NFL Playoff Picture: One Word to Describe Each Playoff Contender

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IDecember 27, 2011

NFL Playoff Picture: One Word to Describe Each Playoff Contender

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    With one week remaining in the regular season, 15 teams remain alive in postseason contention. 

    Some of these teams, like the Green Bay Packers, have been virtually flawless all season, and have emerged as Super Bowl favorites, while others, such as the New York Jets, have major question marks. 

    Here is one word to describe each postseason contender as we near January. 

Green Bay Packers: Imposing

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    The Packers have been the best team in the NFL all season long.

    Aaron Rodgers and his many offensive weapons continue to light up opposing defenses, as they have marched out to a 14-1 record.

    Although there are some questions on the defensive side of the ball, the Packers will be the undisputed favorites in the playoffs.

    Opposing teams will fear facing Green Bay in the Frozen Tundra come January. 

San Francisco 49ers: Stout

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    Under new head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have been one of the most consistent teams all season.

    San Francisco sits at an impressive 12-3, and are just a win away from claiming a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.

    The 49ers' strength is their stiff defense, which has allowed just one rushing touchdown all season.

    If the defensive unit can continue to dominate opposing offenses, then San Francisco could be a major threat in January. 

New Orleans Saints: Explosive

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    The Saints possess one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL.

    Drew Brees consistently lights up opposing defenses, as he is currently on pace to set the single season record for completion percentage and passing yards.

    Brees has a variety of offensive weapons at his disposal, including athletic tight end Jimmy Graham, speedy running back Darren Sproles, and consistent wideout Marques Colston.

    If any team has the ability to outscore the potent Packers offense in Lambeau, it is the Saints. 

Dallas Cowboys: Questionable

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    The Cowboys have the talent to make a deep run in the postseason, but they have a lot of questions on both sides of the ball. 

    Tony Romo has cracked under pressure numerous times this season, and the defense has been torched by solid offenses all year long. 

    Injuries have also hurt Dallas, as multiple offensive weapons, including quarterback Tony Romo, have missed time due to poor health.

    Romo is currently questionable to play in the NFC East championship game against the Giants on Sunday because of a bruised hand. 

New York Giants: Resilient

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    Despite a tough schedule and devastating injuries, the Giants are just a win away from the postseason.

    Eli Manning has been terrific this season, and he has led New York back from huge deficits numerous times.

    Big Blue has overcome a bevy of tough breaks, and the locker room has become united because of this. 

    Due to the team's outstanding resilience, New York could be a threat in the playoffs. 

Detroit Lions: Threatening

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    The resurgent Lions have shocked the football world and become a playoff team in 2011.

    Although Detroit is young and inexperienced, it possesses the talent to upset some of the elite teams in the NFC.

    Calvin Johnson has been unstoppable this year, while Matthew Stafford has emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. The Lions also possess a ferocious pass rush that has given opposing signal-callers fits.

    The Lions will have to be road warriors, but they could make a run this January. 

Atlanta Falcons: Balanced

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    After a tough start, the Falcons have been one of the NFC's best teams over the last few months.

    The team boasts tremendous balance on offense. The Falcons have a terrific aerial attack, as Matt Ryan has explosive receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White at his disposal. 

    Atlanta also possesses a dangerous running game, led by bruising running back Michael Turner. 

    The Falcons also have a stifling run defense, as they currently rank fourth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed.

    Mike Smith and company have few flaws, and they could be a dark horse contender in the postseason. 

New England Patriots: Potent

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    The Patriots have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, but they have still managed to be the AFC's best team in 2011. 

    This is largely because of Tom Brady and the explosive Patriots offense. The team currently ranks third in scoring and fourth in yards.

    Young tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have combined to form one of the most dangerous receiving duos in the league, and speedy wide receiver Wes Welker is a consistent playmaker.

    New England will enter the playoffs as one of the favorites in the AFC. 

Baltimore Ravens: Ferocious

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    The Ravens have a decent offense, but they are one of the NFL's best teams because of their stifling defensive unit.

    Baltimore's defense currently ranks third in the league in points allowed, and third in yards allowed.

    The unit owns some of the league's best defensive players, including star veteran Ray Lewis, colossal nose tackle Haloti Ngata, monstrous pass rusher Terrell Suggs, and opportunistic safety Ed Reed. 

    If these stars continue to terrorize opponents, then the Ravens could come out of a tight AFC and play for the Lombardi Trophy in Indianapolis in February. 

Houston Texans: Vulnerable

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    The Texans may be AFC South champions, but they have multiple flaws on offense.

    T.J. Yates has been a viable replacement for star quarterback Matt Schaub, but he is unproven in big games. Against stingy defenses like the Ravens and Steelers, the rookie will struggle.

    The health of Houston's most dangerous offensive weapon, Andre Johnson, is also in doubt.

    If the Texans are going to make a playoff run, then dynamic running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate need to explode, and the defense has to play mistake-free football. 

Denver Broncos: Deficient

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    The Broncos' flaws have been unmasked the last few weeks, as the offense has failed to do anything against two of the league's weakest defenses. 

    Tim Tebow is a locker room leader, but he lacks the accuracy or arm strength to be a viable starter. Denver currently ranks as one of the worst passing offenses in football.

    The Broncos running game has also been hindered in recent weeks, mainly due to opponents stacking the box.

    Denver's defense is a solid unit, but the offense lacks the explosiveness to make the Broncos a contender in the postseason. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: Punishing

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    The Steelers are a major threat heading into the playoffs, mainly due to their formidable defensive unit.

    The defense boasts terrific pass rusher Lamar Woodley, feared outside linebacker James Harrison, and superstar safety Troy Polamalu.

    Pittsburgh currently ranks second in the NFL in points allowed per game.

    If Mike Tomlin and company have a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, than the team could make another run to the Super Bowl. 

Oakland Raiders: Mild

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    The Raiders are in a prime position to make the postseason, but they lack the firepower on either side of the ball to make a run. 

    Carson Palmer has struggled with interceptions all year long, and the passing game often fails to get going. Darren McFadden continues to be held back by injury, and the star runner is a question mark for the playoffs.

    The defense has been burned on multiple occasions this year, as they have allowed the fourth most points in the league. 

    If the Black and Silver make the playoffs, then they will be headed for a quick elimination. 

Cincinnati Bengals: Unproven

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    The Bengals have been a nice story this year, but they are yet to establish themselves as viable contenders in the playoffs.

    Cincinnati has nine wins, but they have only beaten one team with a winning record, the Titans, back in Week 9. 

    Andy Dalton has been superb, but he has struggled against some of the better defenses in the league. 

    If the Bengals beat the Ravens in Week 17, then they will have proved themselves heading into January. 

Tennessee Titans: Flawed

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    The Titans are actually in a good position to make the playoffs, as they face a Texans team that may rest their starters this week.

    Tennessee has been inconsistent all year long, as they lack the talent on either side of the ball to maintain solid play for an extended length of time.

    Chris Johnson has struggled, and the Titans passing game is subpar. The defense has also been lit up by some of the league's better offenses. 

    Mike Munchak and company have been a solid team this year, but they lack the ability to be a threat in the playoffs. 

New York Jets: Underachieving

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    Despite boasting one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, the Jets need a miracle to make the postseason.

    New York has played beneath their ability all season long, and they have been unable to play consistent football.

    Mark Sanchez flops in big time moments, and the Jets' talented receiving corps continues to make mistakes. Even Gang Green's strength, defense, has been a liability at times this year. 

    Rex Ryan and company have no right sitting at home in January, but they can only blame themselves for their subpar play.