Playoffs are here, so I could just do a power poll of the remaining teams. But what's the fun in that? I'll still rank the teams, but we're handing out awards in the forms of comparisons to recent sports teams. But here at All Things Sports we're not limited to just football comparisons - that's why we opened the floodgates to recent NBA playoff teams. But enough rambling, let's pull rank!
12. New York Jets: "The 2003 Ravens Award" for the team that won snuck into the playoffs despite having no passing game to speak of. Come on, how can you take the Jets seriously? You think Sanchez won't wilt under pressure? You think the defense and running game will be absolutely perfect (perfect as in maximum results on every single play)? Really? REALLY? (in case you can't figure it out, I say no).
11.New England Patriots: "The 2007 Miami Heat Award" for the team that hasn't done anything to inspire confidence and is still living off its rep. The Patriots haven't beat a single elite team, and the Colts loss was the only time they even looked competetive against an upper echelon squad. What made their offense so lethal wasn't the fact that Randy Moss single-handedly destroyed secondaries, but rather the fact that he would draw double teams and Wes Welker would kill teams underneath, and then Brady and Moss would go for the kill shot once teams started focusing on Welker. The Patriots have no offensive balance, the defense is incredibly average, and the passing game isn't good enough to carry the team to the Super Bowl.
10. Cincinnatti Bengals: "The 2008 Houston Rockets Award" for the team that probably wasn't going to win the championship but deserves a pass because of the players they lost. The Bengals were a decent sleeper eight weeks ago. Now? Sorry, but that passing game is too limited to expect the Bengals to advance past the divisional round. The truth is that their passing attack was severely crippled when Chris Henry, their only deep threat, went down, and it certainly doesn't help that Rey Mauluga is gone from their stellar defense. I would love to see the Bengals advance after the tragedies that occurred with Henry and Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer, but I also have to be at least a little realistic.
9. Minnesota Vikings: "The 2004 Los Angeles Lakers" Award for the team who is wildly overrated on paper to begin with and has too much internal strife to be taken seriously. Wow, what a perfect analogy, right down to all the washed up hall of famers whom everybody inexplicably thought were still good. Congrats Brett, you're the 2010 version of Karl Malone and Gary Payton! Even if Brett stays healthy, avoids his annual winter swoon, and doesn't sabotage the team in an effort to promote himself (that's three if's, each of which is bigger than the pacific ocean)...the Vikings still have major issues. The secondary would have trouble stopping any competent high school passing attack, E.J. Henderson is out, and Brad Childress is still...Brad Childress. Not a recipe for success. (By the way, here's my take on the Favre-Childress feud. @Childress: You're only getting what you deserve. You sold your soul to the Devi...err, Brett Favre. You went - no, actually you crawled to Mississippi and begged Favre on your hands and knees to play for you. You let him skip training camp after preaching to the rest of your players the importance of sweating through grueling two-a-days and summer practices. You gave him a 5000000000 million dollar contract which he didn't earn and which completely dwarfed any offer that any other team would've given to him had there even been any teams competing with you for his services. You put your fate in the hands of a washed-up, selfish, attention hogging. me-first team-never diva, and now you expect us to feel sorry for you because you have to deal with a washed-up, selfish, attention hogging, me-first team-never diva? Not that I condone Favre, but this is who he is, and I have no sympathy for Brad Childress; he is getting exactly what he asked for).
8. Arizona Cardinals: "The 2008 Miami Dolphins Award" for the completely nondescript playoff team that technically has homefield advantage but realistically should expect to be one and done. Especially with Anquan Boldin out, the Cardinals probably aren't going anywhere, unless my boy Beanie Wells turns into Jim Brown (difficult, highly unlikely, but not impossible for someone like Beanie. Someone please explain to me why Tim freaking Hightower ever gets any playing time).
7. Baltimore Ravens: "The 2009 Atlanta Hawks Award" for the team that advances by default because its opponent was so bad. I really hope the Patriots destroy the Ravens, because Ray Lewis's celebrations have become more annoying than Don Shula, Mercury Morris, and the rest of the 1972 Dolphins. Ray, how many linemen need to paste you on your backside before you stop dancing around like you own NFL? Unfortunately, the Patriots simply aren't very good, and the Ravens are very very very lucky.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: "The 2007 Golden State Warriors Award" for the team that plays an exhilarating style but is limited by its inability to adapt. If you stop the eagles from getting big plays, you beat them. The Eagles won in the regular season because most teams couldn't contain Desean Jackson, Brent Celek, or even Jeremy Maclin, but the Cowboys can get pressure with their 3 down linemen and two outside linebackers, and their corners can stay with the Eagles receivers. The Eagles are extremely good, just not elite.
5. Green Bay Packers: "The 2006 Miami Heat Award" for the team that might just catch fire if it gets all the calls. Let's say the refs are willing to turn a blind eye to the occasional borderline pass interference. And assume the officials decide to be pretty lax on the offensive linemen regarding holding. Those are two pretty big if's, but the Packers can beat anybody under the right conditions. Their biggest problems are that sometimes Charles Woodson is too physical for his own good, and the offensive line can get exposed in pass protection. But if they get help from the refs, Aaron Rodgers will pick apart secondaries with ease, and the Packers have the best pass defense in the NFL. Unfortunately, the chances of that happening for four straight games are almost zero, but the Pack should beat the Cardinals, and maybe they'll get to the NFC Championship if they get lucky and face Team Turmoil, a.k.a. the Minnesota Favre's.
4. Dallas Cowboys: "The 2006 Los Angeles Clippers Award" for the team that seems perfect on paper but will eventually be doomed by its history (not to mention its horrific coaching). The Clippers had the most complete team in the Spring of 2006, but they caved in because, well...the Clippers are the Clippers, and Mike Dunleavy is Mike Dunleavy. Back to 2010. The Cowboys can win in any style. They have an upper-tier quarterback, a good run blocking offensive line, three excellent running backs, a gamebreaking wideout, and a tight end that blocks well and controls the middle of the field. Dallas's defense pressures the quarterback without selling out on the blitz, its defensive backs cover are good in press man coverage, everone plays the run, and special teams isn't a problem. It may seem odd to say that the Cowboys' history will doom the team, but forget the Staubach and Aikman/Jimmy Johnson years, just remember that the team hasn't won a playoff game in 13 years, choking away games in the most memorable ways possible. Oh yeah, and also remember that Wade Phillips is still Wade Phillips.
3. New Orleans Saints: "The 2008 Los Angeles Lakers Award" for the team that looks excellent on paper and in the games, but whose glaring weakness goes unnoticed until the worst possible time. When the Saints were passing the ball well and scoring they looked unstoppable, because they could run the ball to chew up the clock and their defense was built to force turnovers against teams trying to play catch up. But as the Cowboys showed, if you pressure Drew Brees and get a lead, the Saints are eminently beatable. Because here's the dirty little secret: The Saints' offense hasn't been balanced in the last month, and the defense is completely unreliable in a close game. Can the Saints win a title? Yes. But will they? Probably not. Eventually they will have to win a slugfest, and the defense will get exposed much like the Lakers' lack of a good interior defender was exposed against the Celtics in the finals.
2. San Diego Chargers: "The 2007 New England Patriots Award" for the team that is mediocre in most areas but has a phenomenal passing game that can hopefully carry the team to the Super Bowl. The Chargers aren't particularly good at running the ball or playing defense. But Phillip Rivers is finally living up to his reputation, Vincent Jackson and all the other giant receivers are finally living up to their collective potential. Ultimately I think the Chargers will fall short against the Colts because Indy can pressure Phillip Rivers with its front four and contain big plays in the passing game. But the truth is the AFC Championship is the real Super Bowl, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see San Diego win a title since they are such an exceptionally good passing team. New England was seconds away from overcoming its myriad of other flaws with its superb air attack, and its not out of the question for the Chargers to do the same and actually finish the deal in the Super Bowl.
1. Indianapolis Colts: "The 2003 San Antonio Spurs Award" for the flawed team that survives an inordinate number of close calls but ultimately succeeds because its transcendent superstar will the team to victory. Peyton Manning has officially surpassed Tom Brady on the list of greatest quarterbacks ever. Peyton is clearly one of the top five quarterbacks ever (the list: 1. Otto Graham 2. Johnny Unitas 3. Joe Montana 4. Peyton Manning 5. Tom Brady) and could move higher with more seasons like this one. The team has the talent of a 10 win team, but much like Tim Duncan, Peyton makes everyone around him 500000000% better. Which is why he will win another Super Bowl MVP in Miami.
Wild Card Round
Bengals 17, Jets 3
Cowboys 31, Eagles 21
Ravens 20, Patriots 16
Packers 34, Cardinals 23
Saints 34, Packers 28
Chargers 28, Bengals 14
Colts 30, Ravens 10 (Colts rest starters in 2nd half again)
Cowboys 27, Vikings 17
Colts 27, Chargers 21
Saints 24, Cowboys 20
Colts 31, Saints 23