NFL Power Rankings for Jan. 4th, 2013

The NFL Playoffs begin tomorrow with the Cincinnati Bengals visiting Houston, and Minnesota taking on the Green Bay Packers. And seeing as how the playoffs are set, it’s become much clearer as to who the top teams are at this point. That said, you’ll find a familiar number one team from our past rankings in this edition. Now let’s continue by discussing all 12 postseason teams.

1. Denver Broncos (13-3, 1st seed in AFC) – Last week we talked about how the Broncos would need Houston to lose if they were to grab home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Well their wish came true and Peyton Manning and the Broncos are in perfect position for a Super Bowl run. They should be fairly healthy too when they play next week against the lowest winning AFC seed..

Last Game: 38-3 win over Kansas City
Next Game: First round playoff bye

2. New England Patriots (12-4, 2nd seed in AFC) – The Patriots move up one spot from last week after dismantling Miami. Like Denver, this team was a huge beneficiary of the Texans losing since they grabbed a first round playoff bye. Assuming they win their second round game, a blockbuster AFC Championship duel could take place between Peyton and Tom Brady.

Last Game: 28-0 win over Miami
Next Game: First round playoff bye

3. Atlanta Falcons (13-3, 1st seed in NFC) – Despite having the NFC’s top seed locked up, Atlanta coach Mike Smith played his starters against Tampa Bay in order to “finish the season the right way.” Unfortunately, even their starters couldn’t make this a reality as the Falcons gave up 142 rushing yards to Doug Martin and lost. What’s worse is that Atlanta lost two key defensive players to injuries (DE John Abraham, CB Dunta Robinson) during the debacle.

Last Game: 22-17 loss to Tampa Bay
Next Game: First round playoff bye

4. Seattle Seahawks (11-5, 5th seed in NFC) – We were tempted to move Seattle up to number three based on their extremely hot run. However, it’s a stretch to rank Seattle as the NFC’s best team when they’ll be playing every playoff game on the road. Russell Wilson quietly tied Peyton Manning for the most touchdown passes ever by a rookie (26) – something nobody would’ve expected after the first few games.

Last Game: 20-13 win over St. Louis
Next Game: at Washington Redskins (First Round)

5. Green Bay Packers (11-5, 3rd seed in NFC) – Green Bay lost a classic game to the Vikings as Minnesota was fighting for their playoff lives; this sets up a rematch between these two teams next week. It’s hard to tell what will happen in this rubber match, but we like Green Bay since they’re at home. But don’t forget that Adrian Peterson has run for over 400 yards in two games against the Pack!

Last Game: 37-34 loss to Minnesota
Next Game: vs. Minnesota Vikings (First Round)

6. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1, 2nd seed in NFC) – WR Michael Crabtree had a career game (172RYDS, 2TD) to help the Niners secure the NFC West title and a first round bye. San Francisco has had its struggles over the second half of the season, so nothing is guaranteed in the playoffs.

Last Game: 27-13 win over Arizona
Next Game: First round playoff bye

7. Indianapolis Colts (11-5, 5th seed in AFC) – People have expressed concerns about the Colts’ run defense all year – and for good reason. However, everything else seems to be firing on all cylinders for Indianapolis and we actually like them to beat the Ravens, despite playing on the road.

Last Game: 28-16 win over Houston
Next Game: at Baltimore Ravens (First Round)

8. Houston Texans (12-4, 3rd seed in AFC) – How the mighty Texans have fallen after being 11-1 and firmly entrenched atop the AFC. With losses to Indianapolis, Minnesota and New England over the past four weeks, Houston now drops into the Wild Card round. Based on how the Bengals are streaking and the Texans are slumping, the game tomorrow should be really good.

Last Game: 28-16 loss to Indianapolis
Next Game: vs. Cincinnati Bengals (First Round)

9. Washington Redskins (10-6, 4th seed in NFC) – The Redskins won a hard-fought game against the Cowboys to secure the NFC East title and a playoff berth. This is no doubt an intriguing team offensively with rookies Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris leading the charge. Morris actually ran for a career-high 200 yards and three touchdowns to power his team over Dallas.

Last Game: 28-18 win over Dallas
Next Game: vs. Seattle Seahawks (First Round)

10. Minnesota Vikings (10-6, 6th seed in NFC) – Adrian Peterson fell just eight yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. But he’s certainly not worrying about that with a big game against the Packers tomorrow. Can AP continue his torrid pace against Green Bay for a second straight week?

Last Game: 37-34 win over Green Bay
Next Game: at Green Bay Packers (First Round)

11. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6, 6th seed in AFC) – Cincinnati won a meaningless contest over Baltimore since both teams had their playoff seeds wrapped up before the game. But what’s not meaningless is how the Bengals won six out of their last seven games to grab a postseason bid. With the way that Houston has been faltering lately, Cincinnati actually has a chance to win in the first round.

Last Game: 23-17 win over Baltimore
Next Game: at Houston Texans

12. Baltimore Ravens (10-6, 4th seed in AFC) – After starting the year with a very respectable 9-2 record, the Ravens ended on a sour note by losing four of their past five contests. Taking this into account, Baltimore’s decision to rest most of their starters in last game’s second half was probably a good one.

Last Game: 23-17 loss to Cincinnati
Next Game: vs. Indianapolis Colts (First Round)

Adrian Peterson eyes Rushing Record in Unfathomable Season

Almost one year ago today, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tore several ligaments in his knee during a Week 16 game. The injury was so bad that many people questioned how effective he’d be coming into this season. The answer: he’s been the best running back in 2012…..and perhaps history, depending upon what happens over the next two weeks.

Earlier today, the man they call “All Day” obliterated the St. Louis Rams while dashing their playoff hopes in the process. He rushed for 212 yards on just 24 caries (8.8 YPC) and scored on an 82-yard touchdown run. Following this game, he’s now rushed for over 100 yards in the past eight games with six of these contests seeing AP go over 150 yards.

Thanks to his improbable streak against some of the league’s best defenses, Peterson is now eyeing one of the most coveted records in NFL history.

294 Yards to History

As of now, Adrian Peterson has powered his way to 1,812 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 289 carries. If the season stopped today, he’d have 433 yards more than the next closest running back in 2012, Marshawn Lynch. He’d also have the 19th best rushing season in NFL history. However, the season’s not over yet; in fact, there are still two games remaining.

Based on the pace that Peterson has been going at, he’s got a very realistic chance to beat Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record of 2,105 yards. This total, which happened in 1984, has stood for 28 years. So can Peterson break it based on his remaining schedule?

Favorable Schedule

The past two weeks will see Minnesota play on the road against the Houston Texans and at home against the Green Bay Packers. On paper, the Texans aren’t exactly the most favorable team to play since they’re fifth in the league against the run and allow only 93.2 RYPG.

However, they’ve been lit up over the past two games after allowing 127 rushing yards to the New England Patriots and 124 rushing yards to the run-challenged Indianapolis Colts.

As for the Packers, they are a more favorable defense having allowed 114.3 RYPG this year. They’re fresh off giving up 212 yards to Peterson in Week 13, so we can reasonably expect some pretty outstanding results from All Day in the regular season’s final week.

What if the Record doesn’t fall?

While it’s no slam dunk for Adrian Peterson to reach 2,106 rushing yards this year, we think that he has a very good shot. But even if the 27-year-old doesn’t grab the single season record, he may have already completed the most impressive season among running backs in history.

As alluded to in the beginning, he’s coming off of reconstructive knee surgery, which should have made 2012 even tougher. Instead, Peterson is enjoying a career season and proving that he’s truly a freak of nature.

One more thing that we should mention involves what else is surrounding AP…..or at least the lack of what’s surrounding him. Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder showed flashes of brilliance early on in the season, but has thrown for 200 yards just once in the past six games.

WR Percy Harvin was definitely a nice weapon for the Vikings early on after racking up 677 receiving yards on 62 catches midway through the season. However, he was forced out of action (ankle) in Week 10 and won’t play the rest of the year.

Taking all of this into account, opposing defenses know what’s coming when they face Minnesota – Adrian Peterson and a whole lot more Adrian Peterson. But they still haven’t been able to slow down him down. So with defenses throwing everything at him, and AP being less than a year removed from knee surgery, he’s already proven his place in history. The single season rushing record would just cementer this place even further.