All season, we have espoused the weekly Power Poll to the common NFL belief that you are what your record says you are. Today, that ends. Today, as the playoff field starts to fill, we look beyond qualifying for the dance and look at teams that can go the distance. And playoff football is different in every regard.
There comes a point in the chase for the Lombardi Trophy that every team will have to do each of these three things:
1) Make one tough defensive stand;
2) Convert one tough third-and-4 to ice a game;
3) Rally with 90 seconds left and down three.
In reference and deference to those three questions, here's this week's power poll completely thrown on its ear:
1) Denver: Ask yourself which team in the NFL has each of these three components more than Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos? The lack of qualified answers will surprise you.
2) New England: We're destined for an AFC semifinal or conference title game between Manning and Tom Brady, aren't we? Well, it would be a great Christmas present for the sports fans in all of us.
3) New York Giants: Yes, they have some work to clinch a postseason spot, but when they get there, the NFC title goes through the Big Apple, regardless of records.
4) Atlanta: The Falcons' record has been inflated over the course of the season. The Falcons' shortcomings have been inflated since Sunday's thumping at Carolina. They simply are not as good as 11-2 suggests or as bad as they looked against Cam Newton and the Panthers earlier this week. These Falcons have Super Bowl dreams, and those are based in the success generated by an elite passing game. But if the Falcons hosted the Giants in the NFC title game, who are you putting your hard-earned entertainment money on? Yeah, we've got Eli and the Boys, too.
5) Green Bay: The Packers get a slight edge over San Francisco and Houston because Aaron Rodgers lives in Green Bay. And come playoff time, that's plenty.