1 TEXANS The most balanced team in the conference got its first taste of the playoffs last season, which makes Houston a much tougher outfit.
2 BRONCOS Six of their first eight games will have been against 2011 playoff teams. In their final eight that can be said of only one foe.
3 PATRIOTS A nice blend of youth and experience. Bill Belichick will have them playing their best late in the year.
4 STEELERS As Mike Tomlin says, the standard is the standard. Despite injuries and some QB-coordinator friction, Pittsburgh thrives.
5 COLTS Winners of three of their last four games, Indy faces clubs with losing records in six of its next nine.
6 RAVENS A tough schedule and tough injuries to overcome, but they ride their good start to the final berth in a weak conference.
WILD-CARD ROUND Patriots over Ravens; Steelers over Colts
DIVISIONAL ROUND Texans over Steelers; Broncos over Patriots
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME Texans over Broncos
Whom do you trust late with the game on the line? Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning or Matt Schaub, who has never started in the postseason? Giants 24, Texans 20
1 FALCONS The only unbeatens are on a mission to get the first playoff win (and more) of the five-year Mike Smith--Thomas Dimitroff era.
2 49ERS Only one stinker (a 26--3 Week 6 loss to the Giants) in Jim Harbaugh's two seasons as coach. The D and running game are elite.
3 GIANTS Eli Manning has won eight of his last nine postseason starts. Be wary, NFC. Be very wary.
4 BEARS The offense is erratic; the defense is rock solid. Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are arguably the league's best CB tandem.
5 PACKERS With Aaron Rodgers they can contend, but injuries and the lack of a ground game will make a playoff run difficult.
6 SEAHAWKS Five of their final eight are at home, where they have upset the Cowboys, Packers and Patriots.
WILD-CARD ROUND Giants over Seahawks; Bears over Packers
DIVISIONAL ROUND Falcons over Bears; Giants over 49ers
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME Giants over Falcons