Isn’t it amazing what a difference a week can make in the NFL? In our previous power rankings, we were ready to anoint the Denver Broncos as Super Bowl champions three weeks prematurely. But after dropping a shootout against the Ravens, they’re certainly not on top any longer. Denver wasn’t the only favorite to lose either, which turned this week’s power rankings edition upside-down.
1. New England Patriots – The Patriots took care of business last week, just like you’d expect a Bill Belichick team to do. Tom Brady was his usually-brilliant self after throwing for 344 yards, three TD’s and no interceptions. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen combined to give New England a pretty solid running attack too – 123 rushing yards and 2 TD’s on 22 carries. The Patriots will be gifted with another home game thanks to the Broncos loss.
Last Game: 41-28 win over Houston Texans
Next Game: vs. Baltimore Ravens in AFC Championship
2. Atlanta Falcons – Atlanta was on the verge of blowing the largest fourth quarter lead (20 PTS) in playoff history to the Seattle Seahawks. The ‘Hawks actually grabbed the lead with just 31 seconds left on the board after Marshawn Lynch’s go-ahead touchdown. But Matt Ryan was able to connect on two long passes and set Matt Bryant up for a game-winning field goal with 8 seconds remaining. So is this scare going to inspire the Falcons to play better, or serve to foreshadow another blown fourth-quarter lead against San Francisco this week?
Last Game: 30-28 win over Seattle Seahawks
Next Game: vs. San Francisco 49ers in NFC Championship
3. San Francisco 49ers – Colin Kaepernick never looked phased as he out-dueled reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers during an offensive explosion. Kaepernick ran for 181 yards, which is a playoff record for quarterbacks, and he added another 263 yards through the air. More importantly, the second-year QB scored four total touchdowns for San Francisco and led them to victory. Can he duplicate the same feat and survive another road matchup against the Falcons? It’s certainly not out of the question.
Last Game: 45-31 win over Green Bay Packers
Next Game: at Atlanta Falcons in NFC Championship
4. Baltimore Ravens – Many times, you find out what a team is truly made of when the postseason comes around. And that’s exactly what we’re finding out about the Baltimore Ravens, who’ve won two games we didn’t think they would. Joe Flacco saved his best football for when the Ravens needed it most after throwing for 331 yards, three TD’s and no interceptions against the Broncos. Plus he hit Jacoby Jones for a 70-yard touchdown with just 31 seconds left to force overtime. Baltimore will definitely need more of the same from Flacco if they’ve got any chance of beating the Patriots at home.
Last Game: 38-35 double (OT) win over Denver Broncos
Next Game: at Denver Broncos in AFC Championship
5. Denver Broncos (Eliminated) – Denver’s defense played pretty strong throughout the regular season, but couldn’t seem to find an answer against the Ravens. Peyton Manning had his usual strong game (290PYDS, 3TD), but made a mistake in overtime by throwing across his body; the pass was picked off by CB Corey Graham to give Baltimore the ball at midfield. A few runs later, Justin Tucker nailed a game-winning field in the second OT to complete the upset. Now Peyton has all offseason to kick himself after an otherwise incredible year.
Last Game: 38-35 double OT loss to Baltimore Ravens
6. Seattle Seahawks (Eliminated) – Nobody was hotter than Seattle heading into the playoffs. Unfortunately, the odds were stacked against them with having to play every postseason game on the road. Even with this being said, they came extremely close to capping off a 20-point fourth quarter comeback against the Falcons. Next year should offer plenty of promise for the Seahawks because they return offensive stars QB Russell Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch. If Seattle can upgrade their receiving corps, prepare to watch Wilson really take off!
Last Game: 30-28 loss to Atlanta Falcons
7. Green Bay Packers (Eliminated) – In what seemed like a muddled NFC, many experts were picking Green Bay to make the Super Bowl. However, their defense wasn’t as strong as everybody thought; the Pack surrendered over 440 total yards to Niners QB Colin Kaepernick and 579 yards overall. Bolstering the defense will definitely be the focus as Green Bay heads into this offseason. As for their running game, maybe the Cheeseheads have found a reliable option in undrafted rookie DuJuan Harris.
Last Game: 45-31 loss to San Francisco 49ers
8. Houston Texans (Eliminated) – After starting out 11-1, Houston had aspirations of making the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance. But the way the Texans ended the regular season – which included losing three out of the last four games – may have cost them a real title shot. This no doubt hurt after losing the AFC’s top seed and being forced to play New England on the road. Defensive injuries definitely played a part in Houston’s demise, which made stopping Tom Brady and Co. that much tougher. Staying healthy will be the big challenge for the Texans next year because the talent is there.
Last Game: 41-28 loss to New England Patriots
9. Washington Redskins
10. Minnesota Vikings
11. Indianapolis Colts
12. Cincinnati Bengals