Tuesday, January 12, 2010

LRN Power Rankings: Divisional Round

Oh yes! We're power ranking the remaining playoff teams, one through eight. However, today we are giving you a curveball starting last to first. With the Jets and Ravens stealing round 1 road playoff wins, things got very interesting very quick.

Get After It!

8. New York Jets (9) Flying high off their first round road win, the Jets are off to San Diego in round two. Fueling the Jets offense was rookie running back Shonn Greene who racked up 135 yards on the ground. My immediate reaction to the Jets win was, "I thought that would happen." The Bengals didn't look good the week before, they were missing injured playmaking linebacker Rey Mauluga, and that performance from Carson Palmer (18 of 36) left something to be desired. You may win one or two games by not making mistakes, but at some point you can't hide Mark Sanchez by allowing him to throw just 15 passes and have him hand it off 41 times.

7. Baltimore Ravens (11) It was over very quick. Ray Rice opened the game with an 83-yard scamper to get an early lead on New England and that's all she wrote. The Raven defense did what they had to do creating turnovers, being opportunistic, and making big plays. Patriot quarterback Tom Brady was forced to throw the ball 42 times, his most since week 10, and it resulted in three interceptions with just 154 yards passing. Next up, Indianapolis. If your a Raven fan know this: It means something that the Colt defense allows 126 yards per game on the ground. Between Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and Le'Ron McClain, they just gashed New England for 220+ yards, which was a defense that was allowing just 110 yards per game prior to their round one match up.

6. Arizona Cardinals (10) The Cardinals v. Packers game was simply video gamesque. Kurt Warner put up 5 TD's, nearly 400 yards passing, and stayed interception free. The Arizona ground game lead by rookie Beanie Wells averaged 6.8 yards per carry. All that without star receiver Anquan Boldin. The Cardinals have an offense that can hang with New Orleans, their second round opponent. In 2009 they were 6-2 on the road, going into the Bayou shouldn't be an issue. Here's the key with Arizona, both 3rd & 4th receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet proved they are better than "fill-ins" for Boldin. In the Wild Card round, Breaston snagged seven balls for 125 yards and Doucet scored two touchdowns on six catches for 77 yards. 'Nawlins has their hands full.

5. New Orleans Saints (6) We didn't realize it at the time, but at some point during their week 12 blowout of New England, they peaked. Since that victory, the Saints have scored 30+ just once. Since that victory, the Saints are 2-3 with both wins coming by only 3 points. By the time New Orleans kicks off on Saturday afternoon, Drew Brees won't have taken a snap in 19 days, close to three whole weeks. No one thinks that will be a factor at all? It's no secret that New Orleans has a defense which struggles against the rush (21st), and Arizona has a tendency to exploit opposing defenses for their weaknesses. Woah hold up, it isn't all bad. Brees & New Orleans have pretty much seen their playoff destiny for over a month now, they've showed several times the ability to get up for monster games, and seem to have a home field advantage second to none remaining in the NFL postseason.

4. Minnesota Vikings (5) Ah, the Vikes. Probably the toughest task of any home team this weekend, stopping Jay Ratliff, DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, and anyone else Dallas will be throwing at Brett Favre. By the way, when is the last time superback Adrian Peterson went over the century mark? November 15th, against Detroit of all teams. The Vikings should have been a run first offense from jump street. Explain how you possess the biggest backfield advantage since Barry Sanders and you turn to the passing game? His name is Brett Favre. In his 19th season (first in Minnesota) Brett Favre turned in his best statistical passing year of his career. In doing so, the Pro Bowler brought Viking fans out of the woodwork and into the loud and hyped up Metrodome. The 8-0 at home Vikings are getting ready to flex their muscles after a rough end to the season. All eyes should be on the Viking offensive line, if they can keep Favre upright, it'll be tough for Minnesota to lose this one.

3. Indianapolis Colts (2) Peyton had to think he'd be hosting the New York Jets. That was before Ray Rice threw a curveball at the New England Patriots. Almost two months ago now, the Colts rolled into Charm City before escaping with a two-point win on the toe of kicker Matt Stover. Now they get a Raven team coming off their biggest win off the season in New England. But these are the Colts right? The wise and all knowing Indianapolis Colts lead by their fearless signal caller, Peyton Manning. There is a reason why they call him the MVP year after year, because he is. The man that turned 2nd year receiver, Pierre Garcon from little known Mount Union into a playmaking NFL wide out. The same man which made former BYU standout Austin Collie into a 60-catch third option on the high powered Colts offense. No matter which Baltimore Raven team shows up in Indianapolis, you can bet Peyton will bring every one of his weapons, and use 'em.

2. Dallas Cowboys (3) Monkey removed. Curse lifted. Call it what you'd like to, the Dallas Cowboys have won a playoff game and show little signs of stopping for the first time in 13 years. Since their loss to San Diego, they've flat out bullied teams. Outscoring opponents 99-31 over their four game winning streak, the Dallas Cowboys have flexed their muscles. Tony Romo looking fantastic, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett mixing up the offense, Miles Austin doing what he's done all season long. Then there is the defense, the defense that is putting more and more pressure on the quarterback every week. Jay Ratliff, DeMarcus Ware, and Anthony Spencer are raising havoc while letting cornerback Mike Jenkins and safety Gerald Sensabaugh do the same in the secondary. They've laid it out for the rest of the NFC, this is what we are and your going to have to stop it or get out of the way. The questions are being answered in Dallas, finally the team littered with the most talent is beginning to play like it when it counts.

1. San Diego Chargers (1) Norv Turner and Phil Rivers will have to answer the call. Against a very confident New York Jet football team, the Chargers are going to have to do what they've done for 11 weeks, win. The bad news was landed after Baltimore upset New England. The Jets boast one of the NFL's best rushing games and the Chargers are ranked 20th against the run during the regular season. The health of Shawn Merriman has been a problem this season and last, yet they'll need him to come up big for them to continue. As for Phil Rivers, he's had a fantastic year and more than once answered the bell. Till someone knocks off San Diego, they're the team to beat and no one finished the season better.

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