Four down, eight left in the chase for the Super Bowl trophy in the National Football League. Last weekend all four home teams stayed true in the Wild Card round, and normally the divisional round belongs to the home teams, despite last year when Pittsburgh and Carolina pulled off upsets on day two of the divisional round. With that, here is this weeks power rankings for the remaining teams left in the playoffs.
1. San Diego – Bill Belichick is 7-2 lifetime vs MVP’s, and this weekend he will be forced to tackle a Chargers team with a variety of weapons. L.T. will be a marked man, and it will be up to Phillip Rivers to make some plays early to stretch the Pats defense. The Chargers defense will have to put some pressure on Tom Brady, and not allow him to move around much in the pocket like he did vs the Jets. This weekend will be by far the toughest test of the season for the Chargers with the spotlight on them to get the job done to be able to host the AFC title game next Sunday.
2. Chicago – I think they have the most favorable matchup of the weekend with hosting the beat up Seahawks at home in the early game on Sunday. The burning question for the Bears is the mindset of QB Rex Grossman going in. What type of game he has will go a long way in telling us how far the Bears go. The defense and special teams should be able to feast on the hurting Hawks, and as long as the lingering thoughts of last year don’t creep in, they should be able to advance to host the NFC title game next Sunday.
3. Baltimore – A classic offense vs defense matchup this week as Peyton Manning and the Colts hit Baltimore looking to knock off the Ravens. Baltimore got a long look last week at the running game of the Colts in their win over the Chiefs, and they want to make that a non-issue this week and force Peyton to throw a ton and force mistakes there. On offense, look for Steve McNair to manage the game and use a safe offensive game plan from Brian Billick to try and wear down the Colts defense that was really good at home vs KC last Saturday.
4. New England – The Pats move up with their impressive wild card win over the Jets Sunday. If anyone has a game plan in them to beat the Chargers on the road, it’s Bill Belichick. As stated above, Bill is lifetime 7-2 vs MVP’s, and his game plan will be designed to shut down LT and try and make Phillip Rivers have to make plays to beat them. The running combo of Corey Dillion and Lawrence Maroney will certain to give the Chargers some trouble. This is the best shot in my opinion for an upset.
5. New Orleans – Playoff jitters are sure to be there for the young Saints as they take on the red-hot Eagles Saturday night at a sold out SuperDome. Can Drew Brees and his weapons make enough plays to stop the Eagles? Don’t forget that the Saints, 10-6 on the year, lost four games at home, including their last two, so this one is not in the bag by any means. The Saints defense will have to shut down Brian Westbrook and keep Jeff Garcia contained to advance to the NFC Championship game.
6. Philadelphia – They are playing with a ton of confidence, and last Sunday’s final game-winning drive really showed it. They had no doubts in their minds that following allowing the game-tying score that they would be able to move down the field and line up for a game-winning field goal, and that is exactly what they did. The Eagles seemed to come out flat vs the Giants, but once they got in the groove, they were the better team. Now they must go on the road, at the SuperDome, and hold down the high powered Saints offense. How long can their hot streak continue?
7. Indianapolis – If Peyton Manning plays as poorly as he did vs the Chiefs, the Colts are going to get blown out. He cannot afford to be as careless as he was with three picks and some really odd decisions on throwing the football. The defense finally stepped up vs the run, and they will need that and more on the road vs a solid Ravens offense. Manning must turn it around and have a good game, and the defense needs the same type of effort they had last week to beat the birds.
8. Seattle – The Seahawks MASH unit is going to have a very tough time on the road this weekend, as at home Saturday they needed the botched snap of the century to survive against the Cowboys. This week they need a fast start, and then need to hold down the Bears offense in order to pull off the big upset. If they fall behind early, look out, as they are going to have a very tough time trying to comeback on the road vs a hostile crowd. Don’t forget the Hawks were blown out in Chicago earlier this year 37-6 in week four.