What a year for QBs in the playoffs. Of the eight starters still alive, there are, potentially, four future Hall of Famers. And that doesn't even count Tim Tebow, whose bust might end up on a side of a mountain someday. You can practically flip a coin among the top four, and you can argue they're the top MVP candidates. They've all won Super Bowls, and really, you wouldn't complain if any was your QB.
. 1. Aaron Rodgers (Packers)
2. Drew Brees (Saints)
3. Tom Brady (Patriots)
4. Eli Manning (Giants)
5. Tim Tebow (Broncos)
6. Joe Flacco (Ravens)
7. Alex Smith (49ers)
8. T.J. Yates (Texans)
How can you not put the Pats' Bill Belichick and his three Super Bowl rings at the top of the list? Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy and Tom Coughlin have won Super Bowls. John Fox and Gary Kubiak have done more with less than any two coaches in the NFL. And the Harbaugh brothers went a combined 25-7 this season. There isn't a weak coach in the bunch.
. 1. Bill Belichick (Patriots)
2. Mike McCarthy (Packers)
3. Sean Payton (Saints)
4. Tom Coughlin (Giants)
5. John Harbaugh (Ravens)
6. Jim Harbaugh (49ers)
7. John Fox (Broncos)
8. Gary Kubiak (Texans)
It's said defense wins championships, yet the NFL seems to have changed. How else can you explain the Packers and Patriots, the two No. 1 seeds in the playoffs, having, statistically, the two worst defenses in the league? The four worst passing defenses this season? Counting back from the worst: Packers, Patriots, Saints, Giants. Here is how the remaining playoff teams ranked in total defense in 2011.
. 1. Texans (DT Earl Mitchell, above)
1. Packers: Homefield advantage on the frozen tundra, the best QB in football and the defending champs.
2. Patriots: Homefield advantage and one of the best playoff quarterbacks and coaches ever.
3. Ravens: Probably the best big-play defense left and a ball-control offense.
4. Saints: The Who Dat Saints would be Super Bowl favorites if they could play the next two games inside their dome as opposed to, likely, going on the road.
5. Giants: The same feel I had about this team as when it won the Super Bowl four years ago, but winning at Green Bay is a major hurdle.
6. 49ers: Solid defense and NFL's best running game is a great formula for the playoffs. The path is just too hard.
7. Broncos: Tim Tebow is an intangible all by himself. The league's best running game means little in a possible shootout against the Patriots.
8. Texans: League's No. 2 running game, but they're down to their third QB.
Packers 24 points
Patriots 23 points
Saints 22 points
Ravens 20 points
Giants 17 points
49ers 14 points
Broncos 13 points
Texans 11 points
tom jones' two cents
When it comes to the playoffs, I believe in four categories: quarterback, coach, defense and intangibles. You can compare this offensive line with that defensive line, this wide receiver against that cornerback, this fullback against that linebacker. But in the end, the teams that have the most success in the playoffs usually have a great quarterback, a smart coach who can make adjustments, a sturdy defense, and that something special that other teams don't have. So today, I rank the eight remaining playoff teams. Teams get eight points for a first-place ranking, seven points for second place and so forth.