Ranking Super Bowl contenders

Why they won't win: What has happened to Russell Wilson lately? Seattle's second-year signal-caller hasn't posted a Total QBR above 50 since Week 13. The entire offense has gone vanilla -- they aren't turning the ball over (fourth in the league, second among contenders), but they also aren't making plays. The Seahawks are fourth of four in third-down conversion percentage and Total QBR, plus Seattle's pass-blocking is the third worst in the entire league and worst of the remaining teams.

Seattle's "Legion of Boom" secondary has earned its share of flags as well. No team is more penalized than Seattle, and recent comments from coaches and players around the league could put their physical style of play under scrutiny. Only the Rams (47) gave opponents more first downs via penalty than Seattle (43).

How they could win: Have you seen that defense play? Seattle leads the league in Total QBR allowed (29.5), takeaways (39, or 2.4 per game) and line-of-scrimmage control with a four-man rush (55 percent of pass plays). Those numbers are ridiculous. Seattle's average quarterback opponent would have ranked between Brandon Weeden (24.7) and Terrelle Pryor (30.5) in Total QBR this season, and turned the ball over as much as Eli Manning and Matt Cassel combined.

They are only second-best in the league in defensive red-zone efficiency, holding opposing offenses without a touchdown on 39.5 percent of red-zone possessions. Still, it makes sense that Wilson's only goal would be to not turn the ball over, as this defense has been making enough impact plays all season to carry the team.


3. Denver Broncos (Average rank 2.50)

Why they won't win: Denver can't protect the ball (or take it away from anyone else). The Broncos are the only contender not in the top half of the league in turnovers, with Peyton Manning the prime culprit. Surprisingly it's not Manning's passing (19 quarterbacks had more interceptions, though no one had more attempts), but his fumbles that are the issue. Manning fumbled the ball 10 times this season, behind only Matthew Stafford and Robert Griffin III.

Denver also doesn't force impact plays on defense at all. They have the second-worst standard pass rush in the league and the worst defensive red-zone efficiency and takeaway total of the contenders. Von Miller will be watching the rest of the postseason, and the Broncos found out Monday that Chris Harris (torn ACL) will be joining him. Both quarterbacks in Sunday's AFC Championship Game should have all day to throw, but both NFC contenders' pass rushes are strong.

How they could win: Peyton Manning. His pass protection is eighth in the league (and best among contenders), but given that Manning's average pass takes a league-low 2.88 seconds to get off he's easier to protect than most. Manning is also why Denver leads the league in offensive red-zone efficiency, third-down percentage and Total QBR.

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