Four teams remain in the 2012 NFL playoffs field as we await the start of this weekend's AFC and NFC Championship games. The New England Patriots are the No. 1 seed in the AFC and they'll host the No. 2 seed Baltimore Ravens. The San Francisco 49ers are the highest remaining NFC seed at No. 2 and they'll host the No. 4 seed New York Giants on Sunday.
The process of ranking the remaining is much easier than the regular season as only four teams are still alive. And for the first time this season, the Packers are not ranked No. 1.
In SB Nation's power rankings of the final four, we start with...
1. New England Patriots: Last week I had the Patriots ranked fourth of the eight remaining teams and I heard about it from Patriots fans. So how did the New England players respond? Only by blowing out the Broncos, 45-10, and scoring five first half touchdowns. The Patriots have been the best team over the last decade for a reason and they showed it on Saturday as they obliterated Denver via Tom Brady and the passing game. The Patriots defense receives a lot of criticism but they were more than good enough against Denver allowing only 10 points.
The Patriots are the best of the remaining teams and I say that based mostly on their offense. I'm just not sure there's a team remaining that can consistently match their offensive attack. The Giants are solid on offense, as are the Ravens, but they're not on the level of the Patriots. I'm not sure that any team can hang with them throughout the course of a game.
Yes, the Giants were able to beat them earlier in the year but all New England has done since then is win nine straight. They're peaking at the right time and it shows.
2. New York Giants: I picked the Giants to beat the Packers and, believe it or not, they actually won, proving me right. The Giants are a solid combination of defense (rushing the passer) and offense (lookin' at you, Hakeem Nicks). When they can run the ball consistently, and the defensive line is creating pressure on the quarterback, they're very, very tough to beat, which they demonstrated last Sunday in Green Bay.
The Giants are clearly capable of running the table and winning the Super Bowl. I'm not sure they're as consistent as New England, which is why they're ranked below them, but I do recognize that they're capable of beating anyone when they're on their game.
3. Baltimore Ravens: They've been here before. The Ravens are a veteran team with guys that are used to winning a lot of games and going on the road in the playoffs. They're 4-3 on the road in the playoffs in the Joe Flacco era and beat the Houston Texans last week, their first home playoff game since January 2007.
One of those road playoff wins came against New England back in 2009. Both of these teams are still of a similar makeup as they were back then so Baltimore should have some confidence that they can beat New England. They're well-tested having beat a number of winning teams, including the Steelers -- twice -- during the regular season.
But they're still ranked third. Right now, I feel like the Patriots and Giants have a little more momentum so they're ranked above Baltimore but make no mistake -- the Ravens are right there with them.
4. San Francisco 49ers: All year long I kept saying I need to start taking the 49ers seriously and after watching them beat the Saints I am. But they're still ranked fourth here.
Of these four teams, the 49ers have the least amount of playoff experience. I love everything about their defense and, at times, their offense so they're certainly not a bad team and they are capable of winning this weekend against New York. But because they haven't been in this position recently I have to keep them at the bottom of the list.
The 49ers are legit -- I get that -- but I want them to prove it one more time.