New England Patriots
The Patriots have to be considered the favorite to win Super Bowl XLII, but their success during the regular season could work against them in the playoffs. If they fail to win the championship following, it will be considered a monumental letdown, and their undefeated season will lose a lot of its luster.
With Peyton Manning orchestrating the offense and the defense among the best in the league, the Colts have to be considered serious threats once again this year. They will, however, be forced to travel to Foxboro for the AFC championship game, assuming both Indy and New England make it that far.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers are a very talented team on both sides of the ball, and they appear to be peaking at just the right time. They haven't been quite the force defensively that they were expected to be, but have had recent success by turning up the pressure.
About three quarters of the way through the season, the Steelers looked like the AFC's best chance at knocking off the Patriots, but since that time the wheels have fallen off somewhat.
The Patriots, and to a lesser degree the defending champion Colts, are getting the majority of the attention heading into the playoffs, but if you're looking for a dark horse in this year's field, look no further than the Jaguars. This is a physical team on both sides of the ball.
The Titans enter the playoffs on a bit of a roll, having won their last three games. However, their offense has turned the ball over far too often this season, and they must get that under control in the post-season, otherwise they'll be a quick one-and-out come playoff time.
Earlier in the season, the Cowboys hung tough with the Patriots until the end of the game, so they've shown they have the ability to play with anyone. They need a healthy Terrell Owens and a rejuvenated Tony Romo, however, to get things steaming back in the right direction. This team may have peaked just a little early, but they're certainly as balanced and as talented as anyone in the NFC.
Green Bay Packers
So much in the post-season will depend on whether or not Brett Favre continues to play like he did five years ago. The Packers' passing game is second only to the Patriots. And despite a slow start, the running game has gotten on track behind the emergence of Ryan Grant in the backfield.
Midway through the 2007 season, I wouldn't have given this team a chance to compete with the big boys in the NFC, but a second-half rally leaves room for more optimism at this point. There's no reason this team can't compete with the Cowboys and Packers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If momentum means anything, the Buccaneers could be in trouble since they enter the post-season on a two-game losing streak. And should they get past their first-round contest, which they will play at home, they will most likely hit the road, where they are just 3-5 this season.
New York Giants
Since winning six straight to close out the first half of the season, the Giants have put together back-to-back wins just once. Despite threatening to go into their annual second-half nosedive, the team managed to win four-out-of-six games down the stretch, solidifying their playoff position.
The Redskins are on a roll heading into the playoffs, having won their last four games, so momentum is on their side. Not surprisingly, that winning streak coincides with the loss of starting QB Jason Campbell to injury and the entrance of Collins as his replacement.