Matzek's NFL Playoff Handicap Rankings
Casting my weekly power ranking aside, I worked to handicap this years playoff contingent from (1-12). I tried to focus on consistency, how they played in December, and what their path to Super Bowl 45 might look like. If these were power rankings, the numbers might be a little different.
For example - I had the Saints ahead of the Bears in my most recent power rankings, but considering their recent loss to the Buccaneers, loss of their best RB, and having to go on the road and outdoors for at least two playoff games makes me think they're not in great shape.
1. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – How are the Patriots 14-2? RB Danny Woodhead's lost fumble on Sunday was the Patriots first turnover since week 9, and Tom Brady's TD to interception ratio was a staggering 9 to 1 (topping his previous NFL record of 6.5 to 1).
2. PITTSBURGH STEELERS – Not that I really like the guy, but the Steelers have a leg up on most teams due to QB Ben Roethlisberger's ability to pull out 4th quarter victories in big time situations. A healthy Troy Polamalu certainly doesn't hurt.
3. ATLANTA FALCONS – The best way to beat Atlanta is to get them away from the Georgia Dome. That won't happen this year, the Falcons have home field advantage throughout.
4. BALTIMORE RAVENS – People think the Packers are a dangerous wild card team, but do you think anyone wants to play the red-hot Ravens? Winners of four straight, the Ravens boast a 12-4 wild card record.
5. CHICAGO BEARS - Had a hard time separating the Bears, Saints and Packers, but the Bears get a slight nod due to having a bye week and home game. They'll either face a Saints team who will be far removed from their preferred element, or a Seahawks team that finished the season at 7-9 (provided the Packers beat the Eagles). That being said, Jay Cutler will need to play better than he did against the Packers in week 17 for the Bears to find success.
6. GREEN BAY PACKERS - The Packers can beat teams with an explosive offense, and stingy defense, but after back-to-back playoff type games, will they have enough in the emotional tank to keep it up on the road? It's a different situation to be sure, but I think it's helpful that the Packers have already played at both Philly and Atlanta this season.
7 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - The Saints will have a tough road ahead playing out of their comfort dome in Seattle and Chicago (provided they win). Complicating matters, they will be without arguably their best RB in Chris Ivory.
8. NY JETS – To say Rex Ryan is a little bitter about Peyton Manning's success against him, is like saying Jack the Ripper had a bit of a temper. Rex hopes his defense can force Peyton Manning into having happy feet. (I'll avoid the obvious joke).
9. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES – Just a hunch, but I think the Eagles youth, and Mike Vick's damaged quad will lead to an early playoff exit.
10. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS - I had a tough time trying to figure out where to slot Indy. They struggle to run. Struggle to play defense. And they're without some top receiving threats. I think it will be an early exit for Peyton Manning...too much weight on his shoulders.
11. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS - They can run. They can play D. They have an elite WR in Dwayne Bowe. The problem with the Chiefs is they are nowhere close to being playoff tested.
12. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS - A home playoff game is their only saving grace.