1. New England Patriots (12-4, 0-0) – Purely a superstitious choice, admittedly, but the bottom line is that this team has beaten Denver convincingly three straight times and they’re getting healthy and playing very inspired defense at a time when it matters most. An interesting match-up with Watt and Foster perhaps, but they should roll Houston… again.
2. Denver Broncos (13-3, 0-0) – Peyton Manning is like a fine wine and his supporting cast on offense has been, well, brilliant. Coach Del Rio’s defense is an Orange Crush unit of note and after Saturday Joe Flacco is likely to be sporting symmetrical tattoos applied by numbers 58 and 92.
3. Green Bay Packers (11-5, 1-0) – Like the Pats, the Pack has one of the best trigger men in the “bidness” and a receiving corps of note. The D is back to full strength and Colin Kaepernick is going to realize that the hard way come Saturday night.
4. Atlanta Falcons (13-3, 0-0) – Possibly the most under-the-radar No. 1 seed in NFC history, these Falcons are finally mature enough to fly straight in January. A tough test from the Seahawks awaits, to be sure, but these Dirty Birds are ready to take flight and show why the combo of Matty Ice, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony G are ready for Prime Time!
T5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5, 1-0) – Love or hate Pete Carroll, this guy has put a ridiculously over-achieving product on the field this year. The rookie QB is sensational and Beast-Mode might be an understatement for Marshawn Lynch, who is a beast among boys. The defense has a nasty streak that plays well in January, but the loss of their best pass rusher may be a tough pill to swallow in trying to ground the aerial circus in the A-T-L.
T-5. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1, 0-0) – Loaded in so many phases of the game, it may be the lack of experience at QB that has me ranking such a solid, well-coached team this low. CK is a dynamic threat, but having to outduel the Discount Double Check Assassin sounds like a tall order. I have visions of Clay Matthews inventing yet another new Fathead poster by the time this one’s over.
7. Houston Texans (12-4, 1-0) – This team never ceases to amaze. They came to Denver on Sep. 23rd and looked ready to go J.J. Mega-Watt all over the league. By Dec. 23rd they were struggling to complete a pass on third down. Did they get some of the mojo back against Cincy? Maybe so. Is it enough to do anything to stay on the field with Captain America? What do YOU think?
8. Baltimore Ravens (10-6, 1-0) - Ray Lewis’ last stand? You would think that after the beat-down that Denver put on this team IN BALTY last month, that the fat lady is warming up her pipes to send that beast crazy-dancing off into the sunset after an absurdly productive and destructive career. Denver doesn’t come away from this one without the need of an ice-pack or three, but they will wish #52 the best… in his next career.