NFL Power Rankings | Football | CBC Sports

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Posted: Wednesday, January 4, 2012 | 10:06 AM

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Breakout receiver Jordy Nelson and the Super Bowl champion Packers are the top overall seed heading into the NFL playoffs. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Breakout receiver Jordy Nelson and the Super Bowl champion Packers are the top overall seed heading into the NFL playoffs. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Once a week, CBCSports.ca's Tony Care breaks down the balance of power in the National Football League.

Once a week, CBCSports.ca's Tony Care breaks down the balance of power in the National Football League.

1. GREEN BAY PACKERS [unchanged]
Overall record: 15-1
Streak: Won two
I picked the Packers to win it all at the beginning of the season and I'm sticking with the Super Bowl champs. Aaron Rodgers has a chance to join elite company - something Brett Favre could never do - should he lead his team to another title and win a second straight Super Bowl MVP award. As for backup Matt Flynn, who set a franchise record after throwing for 480 yards and six touchdowns against the Lions, he just made himself a lot of money next year.
2. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS [unchanged]
Overall record: 13-3
Streak: Won eight
Despite riding an eight-game winning streak, the Saints have to play an extra playoff game. But the way Drew Brees and the Saints' offence have been rolling, another game could actually be a good thing.
3. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS [unchanged]
Overall record: 13-3
Streak: Won eight
The Patriots secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the second straight year. However, slow starts against the Dolphins and Bills are a concern. New England can't afford to get down by double-digit deficits in the playoffs and expect to come out on top against better teams that can take advantage of a brittle defence.
4. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS [unchanged]
Overall record: 13-3
Streak: Won three
The 49ers could have a quick end to their post-season if they face the Saints in the divisional round. That explosive offence is nothing like San Francisco has played against all season.
5. BALTIMORE RAVENS [unchanged]
Overall record: 12-4
Streak: Won two
The Ravens finally clinched a first-round bye and at least one home game in the playoffs. It's what they've worked for all season long. Now let's see if it finally takes them to a Super Bowl appearance.
6. PITTSBURGH STEELERS [unchanged]
Overall record: 12-4
Streak: Won two
All is not well in Steelerland. Ben Roethlisberger is still bothered by a bad ankle. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is gone for the year with a torn ACL in his knee, and safety Ryan Clark is forced to sit out of the wild card game in Denver because of a sickle cell condition that makes it dangerous to play at high altitude.
7. ATLANTA FALCONS [up from 8]
Overall record: 10-6
Streak: Won one
Plenty of praise has been given to quarterback Matt Ryan but it doesn't mean a thing if he doesn't start winning playoff games. Ryan is 0-2 in the post-season and earning his first victory against the Giants at MetLife Stadium won't be easy.
8. DETROIT LIONS [down from 7]
Overall record: 10-6
Streak: Lost one
The Lions haven't won a playoff game - and this hurts to say - since they drubbed the up-and-coming Dallas Cowboys 38-6 in 1991. They'll have to find a way to upset the sizzling Saints in order to end a 20-year drought. As a side note, it's borderline criminal that quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for an incredible 5,038 yards this season yet didn't make the Pro Bowl. Are you kidding me?
9. N.Y. GIANTS [up from 11]
Overall record: 9-7
Streak: Won two
If there's a team that can upset the balance of power in the NFC it's the Giants. They have the best pass rush in the game, quarterback Eli Manning is playing lights out, and Victor Cruz (1,536 yards, 9 TDs) - who has come out of nowhere this year - is one of the biggest playmakers at receiver.
10. HOUSTON TEXANS [down from 9]
Overall record: 10-6
Streak: Lost three
How much more pain can the Texans tolerate? The team will likely go with third stringer T.J. Yates, who suffered a separated shoulder on his non-throwing arm, at quarterback against the Bengals. Another good hit and the Texans will be forced to roll out Jake Delhomme. Has a team ever made it to the Super Bowl with a fourth-string quarterback? I don't suspect it will happen anytime soon.
11.CINCINNATI BENGALS [down from 10]
Overall record: 9-7
Streak: Lost one
The Bengals came within a hair of beating the Texans on Dec. 11 and they couldn't have asked for a better situation to get their first post-season victory in 21 years against a banged up Houston squad. Oh, Cincy's last playoff win just happened to be against Houston - the Oilers, not Texans.
12. TENNESSEE TITANS [up from 15]
Overall record: 9-7
Streak: Won two
The Titans better hope RB Chris Johnson gets his act together next year. They can't afford another dismal season from one of their best players. Despite his late rally to gain over 1,000 yards, Johnson was anything but an impact player.
13. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES [up from 17]
Overall record: 8-8
Streak: Won four
"If I didn't think that next year would be substantially better, then I'd be standing up here announcing a coaching change," owner Jeffrey Lurie told reporters after announcing that head coach Andy Reid will be back for a 14th season. Translation: If the Eagles don't make a deep playoff run next season, Reid won't see a 15th year.
14. DALLAS COWBOYS [down from 12]
Overall record: 8-8
Streak: Lost two
It's simplistic to say that the Cowboys' needs in the off-season are to improve a pathetic secondary and a shaky offensive line. Let's face it: this team hasn't been the same since owner Jerry Jones decided to dump Jimmy Johnson - the brains behind the 1990s dynasty. And folks, that was 17 years ago.
15. DENVER BRONCOS [down from 13]
Overall record: 8-8
Streak: Lost three
The Broncos might as well have used an 18-wheeler to back into the playoffs. During Denver's seven-game winning streak, I gave credit to quarterback Tim Tebow for avoiding turnovers. But Tebow has been a turnover machine in the last three weeks, and the Steelers are the stingiest defence in the NFL.
16. ARIZONA CARDINALS [up from 18]
Overall record: 8-8
Streak: Won one
Imagine the numbers wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald could put up if the Cardinals ever resolve their quarterback woes.
17. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS [up from 20]
Overall record: 8-8
Streak: Won one
So president and CEO Dean Spanos decided to keep both head coach Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith. Seems old Dean is content with simply talking about being a Super Bowl contender rather than actually becoming one for more than a minute.
18. OAKLAND RAIDERS [down from 14]
Overall record: 8-8
Streak: Lost one
Here's the biggest problem facing the Raiders: They've traded away so many draft picks - the team only has a fifth- and sixth-round pick in 2012 - that the only way they can tangibly improve is through the risky and expensive free-agent route. Did I mention they still need to hire a GM?
19. N.Y. JETS [down from 16]
Overall record: 8-8
Streak: Lost three
Add dysfunction to the growing list of concerns facing the Jets in the off-season. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes quit on his team, quarterback Mark Sanchez is a disaster, and it appears head coach Rex Ryan doesn't have a clue on how to fix this mess.
20.CHICAGO BEARS [up from 22]
Overall record: 8-8
Streak: Won one
GM Jerry Angelo was canned after the Bears imploded following injuries to quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte. Plus, offensive co-ordinator Mike Martz quit. The pressure will be on the new general manager to keep up with the Packers and Lions, a large task to say the least.
21. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS [down from 19]
Overall record: 7-9
Streak: Lost two
Seahawks fans shouldn't worry too much about head coach Pete Carroll's confidence in Tarvaris Jackson as the No. 1 QB. Trust me when I say another quarterback will be under centre next season.
22. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS [down from 21]
Overall record: 7-9
Streak: Won one
With plenty of salary cap space for 2012, the Chiefs could be major players in free agency.
23. CAROLINA PANTHERS [unchanged]
Overall record: 6-10
Streak: Lost one
The Panthers biggest priority is to fix one of the worst defences in the NFL.
24. MIAMI DOLPHINS [unchanged]
Overall record: 6-10
Streak: Won one
The Dolphins are making a strong push to land Jeff Fisher as their new head coach. Fisher would be a terrific hire and he'll build a hardnosed team that opposing coaches won't be thrilled to play against.
25. BUFFALO BILLS [unchanged]
Overall record: 6-10
Streak: Lost one
There are so many holes on this Bills defence that GM Buddy Nix can't completely fix them for next season. That likely means another playoff-less year in Western New York.
26. WASHINGTON REDSKINS [unchanged]
Overall record: 5-11
Streak: Lost two
With Baylor's Robert Griffin III widely regarded as the second-best QB prospect behind Andrew Luck, the Redskins, who have the No. 6 pick in the draft, might have to trade up to nab the Heisman Trophy winner.
27. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS [up from 28]
Overall record: 5-11
Streak: Won one
Even with defences keying on him, running back Maurice Jones-Drew set the franchise record with 1,606 yards, which also gave him the season rushing title .
28. CLEVELAND BROWNS [down from 27]
Overall record: 4-12
Streak: Lost six
The reason the Redskins may have to trade up for Griffin is because Cleveland is also in dire need of a quarterback.
29. MINNESOTA VIKINGS [unchanged]
Overall record: 3-13
Streak: Lost one
Jared Allen came within a fourth-quarter sack of breaking Michael Strahan's season record of 22.5. Of course, Allen would've surpassed the mark if Bears QB Josh McCown had simply fallen in front of him like Brett Favre did for Strahan.
30. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS [unchanged]
Overall record: 4-12
Streak: Lost 10
There is no way a head coach can save his job when his team loses 10 straight games with little fight. It shows Raheem Morris didn't have enough leadership skills to keep his job.
31. ST. LOUIS RAMS [unchanged]
Overall record: 2-14
Streak: Lost seven
Injuries and a lack of offensive weapons all contributed to the firing of coach Steve Spagnuolo, who will still find work very quickly as a defensive co-ordinator.
32. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS [unchanged]
Overall record: 2-14
Streak: Lost one
The dismissals of vice chairman Bill Polian and son Chris - the Colts' GM - won't impact what happens to Peyton Manning. Owner Jim Irsay was always going to be the man to decide whether to pick up a $28-million US option in March. Whatever happens to Manning won't affect the Colts' desire to draft Andrew Luck, either.

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