Let's get a few things straight (again)...
The identity of the Ravens begins and ends with Ray Lewis. If you're looking for the emotional leader to watch during Wild Card weekend...look no further.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports
Credit: Yahoo! Sports
..."The Guys You DREAM about Being"...
#1. (13-3) Tennessee Titans
Comment: Ever since the run for undefeated ended (not that anyone took it too seriously), the Titans did just enough - including a highly impressive home victory over the Steelers - to secure homefield throughout the AFC. Their reward? Potentially the suffocating defense of Baltimore OR the winner of the Colts/Bolts. Awesome, right?
Guy to Watch: Albert Haynesworth is the heart and soul of this defense. We get it. Nevertheless, if this team can't score enough points on offense, the Titans may be one-and-done. I'm looking at an aging Kerry Collins and wondering if his last playoff go-round will be his most memorable or not.
#2. (12-4) Pittsburgh Steelers
Comment: Big Ben should be fine and the Steelers will make the very most of their week off. Problem is, this team can be beat in Pittsburgh. How do I know this? David Garrard and a very different Jaguars team took some of the luster away from Heinz field last year. Nobody is walking into Pittsburgh intimidated anymore.
Guy to Watch: Santonio Holmes was a collosal fantasy dissapointment. Duh. Nevertheless, he has downfield ability and can open up lanes for both the rush game and for slot wideout/cheap-shot artist Hines Ward.
..The Guys Everyone Out of the Playoffs Wants to Be Next Year"...
#3. (11-5) Miami Dolphins
Comment: Just because the team beat teams it was "supposed to beat" doesn't mean it will lie down - at home - against the Ravens. Take care of the ball, slip Ted Ginn downfield a play or two, and bust open an unexpected special teams play or two and the game may be theirs. Playing with house money makes you very dangerous.
Guy to Watch: Ronnie Brown is the lone Dolphin Pro Bowler for a reason. His ability in the Wildcat Formation allows the Dolphins 4-5 chances a game to open up a big play. He'll need to be ready for a brutal pounding from the Raven defense. If he survives though, Miami might too.
...Yes, YOU can make the playoffs after starting 4-8...
#4. (8-8) San Diego Chargers
Comment: 4-8 and suddenly everything seems to go right. While LT's groin is an obvious issue, Phillip Rivers isn't the NFL's top-rated QB for no reason. As dangerous as the Colts are, you gotta know the Chargers have no fear about them coming into their house.
Guy to Watch: Antonio Cromartie has to be the elite shutdown cornerback many pegged him as after last year's sensational effort. While that's easier said then done against the likes of Manning/Wayne/Harrison, it's time for AC to go Prime Time.
..The Teams NOBODY Wants to See Right Now"...
#5. (12-4) Indianapolis Colts
Comment: The media loves this team and Peyton Manning likely has a third NFL MVP secured (although he did share one with McNair). Blah blah blah. Wake me up when something new is said.
Guy to Watch: Addai and Rhodes are behind the likes of Manning and Bob Sanders in acclaim; nevertheless, I want to see if these two backs can work the same chemistry they did two seasons ago en route to a championship.
#6. (11-5) Baltimore Ravens
Comment: The coordinators (Cameron & Ryan) have been the perfect duo behind their rookie head coach. Meanwhile, Ed Reed (9 INTs) is playing as well as any defender in football, the RB duo of McClain & McGahee (in that order) look terrific, and it's another rookie QB leading his team to 11 wins. How sweet.
Guy to Watch: Haloti Ngata was given a real tough time in Baltimore after being drafted, until he showed up on the field. Nowadays, he's perhaps the most athletic man - at his size - the NFL has seen in quite some time. He clogs the middle and allows those playmakers behind him to dominate. Not bad for a collegiate underachiever who "took plays off".
..."The 11-5 Team NOT in the NFL Playoffs"...
#7. (11-5) New England Patriots
Comment: I'm a bitter Jet fan, so I'm clinging to a pathetic notion that as long as the Pats are out...all is good. It's all I have...
Guy to Watch: Matt Cassell, of course.
..."The Same Old Jets"...
#8. (9-7) New York Jets
Comment: There's nothing left to say except, "same old Jets".
Guy to Watch: Vernon Gholston has an offseason to get ready for next year. 12 total tackles again may run him out of New York for good.
#9. (8-8) Houston Texans
Comment: Another season where they end well in Houston. Question is: when do they start well and put two-and-two together?
Guy to Watch: Steve Slaton has dynamic talent. Better get him a legit compliment in the first 3 rounds of the draft next season. Ahman Green can't be that guy.
#10. (8-8) Denver Broncos
Comment: One win in the final four weeks and we're all treated to yet another Colts/Broncos game. Thank god this team lost out.
Guy to Watch: The RB-position needs stability and some luck with injuries. Peyton Hillis ain't the answer, either.
#11. (7-9) Buffalo Bills
Comment: Dick Jauron should save his job; however, real answers are needed when you go from 5-1 to 7-9. Especially when you're winless (0-6) in the AFC East amidst those final 10 games.
Guy to Watch: Trent Edwards. Up-and-coming superstar my a**.
..."The Other Others"...
#12. (5-11) Oakland Raiders
Comment: Whether or not they hire a new coach is irrelevant. The team can't draft well and there's nothing stable in the locker room. 5-11 might be the best this team sees for the next few seasons.
Guy to Watch: JaMarcus Russell has shown glimpses. But are only glimpses what you expect from the #1 overall pick?
..."How the 'Mighty' Have Fallen..."
#13. (5-11) Jacksonville Jaguars
Comment: As dissapointing a team as the Green Bay Packers, the Jags are lucky their media market stinks and they aren't getting any play as total underachievers.
Guy to Watch: David Garrard sucked this year. That's being nice, too. Another ECU QB flameout? Probably.
...And then there's "THEM"...
#14. (4-11-1) Cincinnati Bengals
Comment: I love that people were stupid enough to believe in this organization.
Guy to Watch: Chad Ocho Cinco is a pariah. Ride his big mouth out of town if you want any chance of locker room continuity and self-respect.
#15. (4-12) Cleveland Browns
Comment: I called this record EXACTLY. Anyone who believed that this organization - behind Savage & Crenel - were playoff bound was an idiot. 4 QBs or not.
Guy to Watch: Brady Quinn is gonna need a lot of Myoplex to pull this organization out of the toilet. 10-6 was a fluke. A total fluke.
#16. (2-14) Kansas City Chiefs
Comment: It's gonna be a series of double-digit loss seasons for years to come...
Guy to Watch: Giving all that money to someone with the character of Larry Johnson will bury Carl Peterson's legacy in Kansas City. Probably serves him right, too.
PHSports Playoff previews and predictions start TOMORROW!!!