The NFL has seeded the six teams in each conference. We've ranked them a little differently based on a compilation of point totals in five key statistical categories: 1. Passer rating of the starting quarterback; 2. Defensive passer rating; 3. Turnover differential; 4. Red-zone touchdown percentage; 5. Defensive red-zone touchdown percentage.

We chose the passer ratings because, well, it's a passing league. We chose turnovers because they make it an unpredictable league. And we chose red-zone touchdown performance because that's where you determine the offenses that can or can't finish and the defenses that do or don't break.

We ranked the six teams in each conference 1 to 6 in each category and added the five totals. The lower the number, the better the ranking.

Detroit was the biggest mover, going from its No. 6 seeding to No. 3 in our NFC ranking. The Bengals and Ravens moved up two spots in the AFC, while the Panthers moved down two in the NFC. The Steelers and Colts moved down two in the AFC.

New England and Denver stayed 1-2 in the AFC, while our formula moved Green Bay ahead of Seattle. The Packers ranked No. 1 or 2 in four of the five categories and third in the other.


1. Patriots

Strib Ranking points: 11. First in turnover differential (plus-12).

Strength: The cornerback upgrade of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner has given coach Bill Belichick defensive flexibility he hasn't enjoyed in years.

Weakness: As good as Tom Brady and his slot receivers and tight ends are, the lack of an outside No. 1-type receiver could be troublesome against top defenses.

Interesting nugget: Remember when the Logan Mankins trade was going to destroy the season? Well, the Pats are third in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play.

2. Broncos

Strib Ranking points: 12. First in red-zone touchdown percentage (62.9).

Strength: Denver's desire to build a more balanced team produced a No. 3-ranked defense to help when Peyton Manning struggled in December.

Weakness: Manning IS NOT a weakness. His TD-to-INT ratio for December was 3-6 because Denver's protection and passing rhythm is out of whack.

Interesting nugget: Manning has gone one-and-done eight times in the playoffs, including five times at home.

3. Bengals

Strib Ranking points: 17. First in defensive passer rating (75.8); last in starting QB passer rating (83.3).

Strength: A defense with 20 interceptions and a diverse offensive arsenal that includes A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham and two top running backs.

Weakness: Hard to believe a quarterback with four consecutive playoff appearances still hasn't proven himself. But that's the riddle that is Andy Dalton.

Interesting nugget: In three playoff games, Dalton's highest passer rating is 67.0. Yes, he's 0-3.

4. Ravens

Strib Ranking points: 20. First in defensive red-zone TD percentage (42.6); Last in red-zone TD percentage (52.4).

Strength: The surprising rise of Justin Forsett has provided unexpected balance since the Ray Rice fiasco.

Weakness: The lack of depth and quality at cornerback makes the secondary a liability that can't be hidden.

Interesting nugget: In a field position battle, Baltimore comes armed with No. 1 rankings in kickoff returns and net punting.

5. Steelers

Strib Ranking points: 21. First in QB passer rating (103.3); Last in defensive passer rating (98.3).

Strength: Ben Roethlisberger tied for the league lead in passing yards and Antonio Brown led the league in receiving yards.

Weakness: A suspect secondary and running back Le'Veon Bell's hyperextended knee (he's sidelined Saturday) could cause problems.

Interesting nugget: Pittsburgh's defensive passer rating of 98.3 is the highest of all 12 playoff teams and sixth worst in the league.

6. Colts

Strib Ranking points: 24. Last in turnover differential (minus-5); Last in defensive red-zone TD percentage (63.0, which is last in the entire league).

Strength: With 12 comeback wins in three years, Andrew Luck has proved time and again he can carry the Colts.

Weakness: Leading rusher Trent Richardson averages 3.3 yards per carry. Not quite the balance needed for the postseason.

Interesting nugget: Kicker Adam Vinatieri turned 42 last week. Oh yeah, he's also the best kicker in the NFL.


1. Packers

Strib Ranking points: 10. First in turnover differential (plus-14).

Strength: Sorry, J.J. Watt, but Aaron Rodgers is the MVP.

Weakness: Well, the good news is Colin Kaepernick won't face Green Bay for a third consecutive postseason. The bad news: Cam Newton and Russell Wilson are mobile, too.

Interesting nugget: While going 8-0 at home, Rodgers posted a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 25-0.

2. Seahawks

Strib Ranking points: 14. First in defensive passer rating (80.4).

Strength: They have the best defense, the most balanced and confident team and, oh yeah, home-field advantage.

Weakness: Russell Wilson makes up for deficiencies, but even with him, it's obvious Seattle's offensive line lacks consistency.

Interesting nugget: During a 9-1 stretch to end the season, Seattle held its opponent to fewer than 10 points six times.

3. Lions

Strib Ranking points: 16. Second in defensive red-zone touchdown percentage (53.1).

Strength: They have the defensive line, the run defense and the "everybody doubted us" edge to pull the upset at Dallas.

Weakness: Quarterback Matthew Stafford has proved to be a liability on the road in big games.

Interesting nugget: A popular stat making the rounds this week is Stafford's 0-16 mark in his past 16 road games against teams with a winning record.

4. Cowboys

Strib Ranking points: 17. First in QB passer rating (113.2); First in red-zone touchdown percentage (64.7).

Strength: The most dominant offensive line in the playoffs has made Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray equally dangerous.

Weakness: Dallas is 27th against the pass and 28th in sacks per pass play.

Interesting nugget: Romo is 1-3 in the playoffs. His last game was that six-sack, 34-3 loss at the Metrodome five years ago.

5. Cardinals

Strib Ranking points: 20. First in defensive red-zone touchdown percentage (43.9); Last in QB passer rating (56.8).

Strength: Todd Bowles' defense can be extra aggressive because it has two elite corners in Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie.

Weakness: When Drew Stanton being ruled out is disappointing, you know your QB situation is weak. Ryan Lindley makes his playoff debut.

Interesting nugget: In 10 regular-season starts, Lindley's passer rating is 50.1. His high mark: 70.0.

6. Panthers

Strib Ranking points: 28. Last turnover differential (plus-3); Last in defensive passer rating (89.5.

Strength: Luke Kuechly and the defensive front seven sparked the current four-game winning streak. A streak that has held opponents to an average of 10.8 points.

Weakness: Sans a top outside receiving threat, Carolina is too one-dimensional offensively.

Interesting nugget: The Panthers are last in the league in punt coverage (15.5) and 31st in kickoff coverage (32.4).