The 2007 NFL Playoffs is upon us, and the field of 12 is as wide open as ever. This week and next instead of going over a top 5 and bottom three for each conference, I will simply give you rankings for all 12 teams left in the playoff chase. Once we get to four next week, that will be the final power rankings until the end of the year when I give my 1 through 31. Here are this weeks playoff rankings:
1. San Diego – The Chargers seem to be the most complete team as we enter this years playoff. They have the number one ranked offense in the league, putting up over 30 points per game. On defense they are 7th, and they have a running back that is a game-breaker and can change a game in one play. The only question will be the play of Philip Rivers. Does he have enough to get past a complex defense like the Ravens or Pats will throw at him?
2. Chicago – I am not as with this team as I was just a few weeks back. Despite that, I still think they have enough to at least make it to the NFC Title game, which would then be in Chicago. The defense is going to have to carry them, and special teams had better give them help as well, as the offense is starting to look like it was when they were slumping a few weeks ago. Lovie Smith better have the pulse of this team and where Rex Grossman’s head is early on in that Divisional game next weekend.
3. Baltimore – Brian Billick went from being on the hot seat to a coach of the year after taking over the play calling for Jim Fassal early in the season. The Ravens will be another team that will depend on its defense, but they have an offense that seems to be playing better right now, so they can afford to allow 14 points and still have a shot to win. Jamal Lewis’ running and mistake free ball from Steve McNair will be the keys to seeing if the Ravens can get past the Chargers.
4. New Orleans – Despite being the number two seed in the NFC, the Saints are not being given much of a chance to make it to Miami, but trust me when I say that they can give the Bears a serious run for their money. Drew Brees gave them solid play from the QB spot, and Reggie and Deuce combined are as good as any tandem in the league. Their young defense may be their downfall, as they have shown some signs of wearing down late in the year. Also their inexperience from players to the coaching staff may hurt them as well.
5. Philadelphia – Why not? The Eagles are the hottest team in the league in my opinion, and with Jeff Garcia and a defense that is playing as well as any team right now, they are showing they can make some noise this postseason. I think they are the most likely team to make it to round two as they host the Giants on Sunday. Brian Westbrook and Garcia should be able to do some damage to the soft Giants defense, and the Eagles D should give Eli and the Giants some headaches which could lead to an easy win. Look out Saints in round two.
6. New England – The Pats were 12-4, yet for the second straight year will have to host a wild card game. They have bounced back from a December 10th loss at Miami 21-0 to win three straight, and in those games have outscored their opposition 104-51. Tom Brady is as good in the playoffs as any QB, and while the Jets beat them in Foxboro 17-14 on November 12th, this time around should be a different story. Look for a trip to San Diego in round two.
7. Indianapolis – The field from here gets somewhat weak, but the Colts to me are the best of the rest in the two conferences. Indy’s loss to the Texans two weeks ago killed their shot at the #2 seed in the AFC and now they host Larry Johnson and the Chiefs in a wild card game. KC can’t tackle, and I think we’ll see Peyton and the Colts score a lot in getting a win here. The problem will be making sure they find a way to stop Johnson, which won’t be easy. Despite that, I think they survive here and travel to Baltimore for an interesting game in round two.
8. Seattle – At 9-7, this team would have likely not made the playoffs if they played in the AFC. While they still have Shaun Alexander and Matt Hassleback, they are going to struggle with the Cowboys just for the right to play next week in Chicago. They were only 5-3 at home, and the magic they have had over the past few years at Qwest Field is not as strong as in the past. Interesting note is they were the only team of the four teams last season in the AFC and NFC Championship games to even make it to the playoffs. Look for one and done for the Hawks.
9. Dallas – Ugly loss to the Lions Sunday, and in the end, it really didn’t mean much since the Falcons couldn’t beat the Eagles 2nd stringers in a late game in Philly. Tony Romo’s magic has been weak the last few weeks, and the Boys enter the playoffs losers in three of their last four. In those four games their defense has been awful, allowing 132 points (33 per game) in that stretch. It will be up to Romo and the offense to pull off the upset in Seattle Saturday night.
10. New York Jets – A great story this season, the Jets have turned around a team that was picked by many to win between 3-5 games and are the #5 seed in the AFC. They also have the confidence that they beat the Pats on the road this season, but I think they will fall to Brady’s playoff spell and make an early exit from the field of 12. Even with that, a solid season and something to build on for the Jets.
11. Kansas City – Backed in to the playoffs, but they will take it. At 9-7, they lost games to the 4-12 Browns, 6-10 Dolphins and 8-8 Steelers. Their defense is not very good, and I think Saturday vs the Colts they are going to need turnovers and a monster game from Larry Johnson to make it close. Two late wins over the Raiders and Jags do nothing to make me think this team can get past the wild card round.
12. New York Giants – Talk about a team that should be home for the winter, the Giants are one of the worst teams to make the playoffs in some time. Losers of six of their last eight, they needed to hang on Saturday night to beat the Redskins to sneak into the field of 12. Tiki Barber, who reportedly has signed a TV deal with ABC and ESPN, will need another 234 yards rushing for the Giants to have a chance in Phillly. A weak outing against the Eagles may land Tom Coughlin on the unemployment line.