By Glenn Bernardi
Jets Contributing Writer
January 1st, 2007
Eric Mangini was not the only coach doused in Gatorade this weekend as Marty Schottenheimer and the Bolts finish as the top team in the JI Power Rankings.
Eric Mangini was not the only coach doused in Gatorade this weekend as Marty Schottenheimer and the Bolts finish as the top team in the JI Power Rankings.
The hottest team in the league rides the AFC's #1 Seed and a 10 Game winning streak into the tournament. In short, the road to Super Bowl XLI Goes through San Diego and LT.

The AFC's #2 Seed has the NFL's #1 ranked defense. Now they find out if Steve McNair gives them enough offense to make it matter come January, just as they drew it up when they added the likely Hall of Fame bound veteran in the off-season.

Belly and Brady are always a threat to take home the hardware come tournament time. This team has Super Bowl pedigree from top to bottom, so you discount these guys at your own peril. Having drawn the #4 Seed they'll be playing this week, and of course they will open verses their heated division rivals at Gillette, the New York Jets, with whom they split the season series, each winning in the other teams building. The Pats will be huge favorites in this matchup, as they should be, but the scrappy Jets are playing with house money after an improbable playoff run, having already exceeded everyone’s expectations by a country mile, so they can play it fast & loose. Let the border wars commence!

With the NFC's #2 Seed locked up and the #1 Seed out of reach, the Saints pretty much mailed in their finale verses Carolina, playing Drew Brees and numerous starters sparingly if at all. If you think this ranking reflects my view of the Saints as the favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLI, you guessed it. That doesn't mean they'll get there, it only means they're the NFC's most dangerous team in my view.

These guys are pretty dangerous as well, and clearly the NFC's hottest team as we enter the post season. While Jeff Garcia is playing at a very high level and is deserving of all the accolades he has received in recent weeks, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Eagles wind up in Super Bowl XLI, I give the Saints a slight edge based on seeding and Drew Brees, the likely runner-up to LT for league MVP. Philly has a heck of a team and I would swap these two in the rankings if the Saints had to beat the Eagles in Philly, but they don't. If this match up happens it will happen in New Orleans, and I like the Saints homerun hitters at the skill positions in the dome.

I would love the Bears with the #1 Seed in the NFC if Tommie Harris, Mike Brown and Tank Johnson were all still available, if their defense were as dominant today as it was over the first half of the season, but they're not and it's not, and I don't trust that Rex Grossman can makeup the difference. What can really help the Bears would be horrible winter conditions if and when the Saints come marching in, or just that home field advantage if they should draw the Eagles.

7. NEW YORK JETS {10-6}
As I wrote on the message board, I couldn't be more proud of this football team. I don't know what happens from here, if they upset the Patriots and continue this magical season, or it all ends at NE on Sunday, but either way I could not be more proud of this football team for what they accomplished in 2006, winning 10 Games in a brutally tough conference, making the playoffs over some very stiff competition like Cinci, Denver and Jacksonville, and doing it in Year One of the Tangini regime when most folks penciled them in for 4 to 6 wins at best. This team is tough, smart, disciplined, hard working, and just about everything you can admire in a football team. This team has talent as well, you don't win 10 Games in the AFC without talent, and a QB who reads defenses and calls plays at the line of scrimmage about as well as is humanly possible, but most of all their success is predicated on all of the intangibles that are worthy of every Jet fans respect and admiration. LONG LIVE THE PENGUIN

KC out-dueled Jacksonville 35-30 in their home finale then hoped for some help, and their wishes were answered later in the day when SF knocked off the Broncos in OT at Denver. Think about that, Jet fans. Anything can happen. Just because we had the Raiders at home that didn't make it a slam dunk. Anything can happen, even to Mike Shanahan, and even to a very talented Bengals team in their home finale verses Pitt. If either of those teams had won their home finale they would be in the playoffs today, and not KC, but anything can happen. Now Larry Johnson gets a crack at the worst run defense I have ever seen from a playoff team, and that's why I'm ranking KC ahead of the Colts.

Peyton Manning and the Colts high octane offense always has a chance, especially in the dome, but they could hardly ask for a tougher match up in their playoff opener than Larry Johnson, other than LT who will be resting during SD's bye week. Would anyone be surprised if LJ gashes these guys for 200+ on the ground and the Chiefs play a successful game of keep-away from the Colts offense, maintaining a 40 to 20 edge in time of possession?

Talk about leading a charmed life, these guys had the pathetic NFC West clinched even if they lost on Sunday and finished at 8-8, but they beat the dreadful Bucs anyway and saved the NFL from the embarrassment. So they open the playoffs at home verses the equally as inept Cowboys, and I'll pick the Hawks because they're home and Dallas stinks too.

Parcells played that home finale verses the Lions to win. He didn't sit his starters at all, he approached that game like a virtual must win in an attempt to establish some momentum for his sinking ship as they enter the tournament. So what happened? The lowly Lions lit them up for 39 Points and blew the #1 Overall Pick in the process. The only possible ray of hope for the Cowboys this week is their opponent, the equally as awful Seahags. What can I say, the NFC is the gift that just keeps on giving, and just ask my #12 ranked team about that.

Which brings us to the G-Clowns, losers of 6 of their last 7 prior to their win at Washington to lock up the final playoff spot in the NFC, the gift that just keeps on giving, at 8-8. They'll open the playoffs at Philly, verses the hottest team in the NFC and winners of the NFC East where the G-Clowns finished third. I would expect the Eagles to spank these frauds, but you never know when it involves division rivals, they know one another so well and I suppose an upset is possible, though highly unlikely.