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Jets, Redskins, Broncos face playoff run setbacks

Forget Eli Manning vs. Tom Brady. Super Bowl XLVI pitted the New York Giants and the league's worst rushing attack against the New England Patriots and their 31st-ranked defense.

You don't often see that, but even championship teams have a weakness.

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Winning franchises learn to mask their faults, but this is dangerous territory. Opponents are mining for every advantage.

Here's a look at five teams with every reason to talk playoffs, save for this one nagging -- potentially fatal -- weakness:

1. New York Jets wideouts: Santonio Holmes creates problem for defenses when he feels like it. That wasn't often last season. He's the clear No. 1 of this group, but here's a guy who couldn't swing it as team captain and ultimately divided the locker room. Where was the pass-catcher who made the Jets something special in big moments two seasons ago?

Behind Holmes, the picture blurs. There's talk of Chaz Schilens competing for No. 2 with Jeremy Kerley. Rookie Stephen Hill could develop into a home-run hitter, but he caught a total of 49 passes in college. First-year wideouts often need time to develop. Things won't get any easier for Mark Sanchez.

2. Washington Redskins running backs: The playoffs are a stretch, but Redskins fans look to Robert Griffin III to rescue this franchise from decades of disturbing quarterback play. That won't be easy with this roster. RG3 goes into battle without anything resembling a bell-cow in the backfield. Roy Helu did solid work as a rookie, but coach Mike Shanahan hasn't found a way to duplicate the ground-game success he had with the Denver Broncos.

Defenses don't believe in this running game, and that should make things interesting for RG3.

3. Chicago Bears offensive line: We haven't seen Jay Cutler at his best in Chicago because the Bears refuse to protect him. The team was 7-3 and surging when Cutler went down with a thumb injury. Without him, they slid into darkness and vanished from the playoff picture.

Cutler, an underrated quarterback, has been brutalized behind a patchwork line. Chicago -- and this is mystifying -- did nothing to address the issue in the offseason.

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4. Denver Broncos defensive line: How do you beat the Broncos? Keep Peyton Manning off the field. Tall order, but teams have to grind out yardage and chew up the clock. That's made easier thanks to Denver's suspect defensive line. The Broncos allowed 155 rushing yards per game in 2010 and 126.3 last season (22nd in the league). Switching to the 4-3 could help against the run, but outside of Elvis Dumervil, Denver's front four -- especially on the inside -- lacks consistency. Teams will key on this all day long.

5. New England Patriots defensive backfield: Nobody can question Bill Belichick's inventive approach to the secondary last season. In an act of desperation, wideouts Julian Edelman and Matt Slater moonlighted as defensive backs. This was cute a decade ago when Troy Brown actually developed into a solid defender -- this time around it was a cry for help.

Everybody talks about Brady's ill-fated Hail Mary, but Eli Manning and the Giants won their second Super Bowl against the Patriots by shredding this defensive backfield in the game's decisive drive. With no major upgrades this offseason, the Patriots are vulnerable against an offense that can keep pace with New England. Few teams can, but it could be Belichick's Achilles' heel in 2012.

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