The Avis Division- This group is reserved for those teams who are second and have to try just a bit harder to reach the NFL summit. This year's Avis division features plenty of quality teams and if it weren't for Green Bay, it would be wide open.
Baltimore Ravens- I think Joe Flacco is better than most people think and I think some of their game planning is weak and some of their execution is weak but I think it can be cleaned up. More importantly, I believe in the Ravens defense, especially if they hold on and get home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. They have a soft schedule from here on out so they may be able to do that. If they finish 13-3 and are the No. 1 seed them I think this is the year they finally overcome the Steelers. I also think Baltimore represents the most difficult challenge for the Packers but we will see.
Pittsburgh Steelers- If totally healthy and they could somehow gain home field then I would have them over Baltimore. The home field is huge because Pittsburgh can finish 13-3 and still be the five seed which may seem a bit unfair, but it is what it is. I think they are the second best team in the AFC but if they are the five seed I just don't see them winning three straight road games. I also question healthy (Harrison, Woodley, Polamalu's concussions) and I think their o-line has some serious question marks, especially the ability to run the ball. But don't be mistaken- the Steelers are a dangerous team!
New England Patriots- The most dangerous team in the AFC, no one can light it up like the Pats. There is zero doubt as to what Brady can do (even though he has struggled in the playoffs as of late), however, their defense has been pathetic over the last few years and to expect him to carry a team all the way through the gauntlet that is the NFL playoffs is unreasonable. They are the 32nd ranked defense and getting a bit better, but in terms of making a critical stop at the end of a game, I just don't trust them. Let's not forget that the Pats haven't won a playoff game since the 2007 AFC Championship. They are an unbelievable regular season team but at this point I question their ability to win in the postseason but that obviously depends on seeding and matchups. If they have to play the Steelers in the first round THEN play Baltimore they just aren't going to do it.
New Orleans Saints- Only team with a remote chance of beating the Packers in the NFC. Brees is having a phenomenal year, they can light it up all over the place, the problem with the Saints is that they have the biggest home field advantage in the NFL which is a good and a bad thing. They are two different teams at home and on the road. Having said that, they played phenomenal on Kickoff Thursday this season at Lambeau. Problem is that it was early September and the playoffs are certainly not played in September. They need a miracle like a Green Bay loss in the first round to have a chance. They are just not as good at taking away the ball and making stops as they were their championship season.
San Francisco 49ers- I had guessed before hand that Harbaugh would be a great coach but it was hard to envision how much he has gotten out of Alex Smith, who is playing within himself. They are doing quite well, problem is they are never going to beat a high quality team unless that team makes mistakes on offense. Same deal as the Saints (or whoever is in the 2 seed), they have a shot as long as someone knocks off the Packers before them.