A Tad Too Early: Playoff Power Rankings
We are about two weeks into the beginning of the NFL Preseason, and there have already been a slew of signings, injuries, and trades that have greatly altered the potential playoff field. That being said, it is time to get serious and to use the preseason action to make egregious playoff predictions for the NFC and AFC this upcoming season.
AFC Playoff Teams
1. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts will always go far behind Andrew Luck, I mean the guy has been a perennial playoff quarterback since he entered the league. I also like the fact that the Colts get fluff games against the Titans and Jaguars twice, as well as the benefits of playing against the NFC South this season. I think Luck is really going to step his game up another level this year and will eventually end up bringing home-field advantage to Lucas Oil Stadium. The true test for this team though will be how they matchup against the New England Patriots if they have to meet in the postseason.
2. New England Patriots
Even with Brady out for a number of games, the Patriots are still well-disciplined organization that will be able to win without the Golden Boy's presence. New England still will finish the season with the best coach, quarterback, and tight end in professional football today, which will help them recover from the stumble out of the gate that is the Tom Brady suspension. New England might win back-to-back Super Bowls here people.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers could've won the Super Bowl last year if Le'Veon Bell had been healthy for the playoffs. However, the past is the past, and the prospects for a championship in Pittsburgh are the highest they have been in years. The Steelers have been spending the last few season bringing in new weapons on the defensive side of the ball, and I think this is the year the it finally manifests itself into a top ten defense. With Big Ben finally getting paid also, the Steelers are sitting pretty and are my dark horse candidate to win the Golden Super Bowl.
4. Denver Broncos
I think the Broncos are a playoff team this year, but I also think this will be the last year of elite play we should expect from Peyton Manning. He will always be the smartest quarterback on the field, but I don't believe his body can take the wear-and-tear of two more full NFL seasons. The receiving core will still be strong, even without Julius Thomas. However, the defense will have to step up in a bigger way than previous years and will really have to get after the quarterback even more than they had in previous years.
5. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill has progressed amazingly as a quarterback in this league from 2012 to now. He has steadily become a better passer statistically and in general since entering the league. Not to mention, the defensive line has become one of the NFL's best with the addition of Suh in the middle. With Brady out for the first four games possibly, I could see the Dolphins being undefeated a quarter of the way into the season.
6. Houston Texans
This is a tough choice because a few teams could have been put here. However, none of them are as fascinating as the Texans. The Texans have almost every possible position working in their favor except for Quarterback. Enter a veteran like Brian Hoyer, and suddenly this average team gets the extra win or two it needs to make it to the postseason. With a defense like that as well as a player like JJ Watt, the Texans may be a shoe-in for a wild card spot. They just need to steal ne game from the Colts in order to get it done.
NFC Playoff Teams
1. Seattle Seahawks
If Jordy Nelson had not torn his ACL, I would've anticipated the Green Bay Packers to take home field advantage in the NFC. Without Nelson though, the Packers may drop one or two games, which will be enough for the Seahawks to emerge as the NFC favorites. Getting several key players under contract was necessary. Plus, a big new receiving target like Jimmy Graham will do wonders for this already respectable offense.
2. Green Bay Packers
The Packers may have lost Nelson for the year, but they still have one of the most elite players in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers will be forced to make the most with what he's got. Beyond the Jordy Nelson problem though, this team is solid at every position across the board. This could be the year the Packers finally get the better of the NFC West in the playoffs.
3. Dallas Cowboys
Yes, I am repeating most of the division winners from last year, but that is because consistency creates the best opportunities to win. The Dallas offensive line, with Tony Romo under center, is one of the most lethal combinations of players in the NFL today. The Cowboys have set up their line to give them long-term dominance in their division. I don't care who their back is, that guy is going to rush for at least 1000 yards.
4. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons? You better bet. The Falcons have a great set of offensive weapons. The truly deadly pairing of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will step up and perform like they did back in 2012. The key difference to this team will be defense. I expect Dan Quinn to install an effective system that will allow the Falcons to trounce the other, weaker NFC South teams.
5. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are loaded with talent at a variety of positions. The true area in which this team has struggled has been in the health department. Key player after key player went down for the team last year and they were still able to reach the playoffs. I think with a fully healthy Carson Palmer and Andre Ellington, the Cardinals are a lock to make the postseason again.
6. Minnesota Vikings
This has been a rising team for many people coming into the 2015 NFL season. Teddy Bridgewater displayed true NFL quarterbacking talent towards the tail-end of last season and hopes to continue his progression. Factor in the return of Adrian Peterson, and, suddenly, the Minnesota Vikings are one of the most potent offensive teams in the NFL. The defense will need to step up though at key points throughout the season if the Vikings have any hope of making the playoffs.