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Saturday, September 11, 2010

The 12 Teams That Will Make the NFL Playoffs and Why

1.  Indianapolis Colts

  • The Colts are coming off a year when they very easily could have gone 16-0 had they chosen to play their starters in the last two games..  They had locked up the first seed in the AFC and chose to rest their starters.  I'm not sure that they can have as much success in the regular season unless their running game improves a bit.  The Colts' have Bob Sanders healthy (for now) which will drastically improve their defense and Peyton Manning is a winner.  

2.  Baltimore Ravens

  • I think the Ravens adding Anquan Boldin this offseason was the biggest move of the year.  The Ravens have long had a powerful run game and punishing defense.  The Ravens now have a quarterback with a rocket for an arm, and adding Boldin is going to take a ton of pressure off of Derrick Mason and another new addition at WR in Donte Stallworth.  The Ravens defense will be above average as long as Ray Lewis is in the middle (and perhaps longer).  They are huge up front with Haloti Ngata and Rookie Terrence "Mount" Cody.

3.  New York Jets

  • The Jets had one of the flashiest offseasons in recent memory, adding to a team that ran their way to the AFC Championship game.  They added the likes of WR Santonio Holmes, CB Antonio Cromartie, RB LaDanian Tomlinson, OLB Jason Taylor and veteran QB Mark Brunell. The Jets' big question mark is at quarterback with Mark Sanchez at the helm.  I was really torn between picking the Patriots or the Jets to win the AFC East but I think the Patriots just have too many question marks on defense.

4.  San Diego Chargers

  • The Chargers have the luxury of playing in a very weak AFC West, but they are currently without two former Pro Bowlers in WR Vincent Jackson and LT Marcus McNeill.  The Chargers are expecting huge things from rookie RB Ryan Mathews.  They will need some players to step up (cough, Shawne Merriman) on defense if they want to make any moves in January.  They need a pass rush, especially with the loss of Antonio Cromartie.

5.  New England Patriots

  • Tom Brady is going to have a huge year this year.  The young talent that they have at wide receiver and tight end is astounding.  Randy Moss and Wes Welker have been Brady's favorite targets in the past but he now has young players such as WRs Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and rookie TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.  The defense is very inexperienced, however.  The pass rush may be a concern with the loss of DE Ty Warren to injured reserve.  CB Leigh Bodden is out for the year and three of the four starters in the secondary are in their second or first year.  However, Brady will be able to carry them to, at worst, a wild-card spot in the playoffs.

6.  Houston Texans

  • The Texans have been steadily improving since the franchise began in 2002.  I think the Texans are ready to take the next step and make the playoffs this year.  They have a top five quarterback and arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, but their running game is a huge concern, especially after the injury to rookie RB Ben Tate.  Brian Cushing will be out four games and the loss of CB Dunta Robinson is big, but with Cushing in the lineup the Texans have an elite linebacking core.

1. New Orleans Saints

  • I know this is a bit unfair considering their first game has already happened, but beating the Vikings in week 1 was an enormous win for the Saints.  Not only was it a very tough opponent but it was essential for the defending champs to make a statement in week 1.  They return almost every starter from a year ago, and the only team I see that could beat them out for the first seed is...

2. Green Bay Packers 

  • Aaron Rodgers has done more than just fill in for Brett Favre the last two seasons and Ryan Grant has run for over 1,200 yards the last two years.  The Packers and the Vikings will both win a lot of games in the division playing two games each against the Lions and Bears.  In addition to their great offense they have a very solid defense and they should be able to knock off the Vikings for the NFC North title.

3.  Dallas Cowboys

  • The Dallas Cowboys have an incredibly stacked roster, but the NFC East will simply be very competitive this year.  The Cowboys will have to play the Eagles, Giants and the much improved Redskins twice each.  The Cowboys are definitely the superior team and will win the NFC East but will not finish with a record good enough to earn them a bye-week.

4.  San Francisco 49ers

  • If the 49ers were in any other division I highly doubt they would be a divisional winner.  However, they are in the NFC West with the Seahawks, Cardinals and the Rams.  The 49ers also have Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Patrick Willis.  The three of them singlehandedly give them a chance to win every game in that division.

5.  Minnesota Vikings

  • The Vikings have the ability to be one of the top wild-card winners in recent years.  Two of the top three teams in the NFC are in the division and the winner of this division could come down to a tiebreaker.  It doesn't help that they began their season 0-1.  Losing Sidney Rice for half of the year is a big blow and Greg Camarillo will need to step up for them to have a shot at the NFC North.

6.  Atlanta Falcons

  • I think the Eagles, Giants and Redskins will beat up on each other enough that there will be no wild card winner from the division.  The Falcons absolutely have the talent to make the playoffs and to make a push.  Matt Ryan is a gamer and having targets like Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White with a rushing attack powered by Michael Turner is certainly helpful.

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