2011 NFL Power Rankings: Divisional Round

Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, 09 January 2011. The Packers won, 21-16. EPA/JUSTIN LANE fotoglif882812

My biggest blunder from last week’s power rankings was that I had the Seahawks at No. 12 and the Saints at No. 5. And for obvious reasons, I don’t feel too badly about that misstep.

Let’s get nasty for the Divisional Round…

1. New England Patriots
Wildcard Ranking: 1
Rex Ryan is making this weekend’s game about him and Bill Belichick, which is understandable given that they’re the two head coaches. But while Ryan stands at the podium every day telling the media that the game will come down to which head coach gets the upper hand, Brian Schottenheimer is in the corner sweating bullets. That’s because this game won’t come down to Ryan v. Belichick. It’ll come down to Schottenheimer v. Belichick and you couldn’t dream up a bigger mismatch.

2. Atlanta Falcons
Wildcard Ranking: 2
While doing my daily web suffering this week, I get the sense that the Falcons are the true underdogs this Saturday against the Packers. Even though Atlanta is a 2-point favorite, the majority of fans believe that if the Packers play their game, they won’t be beaten. But everyone needs to keep in mind how difficult it is to play on the road – especially in consecutive weeks. The Falcons are also well rested and they don’t make many mistakes to cost themselves opportunities. Thus, regardless of if the Packers have the better overall stats or people believe that they’re the better team, they still have to play a near-perfect game this weekend in order to leave Atlanta with a victory.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Wildcard Ranking: 3
The Steelers better hope that Troy Polamalu is healthy enough to make it through the entire game this Saturday because that’s a completely different defense with him standing on the sidelines. It’ll also be interesting to see if Baltimore’s defense can shut down Mike Wallace like it did Dwayne Bowe last Sunday in Kansas City. Because you get the feeling that Wallace is rising to that elite receiver status.

4. Baltimore Ravens
Wildcard Ranking: 4
Pass protection is the key for the Ravens this weekend. If they can keep Joe Flacco upright, the Steelers can be had through the air. Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks don’t match up real well with the Ravens’ receivers, but Baltimore’s O-line must hold up under the pressure that they’ll face from the Steelers’ front seven. The Chiefs were able to get to Flacco a couple of times last week and they managed to strip him once. The Ravens won’t make it out of Pittsburgh this weekend if Flacco is constantly under pressure again.

5. Green Bay Packers
Wildcard Ranking: 6
Thanks to James Starks, the Packers have finally found a running game, which isn’t good news for the Falcons. When these two teams met earlier this season, Green Bay predominately threw the ball because it didn’t have much of a choice. But if they can stay balanced like they did last week in Philadelphia, then Atlanta won’t be able to sit back in coverage like it did last time and force Aaron Rodgers to throw underneath. Starks has added another dimension to this already potent offense.

6. Chicago Bears
Wildcard Ranking: 7
Boy did the Bears luck out or what? At the start of last weekend, it looked like they would either face the Eagles or Saints in the Divisional Round and then – surprise! – Seattle knocks off New Orleans and Green Bay knocks off Philadelphia. Now the Bears will host the Seahawks while the Falcons have to deal with the Packers. Of course, Seattle has already beaten the Bears in Chicago this year, so nothing is guaranteed. And if Seattle plays as hard as it did last weekend, then anything can happen. That said, unless the Seahawks can move Qwest Field to Solider Field this Sunday, I doubt they have two upsets in them this postseason.

7. New York Jets
Wildcard Ranking: 9
The Jets may be winning the war of words but it’s not like the Patriots are interested in that game. The one they’re focusing on is this Sunday in Foxboro and the last time the Jets paid a visit, things went very well for the home team. The Jets must run the football like they did in the second half against the Colts last Saturday. Without that type of running game, they stand no chance this weekend because Mark Sanchez isn’t going to get the best of Bill Belichick.

8. Seattle Seahawks
Wildcard Ranking: 12
The Seahawks proved last week what they could do when nobody believes in them and they seemingly have no shot at winning. But now they have to go on the road and face a Bears team that is well rested after taking last week off. Six times this year, the Hawks played at home and then had to travel the next week. And in those six road games, they lost by an average margin of 23.3 points. Inconsistency is the one thing this team must overcome if it wants to advance to the NFC title game.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>