2013 NFL Playoff Team Power Rankings

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2013 NFL Playoff Power Rankings

Ron Chenoy- USA TODAY Sports

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Yes, I know Christmas is over and everyone is still recovering from New Year’s but for NFL fans the turn of the calendar means one thing, the playoffs have arrived.

It’s been a special season full of amazing player comebacks, record-breaking performances and thrilling games. But now the stakes get higher and there’s more on the line than just a W.

The road to Super Bowl XLVII runs through Denver and Atlanta this postseason and it all starts with the AFC and NFC wildcard rounds this weekend. There are story lines aplenty as the NFL postseason gets underway.

Chuck Pagano’s inspiring battle against leukemia combined with Andrew Luck’s special rookie season has probably received the most headlines but it’s not the only riveting story.

Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris are having rookie seasons to remember to lead the revival of the Washington Redskins and don’t forget about the rookie quarterback making waves in the Northwest with Seattle. Adrian Peterson gets a third go-around against the Green Bay Packers, a team he’s already dominated twice this season.

Meanwhile in the AFC, Denver is a mile-high and on an 11 game winning streak. The New England Patriots are in their usual playoff mode. The Houston Texans look to regain some dignity after losing home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the span of two weeks. Cincinnati Bengals are brimming with confidence, having won seven of their last eight while their division rival Baltimore is reeling losing four of their last five heading into their matchup with the Colts.

The 2013 NFL Playoffs should be one of the most entertaining playoffs in recent memory. There are plenty of intriguing first round matchups and potential matchups that could happen if the chips fall in the right place.

Here are how the NFL playoff teams stack up as the postseason gets underway.

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12. Baltimore Ravens

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It's hard to imagine a division winner at the bottom of the rankings but the Ravens are reeling after having dropped four of their last five games.

Their defense is not the Baltimore defense fans are used to watching as they are just middle-of-the-pack statistic wise. They have been decimated with injuries, including their emotional leader Ray Lewis. Baltimore just hasn’t been the same without him and he’s questionable heading into their game against the Bengals but count on seeing him suited up for possibly the final game of his storied career.

Meanwhile on the offensive side of the ball they have strayed away from their strength, which is running the football. Their best offensive weapon Ray Rice has been spared a heavy workload this season, possibly in order to save him for the playoffs. Regardless, if the Ravens want to advance they will have to utilize Rice as much as possible.

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11. Minnesota Vikings

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Minnesota has been riding the coattails of potential Comeback POY/NFL MVP Adrian Peterson all season long and they will continue to do so this postseason.

In a rematch of last week’s playoff clinching victory over Green Bay, the Vikings will be looking to make it another memorable win over their division rival. Peterson has had a regular season to remember, becoming just the seventh player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season but it’s been the steady play of QB Christian Ponder and the Vikings defense that has righted the ship.

Ponder has been solid all season long and their defense has been stout against the run. The concern for the Vikings is their matchup with the Packers and their high-flying passing attack. Minnesota’s pass defense is just 24th in the league, surrendering 245 yards per game.

If the Vikings want to advance they will have to figure out a way to get Peterson going for the third time against the Packers.

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10. Cincinnati Bengals

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Cincinnati is one of the hottest teams going into the 2013 playoffs having won seven of their last eight ballgames including two straight over their division rivals.

QB Andy Dalton has come on strong after a slow start to the season and WR A.J. Green avoided a sophomore slump, becoming one of the premier receivers in the league. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been a pleasant surprise and is a solid back to rely on as they embark on their second playoff berth in as many years.

Their defense has been strong, especially against the pass as they have the seventh best pass defense in the NFL. They matchup well with their first-round opponent Houston and the game will likely go down to the wire.

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9. Washington Redskins

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Washington's revival has been lead by a pair of rookies, RG III and Alfred Morris. After starting out the season 3-6 they have completely turned their season around after their bye week, winning their final seven games of the season and clinching their first NFC East title since 1999.

The Redskins rushing attack is tops in the league and that will come in handy this postseason. A solid running game is a necessity in the playoffs and with Griffin and Morris in the pistol offense they are tough to defend. Unfortunately for the 'Skins they take on the league's top rated defense but they do it at home, which will give them a boost. It's a matchup between two rookie quarterbacks, something that is rarely seen in the postseason but it sets up a very intriguing battle.

Washington is talented and are one of the hottest teams entering the postseason. If they can get by the Seahawks they will be a tough team to deal with in the divisional round.

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8. Indianapolis Colts

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The Colts are the feel-good story of the 2012-2013 NFL season and with the return of head coach Chuck Pagano they have an emotional edge going into the playoffs.

It's been an unthinkable turnaround from a season ago, especially considering the circumstances surrounding the team's offseason. They departed from franchise QB Peyton Manning, welcomed in the most hyped rookie quarterback in recent memory Andrew Luck and were coming off a two win season. Not many people expected a season like they had but something special is going on in Indy once again.

Luck and the rest of the Colts have a tough battle in the first round against Baltimore but if there's any team that has an early advantage it's the Colts.

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7. Houston Texans

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After having the best record in the NFL for practically the entire regular season the Texans lost home-field advantage and a first-round bye in a span of two weeks.

Still, having the best record for the majority of the season says something about the talent that is in Houston. They are finally living up to their expectations but first and foremost they have to win a postseason game, something that they have not done since becoming the Texans. Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson headline a talented offense that can put up big numbers in a hurry.

Their defense is led by perennial NFL defensive player of the year candidate J.J. Watt and they look to shut down the Bengals top duo of Dalton and Green. If Watt plays the way he did during the regular season expect Dalton to be rushed all game long.

If Houston gets bounced in the first round again, like last year, it may go down as one of the worst collapses in NFL history.

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6. Seattle Seahawks

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The Seahawks also have had a nice revival led by a rookie quarterback and the best defense in the league. In recent weeks they have been named as one of the best teams in the NFL but I’m not quite convinced.

Their offense has come alive at the end of the season, and paired with their stingy defense, the Seahawks have certainly morphed into a tough team to beat. Rookie QB Russell Wilson does not turn the ball over and that’s probably the best trait that he possesses.

Question is, will the Seahawks be able to win on the road in the playoffs? They have the defense but going up against the Redskins pistol scheme will be a tall order. We’ll see whether Seattle is for real or just a flash in the pan.

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5. Green Bay Packers

Brace Hemmelgarn- USA TODAY Sports

It’s never good for the rest of the NFL if the Packers head into the postseason under the radar but that’s the case this season.

Sure they have an explosive offense but unlike the past few year’s they have not been talked about as one of the best teams in the league. With that said, the Packers still won their division and earned a first-round bye. Aaron Rogers is still himself and he’s finally getting his entire receiving corp. healthy for once this season. The defense has been dealing with injuries all year but they’ve held it together enough to get where they want to be.

They will be tough to beat as the playoffs get underway and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see the cheese heads back in the Super Bowl.

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4. Atlanta Falcons

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Atlanta earned the top seed in the NFC and they have done it by way of their offense. They have been a great regular season team in the past few years but to be truly great they have to perform in the playoffs. Home field advantage and a first-round bye will help but we’ve seen this before and the Falcons squandered it last time.

However, this time around I think the Falcons finally have the team that is poised to make a run as the playoffs begin. Their defense needs some work but the offense should carry them in the meantime.

If they want to advance QB Matt Ryan will have to play top-notch and they will need to get a steady dose of Michael Turner. If not, then the Falcons will once again be hanging their heads at home.

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3. San Francisco 49ers

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The 49ers have been talked about as one of the best team's in the league for the majority of the season and for good reason.

They made a quarterback change for the better and it has sparked them to their second consecutive NFC West title. San Francisco will look to make a return trip to the NFC Championship game, a place where they were just minutes away from earning a Super Bowl berth before giving up two late scores.

They're running the ball effectively and they still have one of the top defense in the league, which adds up to a tough team to beat. QB Colin Kaepernick adds another dimension to their offense and I think that he will be their x-factor this postseason.

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2. New England Patriots

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Surprise, surprise it's the playoffs and the New England Patriots have a first-round bye. It's almost like a broken record at this point seeing that the Patriots are one of the most consistent teams in NFL history.

Whenever the playoffs get going and New England is in the tournament they have just as good of a chance as anybody to win the whole thing. QB Tom Brady had another MVP caliber season but it's been their running game that has been the difference this season as it has added another dimension to their offense.

Their defense has also been much improved from a season ago and you almost have to think that they are the favorite in the AFC to make it to the Super Bowl once again.

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1. Denver Broncos

Ron Chenoy- USA TODAY Sports

There isn't a hotter team in the NFL than the Denver Broncos.

They have won 11 straight games and they have done it with authority as each win has come by more than at least a touchdown. Peyton Manning turned a team that barely made the playoffs a season ago into one of the top teams in the league. It's been a stunning turn of events for both Manning and the Broncos as neither party knew how this season would turn out. It's turned out for the best and now they are primed to return to their first Super Bowl since the Elway days.

Best thing going for the Broncos is that both their offense and their defense is in the top 5 in the NFL. Denver is the only team in the league to boast that stat and it will serve them well this postseason.