During a recent spot on KNBR Radio, Steve Young suggested that a team's performance over the final six games of the season is an excellent indicator of how well a team will perform in the postseason. Using the Trench Counter as an objective barometer, which teams are entering the playoffs playing the best football? Click here for more information on the Trench Counter Notes: Teams that qualified for the playoffs in italics. Record over final six weeks of season is in parenthesis. 1. Baltimore Ravens: 13.3 (5-1) The only thing keeping the Ravens from finishing their final six games undefeated was that controversial Santonio Holmes touchdown in their 9-13 loss to Pittsburgh. 2. New England Patriots: 8.4 (5-1) Like the Ravens, the Patriots' only loss over their final six was to Pittsburgh when Matt Cassel was held to just 169 yards passing and a season low 39.4 passer rating. They are very clearly the one team the six teams in the AFC Playoffs are lucky to be missing. 3. Minnesota Vikings: 7.9 (5-1) The Vikings were one team I was expecting to finish strong after an unlucky 0-2 start to the season. They are 9-3 since that 17-30 loss to Tennessee. 4. Pittsburgh Steelers: 7.7 (5-1) The Steelers' lone loss down the stretch was in Week 16 against the Titans when they turned the ball over four times. 5. Carolina Panthers: 7.3 (4-2) The Panthers narrowly missed out on homefield advantage in the playoffs in their 28-34 overtime loss to the Giants. DeAngelo Williams is averaging 122 yards per game over those six games. 6. Indianapolis Colts: 6.9 (6-0) The Colts have won nine in a row, but during that stretch beat New England by three, Pittsburgh by four, Houston by six, San Diego by three and Cleveland by four. 7. San Diego Chargers: 6.5 (4-2) After losing three in a row (all to playoff teams) and six of eight, it looked like the Chargers were done, but got some good breaks in Kansas City and a little help from Buffalo and Carolina. 8. Philadelphia Eagles: 5.1 (4-2) The Eagles mark here was heavily aided by their 48-20 win over Arizona on Thanksgiving, the 30-10 win over the Browns on Monday night and the 44-6 rout of Dallas in Week 17. 9. New Orleans Saints: 4.0 (3-3) The Saints had a positive Trench Counter in their three wins, as well as the overtime loss in Chicago. 10. Houston Texans: 2.7 (5-1) The Texans were 8-4 after their 0-4 start and very well could be in the playoffs when looking at both Colts' losses and the loss to Jacksonville in Week 4 in overtime. This team is clearly on the cusp. 11. Miami Dolphins: 2.3 (5-1) The Dolphins won their final five games to win the AFC East. During the final four games, Chad Pennington threw eight touchdowns and just one interception. 12. Tennessee Titans: 1.5 (3-3) I think the ceiling of Kerry Collins' play will keep the Titans out of the AFC Championship, let alone the Super Bowl. He has four touchdowns and three interceptions over the final six games (though he threw just two passes in Indy). 13. San Francisco 49ers: 1.2 (4-2) Mike Singletary passed his dress rehearsal with flying colors and Shaun Hill played well enough to convince the Niners that they could live and possibly compete with him behind center. 14. Atlanta Falcons: 1.1 (5-1) With the exception of the Carolina win in Week 13, the final six games of the season were decided by an average of 4.8 points. 15. New York Giants: 0.5 (3-3) I'm not really sure what to make of the Giants' final six games. The win in Arizona doesn't look quite as good as it did given the Cardinals' slide and they looked very bad against Philadelphia and Dallas. The overtime win over Carolina was critical and impressive and the way they competed against Minnesota with nothing to really play for was clearly a positive sign. 16. Chicago Bears: 0.5 (4-2) The Bears threw away those two primetime overtime victories against New Orleans and Green Bay by losing in Houston 24-31 with a playoff berth at stake. 17. New York Jets: -0.3 (1-5) The losses to Denver at home and Seattle, Oakland and San Francisco on the road is what makes the from 8-3 to 9-7 a particularly difficult pill to swallow. 18. Cincinnati Bengals: -0.8 (3-3) The Redskins, Browns and Chiefs of 2008 are not the teams they were in the late 80's, but that was a nice quiet finish for a team that struggled horribly. Cedric Benson averaged 118 yards per game over the final three. 19. Green Bay Packers: -1.0 (1-5) The Packers narrowly were defeated by Carolina, Houston, Jacksonville and Chicago before moving to 6-10 with their historic win over Detroit. Aaron Rodgers was easily better before the bye than afterwards, but the quarterback position is a clear area of strength for the Packers that they can build around. 20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: -2.3 (2-4) The Buccaneers lost their final four games to just miss the playoffs and though three of the four losses were to playoff teams, the loss to Oakland with the season on the line is simultaneously inexcusable and unexplainable. 21. Kansas City Chiefs: -2.9 (1-5) The Chiefs were outgained on the ground 204 to 31 by the Bengals in the Week 17 finale. 22. Dallas Cowboys: -3.2 (3-3) While fingers point to Wade Phillips, Terrell Owens, Jason Garrett, Roy Williams (WR) and Tony Romo, the injuries in the backfield to Marion Barber and Felix Jones took away the ground game that was so valuable in their early season wins. 23. Oakland Raiders: -3.4 (3-3) The Raiders finished the season with a two-game win streak, something I thought I might have to go back a ways to find the last time it was done, but each of the Raiders four wins last season were part of two-game streaks. 24. Washington Redskins: -3.7 (2-4) Jason Campbell had a passer rating over 90 six times and the Redskins were 5-1 in those games; Campbell had three games in the 60's and three in the 80's over their final six. 25. Buffalo Bills: -4.0 (2-4) The Bills were 2-8 after starting the season 5-1. 26. Denver Broncos: -4.4 (2-4) The performance of no single player had a greater impact on his team winning or losing in 2008 than Jay Cutler. In their eight wins, he had passer ratings of 137.5, 109.6, 96.1, 107.9, 106.4, 94.8 and 102.7. In Denver's eight losses, his passer ratings were 71.9, 77.8, 64.3, 60.7, 49.8, 74.3, 72.4, 74.9. 27. St. Louis Rams: -4.8 (0-6) The Rams lost the final three games by a combined eight points. 28. Seattle Seahawks: -5.2 (2-4) The Seahawks had just four 100-yard rushing performances in 2008. Back in 2005, Shaun Alexander alone had 11 games where he rushed for at least 100 yards. 29. Arizona Cardinals: -5.4 (2-4) Three of the four losses over the final six were to playoff teams and the other one was to the Patriots who have finished the season as strong as anyone. While common sense suggests the Cardinals are stumbling into the postseason badly, looking at their final six through that prism changes the perception to a definite degree. 30. Jacksonville Jaguars: -7.9 (1-5) The Jaguars averaged 14.9 points over their final seven games. 31. Cleveland Browns: -12.3 (0-6) The Browns were shutout in their final two games and had scored just 10, 9, 6 and 6 in their previous four following their 29-27 win at Buffalo. 32. Detroit Lions: -15.2 (0-6) The Lions were outscored 95-209 over their final six compared to 173-308 during the first 12.
Which Playoff Teams Are Playing The Best Football?