Patriots, Falcons top my NFL power rankings

New England is standing pat atop my monthly NFL power rankings. And don't look now, but Tom Brady and the Patriots are on a collision course with the Ravens in the AFC divisional round:

1. Patriots (last Month's rank — 1): The Patriots enter the playoffs on an eight-game winning streak. They are undefeated at home. And they have the soon-to-be NFL MVP in Tom Brady.  The Ravens' road to the Super Bowl will go through Foxborough.


2. Falcons (2): In a wild and crazy season, one certainty was the Falcons playing well at home. It will take a team's best shot to knock out Matt Ryan, Roddy White and the Falcons in Atlanta.

3. Steelers (5): If Troy Polamalu is healthy, the Steelers should go on a deep playoff run. If he isn't, they could be one-and-done.


4. Packers (6): No one ever wants to play a talented squad that had to win its way into the playoffs down the stretch. The Packers, led by QB Aaron Rodgers, are extremely dangerous.

5. Ravens (7): The talent is there, but I wouldn't rule out anything with this team. The Ravens could lose to the Chiefs on Sunday or they could win the Super Bowl. To pull off the latter, Terrell Suggs might have to back up a season's worth of chatter aimed at Brady. I wish him luck with that.

6. Colts (14): The Colts also had to go on a run to make the playoffs. And with Peyton Manning back on track, they could do some damage.

7. Bears (8): I want to like the Bears more, but I just can't buy into the hype. They are 5-3 at home, which might have something to do with it.

8. Saints (4): The Ravens cooled off the Saints a few weeks ago, but the Saints lucked out and got a first-round bye of sorts (more on that later).

9. Eagles (3): The Giants will knock the Eagles out of the playoffs. How is that possible? Big Blue developed the blueprint to stopping Eagles QB Michael Vick: Make him run to his right.

10. Jets (10): I can't figure out what is more disturbing: the Ryan family foot fetish or the play of Mark Sanchez in the season's second half.

11. Chiefs (11): The Cinderella Chiefs need to knock off the Ravens to keep their storybook season alive. In other news, it's fun to imagine Ray Lewis as Matt Cassel's cruel stepmother.

12. Giants (9): They're the best team not in the playoffs (that would be the worst trophy ever).

13. Buccaneers (15): With a talented young QB in Josh Freeman and a bunch of rookies playing big roles in 2010, the Buccaneers will be a team to watch in 2011 -- well, if there is a 2011, that is.

14. Chargers (13): It's going to be weird not seeing the powder blue in the playoffs, won't it?

15. Cowboys (20): Throw out that 1-7 start, and the Cowboys did pretty well this season.

16. Lions (28): They won their final four games, and if Matt Stafford can stay healthy next season, look out for the Lions. Seriously.

17. Jaguars (12): The Jags let the Colts off the hook, but they exceeded expectations in 2010.

18. Raiders (16): What's crazier: that Oakland went 6-0 in the AFC West and didn't win the division, or that the Raiders want to ax coach Tom Cable after their best season since 2002?

19. Vikings (22): If they can find a decent QB, the Favre-free Vikings will be back in a big way.

20. Texans (21): This season was a bust, but at least the Texans unearthed Arian Foster.

21. Titans (26): If the Titans brass sides with Vince Young in the divorce, some team is going to get one heck of a head coach in Jeff Fisher.

22. Dolphins (17): Brandon Marshall is explosive outside the white lines, too, which is why the Ravens are content with Anquan Boldin.

23. Redskins (24): The Donovan McNabb benching seemed crazy, but Rex Grossman did OK. So what does that say about Donovan?

24. Broncos (29): I hope the new regime in Denver gives Tim Tebow a fair chance to be the guy. His first three NFL starts were eye-opening.

25. Bengals (30): Boy, all those Bengals fans who flooded our websites and message boards before the season sure got quiet fast, didn't they?

26. Bills (27): The Bills can't miss on their top pick. They have to draft a franchise QB in April.

27. Browns (23): With the firing of Eric Mangini, the extreme makeover continues. The Browns may have found a quarterback and a running back in 2010, though. That's a start.

28-31. The entire NFC West (N/A): Last time, I wrote that "I have no idea what to make of" the Seahawks, and they ended up winning the worst division in the history of sports on this planet with a 7-9 record. So you know what? I'm docking the whole division. Let's hope the NFL can find a solution for this. I'm OK with the Seahawks being in the tourney, but hosting a playoff game against an 11-5 team is ridiculous.

32. Panthers (32): If only the 2-14 Panthers were in the NFC West. But hey, drafting Stanford QB Andrew Luck will be better than getting blown out in the wild-card round, right?

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