Having lost their final two games of the regular season, the Indianapolis Colts aren't exactly roaring into the playoffs.
But they aren't. With the No. 1 seed in the AFC wrapped up and the team's decision-makers more concerned with keeping Peyton Manning and other starters healthy than winning meaningless games, the Colts hardly showed their true form in losing to the New York Jets and Bills. They have little doubt about their ability to win a second Super Bowl since 2006.
"We're ready," defensive end Raheem Brock said. "We're ready to get the playoffs started and get back to that goal of getting another (Super Bowl) ring on our fingers."
Still, they're going to have some strong competition. The strongest should come from the second-seeded San Diego Chargers, who finished the season with an 11-game winning streak. The argument could be made that, even though the Colts have homefield advantage, the Chargers are really the scariest team in the postseason.
The following is one man's list of how the AFC's playoff teams would be ranked in order of how much fear they generate entering the postseason:
1. San Diego Chargers (13-3, No. 2 seed)
There might not be a hotter team in the league.
If the Chargers have a weakness, it is the middle of their defense, which hasn't been the same since losing tackle Jamal Williams at the beginning of the year to a season-ending torn triceps. Power running games can have success, but power running isn't going to win in the playoffs. It takes dynamic passing attacks, and the Chargers have a good enough pass rush to deal with any that come their way.
Fear factor: 8.5
2. Indianapolis Colts (14-2, No. 1 seed)
The defense is small, but coordinator Larry Coyer has this unit playing aggressively. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis form one of the better end duos in the league. Linebackers Gary Brackett and Clint Session are talented playmakers who usually can be found in the vicinity of the football. Safeties Melvin Bullitt and Antoine Bethea also do a nice job in run support.
Fear factor: 8.0
3. New England Patriots (10-6, No. 3 seed)
Still, the Pats remain dangerous because they have a coach, Bill Belichick, and several key players who know their way around the postseason. That will count for something. So will the fact that Brady has so far demonstrated an ability to play through his injuries.
Welker's absence hurts, but the Pats still have Randy Moss, who is a big-play machine. Their running game is getting healthy at the right time, as is their defensive line. Still, they don't generate enough of a pass rush, which could be trouble if the offense can't hold its own in a shootout.
Fear factor: 7.5
4. Baltimore Ravens (9-7, No. 5 seed)
The Ravens can still play strong defense up front. Linebacker Ray Lewis, among the more savvied players in the postseason, leads a group that makes big stops and is capable of coming up with big plays.
Their weakness is a secondary that allows too many long plays, which could pose a serious problem in the postseason.
Fear factor: 7.5
5. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6, No. 4 seed)
The Bengals have been impressive in dealing with multiple tragedies. Cedric Benson's career revival has given them a strong rushing attack. But their offense has been inconsistent. And now Chad Ochocinco is dealing with a knee injury suffered against the Jets on Sunday, an ailment that wasn't thought to be serious but bears monitoring.
Fear factor: 7.0
6. New York Jets (9-7, No. 6 seed)
The Jets have the NFL's top-ranked defense, which is a legitimate postseason credential. They rush the passer well. They have the league's top-ranked rushing attack.
Fear factor: 6.5