid-season collapse, at one point having a record of 6-6 on the year.
Well in Colts fashion, they came back to win their last four games and win the AFC South, with a record of 10-6, over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Peyton Manning leads the Colts red-hot offense once again this season. He has passed for 4700 yards, 33 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, with 11 of those coming in a three game stretch. Manning is back on his game after losing his confidence in the middle of the season.
The Colts have a running game that was a bit odd this season.
They didn't have one main back that did the rushing, but now with all three backs healthy, it could mean trouble for opponents. Joseph Addai is back with fresh legs for the playoffs which could give the Colts a spark.
In the receiving game, Peyton Manning's favorite target has been Reggie Wayne who has had 111 receptions for 1,355 yards and six touchdowns on the season. Wayne is the go-to guy for big catches now that tight end Dallas Clark is out for the season.
Indianapolis' defense has been decent this season as well. They have only allowed 340 yards from opposing offenses on the season and have been great at stopping the run as of late; stifling Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew.
Not to mention the Colts are led by Dwight Freeney who is one of the most devastating defensive ends in the league and causes offensive linemen headaches.
The Colts are on a big time roll right now and are heading full steam into the playoffs, it will be tough for the Jets to stop them.
2. Atlanta Falcons
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Atlanta finished the regular season with a record of 13-3, winning the tough NFC South and quietly capturing the number one NFC seed in the playoffs.
The Falcons have had a great season and have went virtually unnoticed in the media. They are on one of the most explosive teams in the league and really know how to play football well.
They are led by quarterback Matt Ryan who has thrown for 3,705 yards for 28 touchdowns, while only throwing nine interceptions on the season. Ryan has put up some of the best numbers in the league, but is quiet therefore he gets no attention.
Along with the great season by Ryan, running back Michael Turner is having an amazing season. He has rushed for 1,371 yards and 12 touchdowns on the year. Turner is a quality all-around back and is great for the Falcons offense.
Catching the ball the Falcons had wide-receiver Roddy White, who caught 115 passes for 1389 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. White is a great receiver who is very explosive, it takes a great cornerback to cover him one on one and not get burned.
The Falcons' defense has been decent this season as well, only allowing 330 yards against them per game this season.
The Falcons will most likely face New Orleans in their first playoff game and it will be at home, where the Saints won this season. Look for Atlanta to beat up on the defending Super Bowl champions as they don't want to lose twice to the Saints in the Georgia Dome.
1. New England Patriots
This one was not even a question in my mind.
The New England Patriots have an NFL best record of 14-2. The Patriots have had an amazing season and have been dominant at home.
They are led by the man who should be this season's NFL MVP, Tom Brady, who has passed for 3900 yards for 36 touchdowns while only throwing four interceptions. He set the NFL record for most passes without an interception and has been very accurate, not throwing a pick since Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens.
On the ground, the Patriots are led by running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis who has rushed for 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season. He is one of the best backs in the league and can really get it done when it needs to be.
Tom Brady loved throwing to Wes Welker this season, who led the team in receiving once again. Welker had 86 catches for seven touchdowns on the season and was the same Welker we knew before he went down to injury last season.
On the defensive side of the ball they have been great as well, they have intercepted 25 passes on the year, really causing havoc all over the field.
They have only allowed 365 yards per game this season and have a great run defense, while their pass defense is one of the worst in the league.
The Patriots score points and for a team to beat them they will have to put up great numbers. It's going to be hard for any team to beat the Patriots this season, especially having to go through Foxborough.