NFL Playoff Power Poll: AFC

Ranking the six teams that made it to the next level in the AFC.

James LeBeauby James LeBeau

1. New England Patriots (13-3)

I don;t really feel comfortable placing the Patriots in the top place on this list but due to their number 1 seeding in the conference, I will. However, they have shown a surprising lack of explosion in the first half the past two weeks and considering the level of defenses in the playoffs, all are quality squads with the exception of theirs, falling behind early could spell the end for the Patriots. Thankfully they have Tom Brady, who can light it up when motivated and they should be in two weeks.

Chance to Rep the AFC: 33%


2. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

Despite all the injuries that continue to plague them, the latest to their starting running back Rashard Mendenhall (out for the postseason with a torn ACL) , The Steelers are still the most complete team in the AFC. They feature an explosive offense that is run by a two time SuperBowl winner who has shown he can do it in the clutch. After watching the Browns-Steelers game, I don't believe his ankle will limit him in any way. More importantly, however, their defense is looking in mid-season form and with the return of Lamar Woodley, they are in position to carry the offense if it struggles. On the negative side, they may have to go both to Baltimore and New England to reach the big game.

Chance to Rep the AFC: 33%


3. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)

Despite winning the AFC by virtue of beating the Steelers twice, I can't put too much stock in the Ravens chances because of the inconsistency shown on both sides of the ball. The offense has went from serviceable to stagnant, needing two long touchdown runs by Ray Rice to beat the Bengals Sunday, and the defense has been lit up more this year than any year in recent memory. If the Ravens are going to win in the postseason, even one game, then Joe Flacco needs to step up his game. You can't have a mediocre QB and expect to beat the quality of teams in the playoffs.

Chance to Rep the AFC: 20%


4. Houston Texans (10-6)

The Texans are a tough out for anyone they play in these playoffs. They have a stellar running game, a tough defense and one of the scariest wideouts in the game. Unfortunately, all these weapons are in the hands of a rookie QB and rookies don't normally fair well in the playoffs. If they had Shaub, then they would probably be second on this list but without them, they may be able to eek out one win.

Chance to Rep the AFC: 8%


5. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)

This is a team very similar to the Texans in talent and scheme with some minor differences. The most notable is that while nobody is going to confuse Cedric Benson for Adrian Foster, nobody is also going to confuse TJ Yates for Andy Dalton. Dalton has shown a skill and maturity beyond his years this season and has stood up well against the toughest defenses in the league. While I don't believe the Bengals can advance farther than the second week, the experience they pick up will prove vital for the growing skill of this team.

Chance to Rep the AFC: 5%


6. Denver Broncos (8-8)

Well, Tim Tebow is in the playoffs and that's something nobody thought would happen. Behind a dominant defense and a solid running game, the Broncos has emerged as the last one standing in the AFC West. On the bad side, they face the Pittsburgh Steelers in round one and though anything can happen once kickoff happens, don't expect any miracles on Sunday afternoon.

Chance to Rep the AFC: 1%