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My Picks for the 2006 NFL Postseason
By Clayton Ruley

In the NFL the playoffs are near and there are several teams that look to be making the trip to the postseason. These teams combine all three phases of the game: defense, offense and special teams to a winning brew! Here are the teams I think will actually make the playoffs


American Football Conference

1. Indianapolis Colts – Payton Manning and his cast of offensive juggernauts lead the way once again but gone are Edgerrin James and enters rookie RB Joseph Addai has brought power and precise hole hitting to the team. Brandon Stokley has been out all season so the offense can actually improve which is a scary thought. The defense is speed oriented but effective and the Colts are playing defense when it counts despite what naysayers are thinking. Coach Tony Dungy deserves to play for the trophy after the way he was let go by Tampa Bay (who won the Super Bowl the following season) and the tragic death of his son last season amid a tremendous season.


2. San Diego Chargers – First year starting QB Philip Rivers has played exceptionally well in the clutch and LaDainian Tomlinson is the best running back in the game. The defense plays an aggressive 3-4 and have played well despite the suspension of LB Shawne Merriman and the shooting of LB and vocal leader Michael Boley. Can Marty Schottenheimer finally win the big one?


3. New England Patriots – Which Patriots team will we see:The team that lost to the NY Jets or the team that beat up Atlanta? Either team is good enough to make the second season given the disappointing Miami Dolphins and the retooling NY Jets and Buffalo Bills. You never want to count this team out but their defense has looked a step older and their offense while still capable of scoring seems to be missing it's consistency in the passing game. That being said I still wouldn't want to see them as a playoff underdog if I'm the opponent.


4. Baltimore Ravens – The offense took some time to get adjusted to Steve McNair and him to the offense but after grinding out the first few games the team looks poised to make a run in the playoffs. This team has the pieces to win the championship: A fiery coach with his back against the wall, a solid run game led by Jamal Lewis and Mike Anderson, receivers led by WR Desmond Mason, TE Todd Heap and young possession guy WR Mark Clayton and a defense led by All-Pros LB Ray Lewis, Terrill Suggs and the stellar secondary trio of Chris McAllester, Samari Rolle and Ed Reed.


5. Denver Broncos – This team has a physical defense and superior coaching but can QB Jake Plummer get through the playoffs without a meltdown? He has been helped by the always great running game led this year by Tatum Bell and the addition of WR Javon Walker. Walker and Rod Smith (a poor man's Jerry Rice) can beat you in so many ways and Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan is in my opinion the best offensive mind in the game. Their defense has Al Wilson playing that MLB position and his secondary while beat up is led by CB Champ Bailey and veteran safety John Lynch. Their aggressiveness in the middle of the field and the speed of their linebackers is what make them a very good defense.


6. Jacksonville Jaguars – This team can smash some teams and cause some ripple in the AFC race! The defense despite losing MLB Mike Peterson has remained stout. John Henderson is a hulk of a man in the middle of the defensive line and Donovin Darius is a hawk of a safety! The offense has a solid running game and backup now starter David Garrard can make plays with his legs and arm. Their offense has weapons of big size in WR Matt Jones and Reggie Williams but no real deep speed! Can the offense establish themselves and let the defense rip and tear the opposing team apart is the question.


National Football Conference

1. Chicago Bears – The defense is stout but the offense can look 4-12 like with Rex Grossman at QB from time to time! Can Grossman make wise decisions in the big game? Can RBs Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson be effective versus the better teams and not how they looked versus Miami? Can the defense handle facing a complete team and not the teams they face in the NFC North? We should see but I don't count on it!

2. Dallas Cowboys – New starting QB Tony Romo looks Farveesque and the team seems to respond. The offense is potent because they run the football with RBs Julius Jones and Marion Barber III and has excellent receivers in Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn not to mention TEs Jason Witten and rookie Anthony Fasano. The defensive secondary has troubles keeping people in front of them but are physical so route running by the opposing offense could be key. Dallas Head Coach Bill Parcells would love to ride off into the sunset with a trophy from his mentor Vince Lombardi and he has a good chance to do it too!

3. Seattle Seahawks – This team will return to the playoffs but health will be the determining factor in whether it will be a long or short stay! The team has played reasonably well considering they lost mainstays RB Shaun Alexander and QB Matt Hasselbeck for parts of the season but is it because they are that good or their counterparts are that bad? I tend to believe the former and this team especially with healthy bodies can make another run to the Super Bowl. Deion Branch has been a great pick up at the wide receiver position and all their receivers have the ability to take it to the endzone. Seattle Head Coach Mike Holmgren didn't like the way the big game went down last season and if the team can remain composed could have a chance to make up for it this season.

4. Carolina Panthers – The offense has Steve Smith, a top five receiver and Jake Delhomme has proven he can make plays in big games. The defense has DE Julius Peppers and they play physical. The question is can they make plays on both sides of the ball at the same time? I say yes and this team will cause any opponent problems.

5. New Orleans Saints – The Saints will bring a young team to the playoffs but they maybe able to pull of a victory because of their offense led by Joe Horn, Duece McAllester and rookies Reggie Bush and Marques Colston. Drew Brees was the biggest pickup of the off-season and is poised to make plays and be mistake free. The defense has veterans on it and the play with pride! They are the sentimental favorites of the country and first year head coach Sean Payton brings a diverse offense to life and has a attitude that has his team believing.

6.  NY Giants – Will Tiki Barber run his way to the trophy? Injuries to other Giants may have determined that already but that's why you play the games. The Giant offense has great skills at all positions and none better than Barber, Jeremy Shockey and Plaxico Burress. QB Eli Manning still makes mistakes though and this could hold them back. The defense has a exciting defensive line but their secondary is porous! CB Sam Madison is not the player he was in Miami and the linebackers are constantly injured. That plus the teams disconnect with Tom Coughlin make this a tough team to believe in!

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