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NFL Teams Limp Into The Playoffs

While Baltimore Ravens fans celebrate their team's AFC North-clinching victory along with the first round bye and home playoff game, look around the league at the rest of the teams that made the playoffs and check out how many either limped or backed into the post season on the final weekend of the regular season. The Ravens controlled their own fate and while the Number one seed in the AFC would have been sweet, a 24-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals ensured that all of the other games would be relatively inconsequential to them.

The New England Patriots guaranteed that the road to the Super Bowl for the AFC would go through Foxboro, Massachusetts with their 49-21 win over the Buffalo Bills. However, they spotted the Bills 21 points before scoring the next 49 unanswered to win and after also spotting the Miami Dolphins 17 points in their win last week, there has to be some concern about the Patriots defense come post season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had to settle for the 5th seed and their road to the Super Bowl will be exactly that - the road, as they will have to win three times as visitors in order to reach the Big Game. They certainly have the ability to travel well, but winning 13-7 over the Cleveland Browns does little to give a ton of confidence that this will happen.

The Houston Texans are the classic definition of "limping into the playoffs" as they have lost their last three games, including yesterday's last second loss. They played their 4th QB of the season and despite a solid running game and good defense, they cannot afford to have poor QB play on this stage if they want to go anywhere.

The Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals both backed into the post season off of losses and only made it because their playoff competition also tanked when the pressure was on. Denver will host Pittsburgh while Cincinnati will travel to Houston and between the four of them, it's tough to see a Super Bowl team in anyone other than perhaps the Steelers.

Over in the NFC, Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford threw for over 500 yards and five TD passes and the Lions STILL lost the game because their defense couldn't top Green Bay Packers backup QB Matt Flynn, who almost hit 500 yards but added a record-setting six TD passes. That type of defense won't go far in the post season, especially since they have to travel to face the New Orleans Saints, whose offense is just as good as the Packers and their defense might be a bit better.

The New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons had impressive wins, but with the Saints, the Packers and the San Francisco 49ers enjoying hoe field advantages, it will be hard for anyone to beat the three top teams, who are much better than the other three in the NFC.

Thus, for the Ravens to clinch their spot in the "Dance" with a road victory against another playoff-caliber team yesterday, there should be a lot of confidence going into the post-season than perhaps this tea has ever enjoyed in the John Harbaugh-Joe Flacco-Ray Rice era.