Patriots QB Tom Brady and CB Darrelle Revis have taken New England from afterthought to Superbowl favorites.
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Following an embarrassing 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football that dropped their record to 2-2 most people said the Patriots dynasty was dead and gone. Less than two months later they had won 10 of 11 games and clinched the No. 1 overall seed throughout the playoffs. That’s because people forget that Tom Brady and Bill Belichik don’t care what other people say or think about their past – all that matters is the present and the future: A future that for now includes one of the best passing defenses in the league thanks to the acquisition of All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis, the inexplicable rise of LB Akeem Ayers and the healthy return of All-Pro NT Vince Wilfork.
The Patriots offense isn’t as explosive as the Packers or Cowboys, and the defense isn’t as overwhelmingly awesome as the Seahawk’s Legion of Boom – but they have the perfect level of balance to match toe-to-toe with the best teams in football in any situation in any environment. Of all the teams Brady and Belichik have been a part of – including the 2007 undefeated team that narrowly lost Superbowl XLII, this one may go down in history as the most complete in all levels.
Here is the ranking of the current ten NFL playoff teams:
10. Arizona Cardinals – Unless QB Drew Stanton makes a miraculous recovery between now and the following weekend, this Cardinals team will be one and done in the playoffs.
9. Indianapolis Colts – Let’s chalk up that terrible performance by Andrew Luck to some terrible pass catching by a Colts receiving corps that was sorely missing WR T. Y. Hilton. He’ll be back in time for the playoffs. The question is: Will Luck’s post-season heroics join him?
8. Cincinnati Bengals – As bad as QB Andy Dalton is in the playoffs (0-3), head coach Marvin Lewis might be one of the worst playoff coaches in the last quarter-century with an 0-5 postseason record. This team will be a paper tiger for years to come unless they win in the first round of the playoffs.
7. Detroit Lions – Maybe they deserve to be higher because of their incredible defense, but losing starting C Dominic Raiola before they play the Packers for the NFC North title may have cost them a playoff home game. And that will almost assuredly guarantee a first-round loss.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers – The AFC North title hasn’t been decided yet, but win or lose the Steelers will be the most interesting team to watch in the playoffs. They are a hot and cold team that can beat a Superbowl contender one week and lose to a 2-14 team the next.
5. Denver Broncos – It looks like Peyton Manning is (literally) on his last legs. You have to wonder if he might to a Kurt Warner-style retirement after his Broncos get beaten in the playoffs and go out on as a high a note as he possibly can. That being said, this Broncos team is still, on paper, better than every other team in the playoffs except the Patriots.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Dallas fans might actually want to be worried if the Cowboys get a top seed in the NFL playoffs – they seem to play much better on the road than at home, and their 7-0 record (possibly 8-0) on the road is a testament to that.
3. Green Bay Packers – Who would’ve guessed after the Seahawks crushed them in the 2014 opener that the Packers would be heading back to Seattle for a rematch in the NFC Championship game? Because assuming the Packers beat the Lions next week that’s what we might as well expect.
2. Seattle Seahawks – What’s amazing about this Seahawks team is that they have managed to keep their core of players together in a time where everyone tries to go for greener pastures after a year or two of success. Assuming the Seahawks can find a suitable replacement for Marshawn Lynch down the road (unlikely but possible), we may be looking at the preeminent NFC dynasty for years to come.
1. New England Patriots – Brady will return to the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona to avenge his upset loss to the New York Giants in Superbowl XLII. And with that defense there isn’t anything another NFL team can do about it.