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The fatal flaws of every team in the NFL playoffs

The postseason begins Saturday, which it's now win-or-go-home for everyone. Danny Kelly has already looked at how each can win the Super Bowl, now he explains why each of the 12 teams in the playoffs could experience disaster.

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1. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks' offense has been inconsistent and the offensive line has been a patchwork all season, consistently struggling to protect Russell Wilson. Seattle has also struggled to finish in the red zone and led the NFL in penalties, often shooting themselves in the foot with drive-killing mistakes. With 17 players and counting on Seattle's injured reserve lists, depth has been tested at several key spots, and that often manifests in the form of poor special teams play.

Despite their historically stingy run to end the season, the Seahawks haven't faced a top-tier quarterback since Tony Romo in a Week 6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The pass defense will potentially have to get past some combination of Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco.

2. Green Bay Packers

The Packers' defense finished 13th in points allowed per game, 15th in yards allowed per game and struggled against the run, finishing 23rd in the NFL while giving up 119 yards per game on the ground. Green Bay boasts an elite offense, but its defense will be challenged in the postseason against some of the league's best offenses.

3. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys' defense had the luxury of being on the field for fewer minutes than any other group in the NFL. It played the fifth fewest snaps of any team in the league, thanks to Dallas' strong run game and ball control offense. Dallas did, however, give up 5.8 yards per play (25th), 355 yards per game (19th), 22 points per game (15th), 251.6 passing yards per game (26th), 4.2 yards per rush (15th) and 17 rushing touchdowns (31st), while only accumulating 28 sacks (28th).

While the Cowboys' offense was among the league's most dominant, their defense was decidedly not. A leaky run defense combined with a middling secondary could spell trouble for Dallas in the playoffs.

4. Carolina Panthers

While the Panthers have been firing on all cylinders over the past four weeks, the fact remains that they went nearly two full months without a win earlier this season. The defense wasn't as sharp nor as deep as it is now, and losing Greg Hardy proved to be a big hit to its effectiveness. The consistency wasn't there like it was last season, and opposing teams were able to move the ball on Carolina, which finished 21st in the NFL with 23.4 opponent points per game.

The same question of consistency could be applied to Cam Newton, who at times flashed brilliance and at others turned the ball over far too often. During Carolina's rough stretch from Week 3 to Week 12, Newton completed just 57 percent of his passes while throwing 12 touchdowns and 11 picks. If that Newton shows up in the playoffs, it could mean a quick exit for Carolina.

5. Arizona Cardinals

With Carson Palmer on injured reserve and Drew Stanton out indefinitely after getting an infection in his ailing knee, the Cardinals will go about trying to win a Super Bowl with Ryan Lindley and/or Logan Thomas at quarterback. While Lindley looked to have some potential in the Cardinals' regular season finale at San Francisco, he remains a career-50 percent passer and has only two touchdown passes in 264 attempts.

This is the modern NFL, and it's severely problematic to lose your starting quarterback, not to mention his backup. The Cardinals will go into this year's tournament at a steep disadvantage because of that, especially on the road.

6. Detroit Lions

While Detroit's defense has been reliable and consistent, the Lions' offense has struggled at times to move the football and score points. Those struggles were most apparent in Weeks 11 and 12, when the Lions failed to score a single touchdown in losses to the Cardinals and the New England Patriots. Those issues on the offensive side of the ball have cropped up sporadically throughout the season, so it's certainly a cause for concern. Matthew Stafford's drop in touchdown passes this year speaks to Detroit's inability at times to finish. With such a wide array of weapons on offense it's a little perplexing that Detroit would struggle to score points. Going into the playoffs, that has to be a big concern.

It does not help that Detroit started the year with an atrocious kicking game. If the Lions find themselves in a close contest, they better hope special teams issues don't crop up again.


1. New England Patriots

The Patriots have had issues on the offensive line, so protecting Tom Brady against some of the top defenses in the AFC Playoffs will be a difficult task. With injuries affecting the depth on the line, the Pats have begun rotating players based on opponent and situation. The Pats' offense slowed down significantly against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills to close out the year. The rush offense was ineffective, and the Brady-led passing attack looked hamstrung.

2. Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning has struggled over the final eight games of the season, particularly relative to the high standard he set in 2013 and over the first half of this season. After throwing 22 touchdowns to three picks in Denver's first seven games, Manning has thrown 17 touchdowns to 12 picks in his last nine. While the Broncos' offense hasn't completely fallen apart, it doesn't look like the same high octane machine that made the Super Bowl last season.

Even with a well balanced offense, the Broncos will have trouble getting past the AFC's elite if they continue turning the ball over at a high rate.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

While the Steelers' defense has come on stronger late in the year, it's hard to get past the season-long numbers on that side of the ball. Age has started to catch up with the main leaders of the Steel Curtain. While the run defense has been strong, the Steelers are 27th in the NFL in opponent passing yards and 18th in points allowed. Playoff contenders, particularly this season, often revolve around their great passers. An inability to keep passers like Brady, Manning, Luck, Flacco and/or Dalton in check could spell Pittsburgh's doom.

4. Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are heavily dependent upon Andrew Luck to carry the load, and at times the passing attack has been lackluster this season. The Colts turned the ball over in each of their five losses. Part of that was missing key players like Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton due to injury.

Depth will have to step up against defenses capable of taking away or limiting a No. 1 target. While those weapons have shown up at times this year, consistency is the question -- Donte Moncrief is still a rookie, Hakeem Nicks has been hit or miss and Trent Richardson has been a huge disappointment in the run game.

Perhaps most importantly, the Colts lost big in their handful of games against upper echelon opponents this season. They gave up 51 points to the Steelers, 42 to the Patriots and 42 to the Cowboys. Some of the Colts' defensive issues stem from the lack of a consistent pass rush at times, poor play from the secondary (apart from Vontae Davis) and an inability to create turnovers.

5. Cincinnati Bengals

It's impossible not to mention Andy Dalton's last three playoff performances when calculating the Bengals' chances in the postseason this year. The losses weren't entirely on the quarterback, but Dalton still has a heavy monkey on his back. In 2011, Dalton went 27-of-42 for 257 yards and three picks in a losing effort to the Houston Texans, then gave an encore performance in 2012 when he went 14-of-30 for 127 yards and a pick in yet another loss to Houston. He followed that up last year with two picks and one lost fumble against the San Diego Chargers. Dalton completed just 29-of-51 passes for a 67 passer rating in that game, and Cincinnati lost at home, 27-10. I'm not big on "quarterback wins," but the Bengals will need Dalton to play well if they want to win on the road.

6. Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore has struggled at the start of games lately, and that may spell disaster in the postseason where the margins for error are razor thin. In the Ravens' crucial Week 17 win over the Cleveland Browns, they went into the fourth quarter down, 10-3, before rallying to score two touchdowns and a field goal in the final frame. If they don't jump-start the offense a little quicker, they could make a quick exit.

Of course, it doesn't help that Baltimore's depth has been decimated with an assortment of injuries this year, with 18 players now on injured reserve. In the NFL postseason, the healthiest teams have big advantages. The Ravens will miss Dennis Pitta, Jimmy Smith, Asa Jackson, Ricky Wagner and a host of others in the playoffs.


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