NFL Power Rankings Week 17: Identifying Each Team's Most Clutch Performer
Some teams have risen while others have fallen, but who is tops on the list of this week's power rankings?
The last week of the season will decide a number of team's playoff fates. Others who have been eliminated from contention only have their integrity to play for.
Here are the power rankings for all 32 NFL teams, along with each team's most clutch performer from this season.
32. St. Louis Rams
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The St. Louis Rams just aren't getting in done on either side on the ball. The Rams have lost six in a row, and with a game against the San Francisco 49ers next week, it looks like they will make it seven straight.
At least the Rams still have an opportunity at the first overall pick in the NFL Draft with an Indianapolis Colts loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17.
Most Clutch Player: Chris Long, DE
There hasn't been much for St. Louis to cheer about. Steven Jackson has looked good all season, but he hasn't had much of a chance to produce with the Rams' lack of offense.
Chris Long has played well on defense, though, and his 13 sacks tie him with Terrell Suggs for sixth best in the NFL. Long was key in the Rams' giant upset over the New Orleans Saints in Week 8. If the Rams have a shot against the 49ers on Sunday, Long will have to put on a show once again.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost nine straight games, and they just got blown out by the Carolina Panthers.
Tampa Bay is on a downward spiral that could cost both Raheem Morris and quarterback Josh Freeman their jobs. The Buccaneers have played as poorly as anyone in the final stretch of the season.
Most Clutch Player: Adrian Clayborn, DE
Rookie Adrian Clayborn has done a good job getting after opposing quarterbacks. He has 7.5 sacks and 44 total tackles on the year.
Along with another rookie, Mason Foster, and the injured Gerald McCoy, the Buccaneers have a few nice pieces on defense to build around.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
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The Jacksonville Jaguars sit at 4-11 with one game left to play on the season. Jacksonville has had a number of close losses, but that isn't much consolation to fans.
If the Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 17, then the Colts will receive the first overall pick in the NFL Draft (if the Colts win, then the St. Louis Rams will get the first pick). At least Jacksonville fans that hate the Rams will have something to cheer about
Most Clutch Player: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB
Maurice Jones-Drew has been the only bright spot for the Jacksonville offense. He has literally carried the team.
Jones-Drew is part of the worst offense in football, yet he still leads the league in rushing yardage with 1,437. Jones-Drew is a lock for this year's rushing title, which is quite an accomplishment being on such a poor offense.
29. Cleveland Browns
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The Cleveland Browns have lost five in a row, but they have had a few close defeats in a row, including last week's 20-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Close losses or not, the Browns have a lot of work to do before next season.
Most Clutch Player: D'Qwell Jackson, ILB
The Browns haven't had a very good season, but it has really been the offense that is holding the team back.
D'Qwell Jackson has a team-high 145 tackles (second in the NFL), and he has been all over the field for a respectable 11th-ranked defense overall.
28. Washington Redskins
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The Washington Redskins have a defense full of talent, but in most games, the offense hasn't been able to put up enough points to win.
Against the Minnesota Vikings Saturday, it was the defense that didn't hold up (even after Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder left the game).
The Redskins handily beat the New York Giants in Week 15 and nearly won against the Vikings on Saturday, but Mike Shanahan's squad hasn't been able to shake mediocrity for the majority of the season.
Most Clutch Player: London Fletcher, ILB
London Fletcher might not be the youngest player on a team with stars like DeAngelo Hall, LaRon Landry Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, but the veteran linebacker still gets it done on the field.
As of the end of Week 16, Fletcher leads the NFL in tackles with 166. While the 36-year-old player might not have too much left in the tank, he certainly has had enough this season.
27. Indianapolis Colts
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The Indianapolis Colts have won two straight games after beating a playoff-bound Houston Texans team on Saturday to bring their record to 2-13, but it might have implications on the Colts' future.
If the Colts beat the Jacksonville Jaguars next week (and the St. Louis Rams lose), then the Rams will get the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Well, at least the Colts will move up again in the power rankings if they win.
Most Clutch Player: Colts Defense
The Colts defense has had to deal with a horrific offense all season long, and in the Colts' two wins, the defense has played light out.
Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney, Pat Angerer, Antoine Bethea and a few other guys have all played admirably, but they haven't had the offensive firepower to help propel the team to victory.
With the move to Dan Orlovsky at quarterback, the Colts finally got their first win of the season (and second), but that was in large part due to the Indianapolis defense.
26. Minnesota Vikings
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The Minnesota Vikings haven't looked great in recent weeks, but their victory over the Washington Redskins showed me something. It doesn't matter how bad the Vikings secondary is; they can still win games.
After Adrian Peterson left the game with an apparent knee injury and Christian Ponder with an concussion, Joe Webb came in and scored three touchdowns to propel Minnesota to a win.
Will Webb get another chance to take over the Vikings offense in Week 17?
Most Clutch Player: Jared Allen, DE
Jared Allen leads the NFL with 18.5 sacks. Although it hasn't helped the Vikings secondary much, he has constantly harassed the opposition.
Percy Harvin, who has come on strong in the second half of the season, and Adrian Peterson deserve a mention as well (Peterson will be out for around eight months with a torn ACL and MCL).
25. Chicago Bears
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With the wild-card spot now out of the Chicago Bear's grasp, the team will try to avoid its sixth straight loss and carry some momentum into next season.
Injuries on offense to Matt Forte and Jay Cutler decimated the Bears' season, and although they can't be happy about their place in the power rankings, they should be optimistic about the future of the franchise when all their components are healthy.
Most Clutch Player: Charles Tillman, CB
While Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers get most of the attention for the Chicago defense (and they should get a lot of it), Charles Tillman is having a superb year.
Tillman has 93 total tackles (three for loss), one sack, 11 passes defended, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumbles recovered on the season.
24. Buffalo Bills
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The Buffalo Bills broke their seven-game losing streak against the Denver Broncos on Saturday, but they face another tough matchup against the New England Patriots in Week 17.
The Bills already beat the Patriots this season, so you can expect New England to be looking for revenge.
Most Clutch Player: Steve Johnson, WR
Steve Johnson is the Bills leading receiver with 72 receptions for 962 yards and six touchdowns on the season.
Johnson has been Ryan Fitzpatrick's favorite target. and he has been the best receiver on the
Bills by far (he did drop a few big passes late in the game against the New York Jets, but no one is perfect).
23. Kansas City Chiefs
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The Kansas City Chiefs were riding high after beating the undefeated Green Bay Packers in Week 15. It's too bad that the Oakland Raiders destroyed any hopes of a playoff berth in the Chiefs overtime loss last week.
Fans get to watch Kyle Orton against his old team in Week 17, though. If Orton and the Chiefs can beat the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders win against the San Diego Chargers, then the Raiders make the playoffs.
I'm not sure what would be worse for Chiefs fans, helping the Raiders make the playoffs or losing to the Broncos (although the Raiders could get in as a wild-card even if the Broncos win).
Most Clutch Player: Derrick Johnson, ILB
Derrick Johnson has had another fantastic year. He lead the Chiefs with 126 total tackles, which is good enough for ninth in the NFL.
Johnson also has two sacks, eight tackles for loss, two interceptions, nine passes defended, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Next season, Johnson will be the centerpiece of a defense that fans will once again have high hopes for.
22. Carolina Panthers
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The Carolina Panthers might not have gotten a ton of wins this season (6-9), but the team is no longer the pushover of the NFC South (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have that honor).
Carolina stomped the Buccaneers last week, and they will look to battle it out with the divisional champs in Week 17, the New Orleans Saints.
With a young defensive core and highly-skilled rookie quarterback, the Panthers have limitless potential.
Most Clutch Player: Cam Newton, QB
Cam Newton has played much better than most expected of him. He has the ability to throw for 300 yards in a game, or he can take over using his feet.
One thing is for sure, fans aren't worried when the game is in Newton's hands.
21. San Diego Chargers
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The San Diego Chargers have been a giant disappointment this season. The team was a favorite of many analysts to head to the Super Bowl, and after winning four of their first five games, the Chargers then lost six straight.
The Chargers did have a late-season surge after three straight wins, but the Detroit Lions took the team apart and ruined their playoff chances last week.
Most Clutch Player: Ryan Matthews, RB
One bright spot in a down year for quarterback Philip Rivers has been how well second-year running back Ryan Matthews has played.
No one knew what to expected after Matthews' injury-plagued rookie year, but the Fresno State product has bounced back with 1,091 rushing yards on the season (his five fumbles have been a problem, though).
20. Miami Dolphins
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The Miami Dolphins' 27-24 loss last week to the New England Patriots proves they can play with any team.
The Dolphins have been playing well lately. The only team that beat Miami badly in their last three losses was the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Dolphins have won five of their last eight games, but unfortunately for them, they started off with a 0-7 record.
Most Clutch Player: Reggie Bush, RB
Early in the season, Reggie Bush wasn't producing very much for his new team. But Bush has had over 100 rushing yards in five of the team's last nine game, including a 203-yard game against the Buffalo Bills.
He now has over 1,000 rushing yards on the season with six touchdowns, and he is averaging five yards per carry. Bush has been a major part of Miami's late-season success.
19. Arizona Cardinals
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Before losing to the Cincinnati Bengals last week, the Arizona Cardinals had won six of seven games.
After a 1-7 start, the Cardinals have been trending upwards, and they play the Seattle Seahawks, who have had a great second half to the season as well.
Most Clutch Player: Patrick Peterson, CB
Patrick Peterson has proven himself to be well worth his high draft status. Picked fifth, Peterson has been a lockdown cornerback and an equal threat as a returner for Arizona.
An injured Achilles' tendon against the Bengals had worried fans, but it looks like he will be healthy soon enough and no surgery is needed.
18. Seattle Seahawks
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The Seattle Seahawks lost a close contest to the San Francisco 49ers last week (19-17), but Marshawn Lynch became the first running back all season to score a touchdown or run for 100 yards against the stout 49ers defense.
Unfortunately, the loss took Seattle out of contention for the wild card, but a win by Atlanta next week would have made the playoffs an impossibility anyway.
The Seahawks can hold their heads up high, though. They are 5-2 in their last seven games, including wins over the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles (without Michael Vick).
Most Clutch Player: Marshawn Lynch, RB
Marshawn Lynch has punished defenders with his running style all season long. He has been a touchdown machine as of late, too.
With 1,118 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns and a 4.2 yard per carry average, Lynch has cemented himself as the Seahawks running back for next season. Just make sure to get him some Skittles.
17. New York Jets
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If it wasn't for a safety late in the game, the New York Jets would have had a chance at victory against the New York Giants. But would have, could have and should have doesn't cut it in the NFL.
The Jets still have a shot at making a wild-card playoff berth, but the loss to the Giants put a damper on their chances. All they can do now is try to beat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday and let the chips fall where they may.
Most Clutch Player: Darrelle Revis, CB
Darrelle Revis always comes to play.
While his team lost to the Giants Saturday, an article by Greg Hanlon at www.capitalnewyork.com pointed out that Revis was thrown at eight times, but he only allowed two receptions.
Revis has 51 total tackles, 19 passes defended and four interceptions on the year.
16. Tennessee Titans
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The Tennessee Titans still have a shot to make the playoffs, but they certainly haven't been the model of consistency. At this point, a playoff berth would be more luck than anything else.
But regardless of if they get in or not, the Titans have to win against the Houston Texans next week to even have a shot.
Most Clutch Player: Michael Roos, OT
While it took some time for the Titans running game to get off the ground (many assume it was a new system and Chris Johnson's conditioning that were the problem), the offensive line has played well all season.
Michael Roos has been the most visible offensive lineman on a squad that has given up a NFL-low 21 sacks this season (tied with the Buffalo Bills).
15. Oakland Raiders
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While a number of scenarios need to play themselves out, one thing is for sure, the Oakland Raiders need to win this Sunday in order to have a shot at making the playoffs.
The Raiders' Week 16 overtime win last against the Kansas Chiefs kept them in the playoff running. A win against the San Diego Chargers could either help the Raiders win the AFC West or give them a wild-card berth.
Most Clutch Player: Rolando McClain, ILB
However you feel about Rolando McClain, he has played extremely well this season.
McClain is second on the team in total tackles with 83. He has five sacks, three tackles for loss and 13 passes defended on the year.
14. Philadelphia Eagles
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The Philadelphia Eagles were eliminated from playoff contention last week with the New York Giant's victory over the New York Jets, and like the San Diego Chargers, the Eagles' season has been extremely disappointing.
Many thought the Eagles were serious Super Bowl contenders. Instead, the Eagles have a 7-8 record and are on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
The Eagles have won four out of their last six, including Sunday's 20-7 beatdown of the Dallas Cowboys, but in the end, hoping for a .500 season just isn't good enough.
Most Clutch Player: LeSean McCoy, RB
The most consistent and dynamic player in the Eagles offense this season wasn't Michael Vick; it was LeSean McCoy, hands down.
McCoy sliced up defense after defense, gaining 1,309 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns.
Next season, Vick will have some extra opportunities, with defenses keying in on McCoy.
13. Dallas Cowboys
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The Dallas Cowboys get some leeway in their 20-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Saturday because Tony Romo was injured early in the first quarter, but Dallas fans have to be a little worried with the Cowboys losing three out of their last four games.
Either way, with a win on Sunday against the New York Giants, the Cowboys win the division and make the playoffs.
Most Clutch Player: DeMarcus Ware, OLB
Tony Romo could get co-ownership with DeMarcus Ware if he helps clinch the NFC East for the Cowboys Sunday night, but until then, Ware sits by himself.
Opposing offenses focus in on blocking Ware every game, but he always seems to find a way to get to the quarterback. Ware's 18 sacks tie him with Jason Babin for second best in the NFL. He also has 53 tackles, two passes defended and two forced fumbles on the season.
12. New York Giants
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Like the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants control their playoff destiny. If they beat the Cowboys in MetLife Stadium on Sunday night, then the Giants will have won the NFC East.
After besting their in-state rival, the New York Jets, last week, the Giants might just carry that momentum into the contest with the Cowboys.
Most Clutch Player: Eli Manning, QB
Eli Manning has posted some fantastic statistics this season. Through 16 games, Manning has 4,587 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
While Manning has a trio of solid receivers to throw the ball to, his precision and touch have turned more than a few heads this year.
11. Denver Broncos
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The Denver Broncos got demolished by the Buffalo Bills Saturday, bringing their losing streak to two.
But with a win over Kyle Orton and the Kansas City Chiefs, the Denver Broncos will clinch the AFC West and make the playoffs.
The Broncos still have a chance to make the wild-card spot with a loss, but even talking about Denver making the playoffs after a horrendous start is mind-boggling.
Who could have imagined that Denver might make the playoffs after a 2-5 start and a heap of quarterback controversy?
Most Clutch Player: Tim Tebow, QB
I can't say Tim Tebow is the best player on the Broncos, but his late-game performances speak for themselves.
With Tebow as the starting quarterback, Denver has won seven of 10 games, and the Broncos defense is inspired. Enough said.
10. Atlanta Falcons
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The Atlanta Falcons had the unfortunate task of playing against the New Orleans Saints Monday night, but the team is still very good.
Now, with a wild-card spot locked away, the Falcons are looking for a Week 17 dominating win against a struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers team to increase their confidence for the playoffs.
Most Clutch Player: Matt Ryan, QB
Matt Ryan has just over 4,000 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on the season.
At times, Ryan has had to deal with a poor showing from his offensive line, but the quarterback out of Boston College has performed admirably.
9. Houston Texans
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Without Matt Schaub, Mario Williams and Andre Johnson, the Houston Texans aren't the same team.
Luckily, the Texans have a solid defense and a great running back in Arian Foster, so they can still create problems for teams in the playoffs.
At 10-5, the Texans have already won the AFC South, but they have lost their last two games to the Carolina Panthers and the Indianapolis Colts.
Most Clutch Players: Arian Foster, RB
With 617 receiving yards and 1,224 rushing yards in 13 games (10 rushing and two receiving touchdowns), Foster may be the Texans' only hope for a playoff victory.
The Texans have been more dependent on Foster lately with T.J. Yates at quarterback, and he has gladly stepped up to the challenge.
8. Cincinnati Bengals
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At 9-6, the Cincinnati Bengals have overperformed. With a rookie quarterback at the helm, the Bengals have the playoffs within sight.
If Cincinnati beats the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, or if the New York Jets and either the Denver Broncos or Oakland Raiders lose, the Bengals are in.
After winning their last two, the Bengals will do everything in the power to win a third.
Most Clutch Player: A.J. Green, WR
Andy Dalton has had the luxury of throwing to A.J. Green. The rookie-to-rookie connection has produced quite a bit of yardage.
In 14 games, Green has caught 63 passes for 1,031 yards and seven touchdowns.
7. Detroit Lions
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The Detroit Lions' victory over the San Diego Chargers Saturday propelled them to a wild-card playoff berth.
The Lions have been hot as of late, too. They won their last three games, and they will face a Green Bay Packers team Sunday that likely will sit its starters (although Detroit will probably sit its starters).
Most Clutch Player: Calvin Johnson, WR
Calvin Johnson constantly sees double and triple-coverage, yet he still produces week after week. Matthew Stafford has had a breakout year as well, but Johnson makes any quarterback's job a whole lot easier.
Johnson has the second most receiving yards with 1,437, and he is tied for first in receiving touchdowns with Ron Gronkowski (15 touchdowns).
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
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The Pittsburgh Steelers bounced back from their loss to the San Francisco 49ers Saturday with a 27-0 victory over the St. Louis Rams.
The shutout came with Charlie Batch at quarterback.
The Steelers already have a wild-card spot locked up, but if they beat the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens lose to the Cincinnati Bengals, then the Steelers will win the AFC East.
Most Clutch Player: Troy Polamalu, S
Troy Polamalu always seems to be in the right spot at the right time.
On the season, Polamalu has 89 tackles, a sack, six tackles for loss, 11 passes defended, an interception and a fumble recovery.
5. Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens have gone over a few bumps this season, but they have already secured a wild-card playoff spot at the very least.
The Ravens sit atop the AFC East, and all they need to do is beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 to clinch the division and a first-round bye.
Most Clutch Player: Ray Lewis, ILB
Ray Lewis missed four games this season with a toe injury, but the veteran linebacker still leads the Ravens in tackles.
He has 88 total tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, an interception and six passes defended on the year.
Lewis has been the heart and soul of the Ravens for some time now, and when the team needs a big play, it's always Lewis or Ed Reed who comes up with it.
4. New England Patriots
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The 12-3 New England Patriots won their seventh straight game Saturday against the Miami Dolphins.
The Patriots defense is statistically the worst in the NFL, but New England's offense is second in total yardage behind only the New Orleans Saints.
Whichever team is pitted up against New England in the playoffs better pray for Tom Brady to have an off day.
Most Clutch Player: Tom Brady, QB
Wes Welker and Ron Gronkowski both deserve honorable mentions, but Tom Brady is who makes the Patriots tick.
Brady's performance in Week 16 against the Dolphins showed once again that he has the highly-coveted clutch gene. After a 17-point halftime deficit, Brady had one passing and two rushing touchdowns in a close 27-24 victory.
3. San Francisco 49ers
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The San Francisco 49ers don't always win pretty, but they win.
The 49ers have won a series a close games, and the 19-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks wasn't any different.
While the San Francisco offense isn't as dominant as some of the other teams destined for the playoffs, their 12-3 record speaks for itself.
Most Clutch Player: Patrick Willis/ NoVorro Bowman, ILB/ILB
No linebacker duo is more feared than Patrick Willis and NoVorro Bowman, who have led the No. 1 ranked San Francisco defense (it wouldn't be right not to mention both players, but rookie Aldon Smith has made a giant impact with 14 sacks as well).
The defensive unit hadn't given up 100 yards to a rusher or a rushing touchdown this season until Week 16 to Marshawn Lynch.
Willis and Bowman have a combined 226 total tackles (16 for loss), four forced fumbles (five recovered), three sacks, 18 passes defended and one interception on the season.
As the 49ers continue to win close contests, Bowman and Willis are at the forefront of keeping the score low late in games (Willis hasn't suited up the past three weeks with a hamstring injury, but he should return soon).
2. New Orleans Saints
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The victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night locked up the NFC South for the New Orleans Saints.
Winners of their last seven games, the Saints have only the Carolina Panthers in their path before taking the momentum of an eight-game win streak into the playoffs.
Most Clutch Player: Drew Brees, QB
Drew Brees has led his team to victory after victory all season long, and he just broke Dan Mario's single-season record for passing yards.
Sean Payton trusts Brees late in games to get opposing teams put away, and after a 12-3 record, Payton has been kindly rewarded.
1. Green Bay Packers
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The Green Bay Packers' loss last week to the Kansas City Chiefs was their only one all year. After their shocking defeat, the Packers bounced back with a victory over their NFC North rival, the Chicago Bears.
With the best record in the NFL and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, Green Bay easily tops this list.
Most Clutch Player: Aaron Rodgers, QB
The Green Bay secondary has caused its fair share of turnovers, but they haven''t been able to stop any team's passing attack. The secondary is giving up 284.9 yards per game (31st in the NFL), and games have often turned into shootouts (although the defense has played well in the red zone, giving up 21.2 points per game).
Aaron Rodgers hasn't had much help from his running game (27th in rushing). He is expected to move the ball down the field, and If he doesn't produce, then the Packers have trouble winning.