Now that the Aaron Rodgers Show (aka Green Bay Packers) are out of the playoffs there's a big shakeup in the playoff power rankings. Here's how I rate the remaining teams in the playoffs and why:
1. San Diego Chargers: Winners of 11 straight games makes them the hottest team in the NFL. Phillip Rivers is tossing the ball all over the field and the defense looks revitalized. Plus, with Darren Sproles in the return game they're a threat in all three phases.
2. Indianapolis Colts: Yeah, they're on a losing streak, but I'll chalk that up to Curtis Painter and not playing the starters. This team could be undefeated and would be number one if they didn't take their foot off the gas at the end. Defense is fast, and they've got this guy named Peyton Manning. He's pretty good.
3. Dallas Cowboys: 2nd hottest team in the NFL, dominated a pretty good Eagles team two weeks in a row. DeMarcus Ware scares the hell out of me and I'm just watching the game on TV. Tony Romo looks sharp and Dallas has 3 legitimate starting running backs on the roster. Clicking on all the right cylinders, but can they overcome their previous playoff failures?
4. Minnesota Vikings: Although they didn't finish strong, they looked good in the last game of the season. Their defense is getting Pat Williams back at tackle, and they still have a potentially dominant defensive line-- although the secondary has been getting pushed around a bit. The offense has one of, if not the best, running backs in the NFL, and Brett Favre is still tossing it around. But the looming question is can Favre prevent the gunslinger in him from throwing 3 INTs in the near future?
5. New Orleans Saints: Lots of weapons, but struggling over the last 3 games. 3 weeks ago I'd have them ranked second, but the inexplicable loss to the Bucs and the thrashing by Dallas really makes you wonder. The defense is a big question right now, but with all that firepower and a bye they could put it back together.
6. Arizona Cardinals: The Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde factor means they have to be ranked lower. When their offense is clicking they are SCARY good (see 51 points vs a good Packers D). Kurt Warner is at the helm, which always gives this team a shot. But can the defense stop anybody?! Sometimes yes, sometimes no...which is why you never know what you're going to get with the Cards.
7. Baltimore Ravens: Getting back to their old school ways of running the football, Flacco hasn't had to do much lately (see 4/10 passing Saturday). Their defense can get pumped and get it going and if they play like they did against the Pats again they are scary. But again, this team has been inconsistent all year, so who knows how they come out against Indy.
8. New York Jets: The Sanchize didn't hurt them last week, but that's the big risk with this team. The defense is dominant and they can run the ball to win-- IF, and that's a BIG IF, they don't turn it over.
Also, this doesn't mean I think one of these lower ranked teams won't win-- that's about the matchup, which I'll be talking about later in the week, and this is about momentum and talent in a vaccum.