NFL Playoff Power Rankings: Pre Super Bowl Roundup

In general, people are getting too hung up on Cundiff’s missed kick, and not hung up enough on Cam Cameron’s decision to call a draw on 3rd and short, even though Vince Wilfork was camping on a chunk of real estate right in the middle of the Raven’s backfield the entire day. Also, apparently none of the blockers accounted for him on that fatal run. Funny, I’d think he’d be hard to miss since he’s A) the best player on the Patriots defense by a long shot and B) five-hundred fucking pounds of terror and destruction.

1. Giants, 12-7: I’m. Not. Saying. Anything. –Anthony

2. Patriots, 15-3: Dragging this fabulously flawed Patriots team to the Super Bowl might be Belichick and Brady’s best performance yet. Make no mistake: the way the Pats have performed in the draft and free agency, they never should have been here. They’ve brought in more busts than Canton. Yet they’ve made the big game with a band-aid team, relying on scrappy former-5th round pick Julian Edelman for 30 snaps on BOTH sides of the ball and undrafted free agents like Sterling Moore to save the season. Give serious credit to Vince Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, and the offensive line, too. It’s simply amazing that this team has a 50-50 shot at a Super Bowl Championship with 7 above-average players, Brady and Belichick. As long as that latter duo remains in Foxboro, the Pats will remain contenders. –Joe

3. Packers, 15-2: It’s kind of hard to piece together what happened to Green Bay other than the fact that they were off their game. And yes, Aaron Rodgers didn’t play between Christmas and the Divisional Round, but it’s kind of hard to argue against letting his backup have the best single quarterbacking performance in Green Bay history. I don’t know, I’ll be damned if I can analyze this one, and double-damned if I make a coherent attempt to try. –Anthony

4. 49ers, 14-5: Alex Smith was mediocre in the NFC Championship Game, but he was facing a great pass rush with one great receiver (Vernon Davis), one average receiver (Michael Crabtree), and a whole lot of ugly after that (namely Kyle Williams). He deserves a shiny new contract, and he’ll get it. The defense will only get better, and Jim Harbaugh is building an absolutely fantastic program in San Fran. They’ll enter 2012 championed as a conference heavyweight along with the Giants, Packers, Saints, and (inevitably) the Eagles. –Joe

5. Saints, 14-5: If you have one of the greatest offensives ever, and you lose a quarterback duel to Alex Smith, someone has got to go. Gregg Williams has his ups and downs, but his playcalling was absurb. To this day, I can’t figure out why someone sends an 8 man blitz on 3rd and long. So the opposition has to punt from five yards deeper than they would’ve if they threw an incompletion? Steve Spags is an enormous upgrade, and their defense is stacked to the gills with talented players. Saints fans have a lot to look forward to. –Matt

6. Ravens, 13-5: As many pundits have noted, Joe Flacco played a hell of a game against the Patriots (better, really, than Brady did). With that said, it’s hard to argue that Cam Cameron’s ludicrous playcalling, plus the somewhat porous play of the offensive line, put the Ravens in the position of having to kick the game into overtime in the first place. Give supreme credit to the Baltimore D for doing what it does best, but apart from Flacco, the offense was off its game the whole time. –Anthony

7. Lions, 10-7: Matt Stafford did some work to prove he’s more than a Megatron Long-Bomb Delivery System, and hey, if you gotta go, getting outgunned by the most productive offense in NFL history isn’t a bad way to do it. Despite the final score, it was neck and neck until there were 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter. –Matt

8. Texans, 11-7: Not only did the Texans turn one of the worst defenses in the NFL into an elite unit, but they weathered injuries to marquee playmakers Arian Foster, Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Mario Williams. They nearly beat the Ravens with a rookie quarterback who went to Fordham. If Manning returns to the Colts, he may find that the once-cushy AFC South has found a bite. –Matt

9. Falcons, 10-7: You have to wonder whether a first-round playoff exit is the Falcons’ ceiling. Matt Ryan doesn’t look like he’ll ever be anything other than the 12th or 13th best QB in the NFL. Julius Jones will emerge as a dynamic playmaker, but Tony Gonzalez seems sure to decline, and Michael Turner hits the dreaded age of 30 in 3 weeks, and he’s carried the ball 1,299 times since he arrived in Atlanta 4 seasons ago. With John Abraham ageing on the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons are going to have to make some big moves to get over the hump. –Joe

10. Bengals, 9-8: With a core group of very green rookies, underperforming veterans (*cough* Cedric Benson *cough*), and a coach who seemed to determined to combust the team at all costs, the Bengals went 9-7 in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions, made the playoffs, and their quick exit was only the 3rd most embarrassing loss of the postseason (#1: Steelers. #2: Falcons. #3: Bengals). They’ll face a more difficult schedule next year, but it was a pretty good year for a team that was supposed to go 2-14. –Matt

11. Steelers, 12-5: Regular season performance be damned, they lost to Tim Tebow, and it wasn’t even that big an upset. –Matt

12. Broncos, 9-9: Listening to John Elway and the Broncos players’ ambivalence about Tim Tebow following their thrashing at the hands of the Patriots, it’s become clear that Broncos’ fans believe in Tebow far more than the Broncos’ locker room and front office. Tebow will go into training camp as the starter, but Tebow’s struggles against defenses he was playing for a 2nd time is a very bad omen for next season. With a dynamic young defense and talented young playmakers on offense, the Broncos would be best-served trading Tebow to the Jaguars—who desperately need Tebow to fill seats—for a ransom and then doing whatever it takes to defeat the Seahawks in the Matt Flynn sweepstakes. –Joe

By Joe Lazauskas, Anthony Benigno and Matt Alberswerth

Matt Alberswerth was born and raised in Washington D.C. He voluntarily subjects himself to Redskins games on a regular basis. Currently, he attends Sarah Lawrence College  where he studies literature more


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