One Reason Every Current NFL Division Leader Should Be Very Concerned
At the beginning of play today, these eight teams were atop their division.
Assuming that were to stay the same (even though it likely won't), each team has its clear strengths which have put them in that position.
Many times, though, it is a weakness or a concern that can cost a team a shot at the Super Bowl. Here is one reason for each team to be concerned as the playoffs approach.
New England Patriots
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This one is easy. Defense is the first, second and third concern for the Patriots entering the playoffs.
If the Patriots defense does not grow up quickly in the final two games of the NFL season, than it may be a short stay in the playoffs for the Pats.
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Is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback?
This question is nothing new in Baltimore, and depending on which game it gets asked after, the answer varies as well.
Teams have won Super Bowls without superb quarterback play, but to think that Baltimore can navigate the AFC without having solid play from Flacco is a tough sell.
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Health is the main concern for the Houston Texans, and that has nothing to do with the quarterback position. Schaub and Leinart are lost and not coming back, so T.J. Yates will be the man.
However, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and Arian Foster must stay on the field for every offensive snap in order to keep Houston legitimate.
The Texans defense is vastly improved, but they need the offense to help them out and control the pace of the game.
Sidenote: Nobody wants to see T.J. Yates get injured...but wouldn't it be interesting to see Jake Delhomme or Jeff Garcia in another playoff game?
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Many people might think that Tim Tebow could be the biggest concern for Denver and wonder how effective he can be in the playoffs. The bigger concern is whether or not the Denver defense can be strong enough to let Denver's offense work.
It's fairly well documented what the Broncos can expect from Tebow and the Broncos offense when they hold onto the ball. However, in order for that formula to be effective, the Denver defense has to limit the opposing offense to approximately 17 points or less.
Green Bay Packers
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The Green Bay Packers must be worried that they peaked too soon in 2011.
Last season the Packers heated up down the stretch and became unstoppable in the NFL playoffs. They carried that momentum right into their 13-0 start this season.
It's hard not to make a big deal over the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Packers more than anyone else need to hope that they still have a lot of good football ahead of them.
Injuries didn't slow them down last season, but that depth will be tested again this season.
San Francisco 49ers
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San Francisco fans believe in their defense, they believe in their coach and they believe in Frank Gore. In order to make it deep into the playoffs, they will need to believe in Alex Smith as well.
Until this season, Smith had been a constant underachiever, but the new look Niners have been led by Alex Smith the entire way this season.
Smith will need to take care of the ball and find big plays when the Niners defense has held up their end of the bargain to win in the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints
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The New Orleans Saints are widely regarded as one of the few teams that can match offense with the Green Bay Packers. However, there is often one caveat to that theory, and that is the fact that New Orleans is less explosive outside than inside.
The Saints have a slim chance of locking up home field throughout the NFC playoffs, but the more likely scenario is that they will not. Assuming that to be the case, the Saints need to hope that the weather outside is conducive to the "track meet" style they prefer.
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Is Jason Garrett ready to coach in the NFL playoffs? There have been some instances this season that might lead some to believe otherwise.
Costly coaching mistakes like the one made against the Arizona Cardinals can spell, not only the end of a playoff run, but also the end of a coaching career.
Being a head coach with Jerry Jones as your owner is not an easy task, but Garrett needs to prove that he is the right man to lead America's Team, and the playoffs are the perfect time to do it.