NFL Playoff Power Rankings: Who is the best team going into the postseason?
The NFL playoffs are finally here.,
The NFL playoffs are finally here.
After the Las Vegas Raiders pulled out a 35-32 victory in an overtime thriller over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football, the 14-team playoff picture was set and the chase for the Lombardi Trophy was officially underway.
Any of the 14 teams are capable of winning the Super Bowl this year.
Could Ben Roethlisberger lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to the big game in his final season? How about Kyle Shanahan, Jimmy Garoppolo, and the San Francisco 49ers? Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers? Or will Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs make a third straight Super Bowl?
From worst to first, here are the NFL Playoff Power Rankings heading into Super Wild Card Weekend.
Wild-card opponent: at Chiefs
Outlook: After the Jaguars defeated the Colts in the early window in the final week of the regular season, it became clear that the Steelers had a real chance to make the playoffs for a second-straight year. Pittsburgh pulled out the overtime victory over the Ravens, and after the Raiders took down the Chargers in OT on Sunday Night Football, the Steelers clinched the seventh seed in the AFC.
The Steelers will square off against the Chiefs on Sunday night. Earlier this season, Kansas City rolled to a 36-10 win over Pittsburgh. If the Steelers manage to come away with the first-round upset, they have a chance to make a run.
Wild-card opponent: at Buccaneers
Outlook: The NFL’s best rushing attack will certainly present problems to the defending Super Bowl champions on wild-card weekend. Quarterback Jalen Hurts piled up 784 rushing yards, running back Miles Sanders had 754 yards on the ground, and Jordan Howard added 406 yards as the Eagles piled up 2,715 rushing yards this season.
Back in Week 6, the Buccaneers came away with a 28-22 win over the Eagles, but after that loss, the Eagles went 7-4 over their final 11 games to clinch a playoff berth.
Wild-card opponent: at Bengals
Outlook: Despite all the adversity this season, the Raiders managed to clinch a playoff berth after an incredible 35-32 overtime victory over the Chargers on Sunday night. Running back Josh Jacobs had 132 rushing yards and one touchdown, and quarterback Derek Carr threw for 186 yards and two scores in the win.
Next up, the Raiders will travel to Cincinnati to square off against the Bengals. Earlier this year, Cincinnati rolled to a 32-13 win over the Raiders in Las Vegas. Will Carr and company get their revenge? Only time will tell.
Wild-card opponent: at Bills
Outlook: For a third time this season, the Patriots will square off against their AFC East rival. New England came out with a 14-10 win over the Bills in Buffalo in their first meeting, but two weeks later, the Bills rolled to a 33-21 victory over the Patriots.
Call it the rubber match between these two teams when they square off on Saturday night. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will put the team in the best position to win the game, but rookie quarterback Mac Jones will have to avoid making any mistakes if they want to take down Josh Allen and the Bills.
Wild-card opponent: at Rams
Outlook: The Cardinals started the year a perfect 7-0, but they lost six out of their last 10 games to wrap up the regular season. Arizona will travel to Los Angeles to face the Rams in the wild-card round – it will be the third meeting between the NFC West rivals.
If the Cardinals are going to make a deep run in the playoffs, quarterback Kyler Murray will need to return to the MVP form he displayed early on in the season. The former Oklahoma product finished with 3,787 passing yards, 423 rushing yards, and 29 total touchdowns. In order to take down Matt Stafford and the Rams, Murray will need to be the best player on the field.
Wild-card opponent: vs 49ers
Outlook: A showdown between two of the greatest franchises in NFL history will take place on Sunday afternoon in Dallas. The Cowboys have arguably one of the best rosters in the league, but it will be interesting to see if they can piece it all together in order to make a run in the playoffs.
Quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 4,449 yards with 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and second-year wideout CeeDee Lamb had 79 receptions for 1,102 yards and six scores. If the offense is rolling, the Cowboys will be a dangerous team in the NFC.
Wild-card opponent: at Cowboys
Outlook: There isn’t a hotter team right now in the NFL than the 49ers. Since Week 8, San Francisco has an 8-3 record, which is by far the best in the entire league. A big reason for their recent success is because the 49ers got healthy at the right time.
Tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel are two of the best offensive weapons in the NFL, and they make life a lot easier for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. If the 49ers are going to come away with a win over the Cowboys, they will need to run the ball effectively with Elijah Mitchell and Samuel against a vulnerable Cowboys defense.
Wild-card opponent: Bye
Outlook: The No. 1 seed in the AFC as the seventh team in the power rankings? Yes.
A big reason for that is quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is not regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the AFC and certainly not in the same class as Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, or even Joe Burrow. However, at one point this season, the Titans rolled to six straight wins, including victories over the Rams, Bills, and Chiefs.
Can the Titans duplicate that success and put together a deep playoff run? Who knows. But the Chiefs, Bills, and Bengals have better chances at representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Wild-card opponent: vs Patriots
Outlook: At times, Josh Allen plays like the league MVP. But there are other moments where it seems as if he can’t even complete a pass. If Allen balls out, Buffalo could be Super Bowl-bound. If he doesn’t, the Bills will lose to the Patriots in the first round of the playoffs.
In 2021, Allen threw for 4,407 yards with 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He added 763 yards and six more scores on the ground. Allen will need to lead the Bills to another win over New England in order to advance in the playoffs, and it could set up a date with the Chiefs in the divisional round.
Wild-card opponent: vs Cardinals
Outlook: Matt Stafford and the Rams will head into the postseason after squandering a 17-point lead against the 49ers in the final week of the regular season. The Niners pulled out a 27-24 win on the road and clinched a playoff berth. Stafford has looked like the real deal many times this season, but he also has looked confused while throwing careless interceptions.
Stafford threw for 4,886 yards with 41 touchdowns but had a league-high 17 interceptions. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp hauled in 145 receptions for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns in an All-Pro-worthy season. Both players will need to be on their A-game if the Rams are going to make a deep playoff run.
Wild-card opponent: vs Raiders
Outlook: Maybe it’s a bit premature to put the Bengals this high on a power ranking list in their first postseason with quarterback Joe Burrow under center, but the former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick made a giant leap in his second year for the Bengals.
The Bengals – winners of the AFC North for the first time since 2015 – reunited Burrow with his former LSU teammate and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who is the clear front runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Chase – as a rookie – led the AFC in yards (1,455) and touchdowns (13) and is already one of the best wide receivers in all of football.
The Bengals will only go as far as Burrow and Chase take them. It starts on Saturday against the Raiders.
Wild-card opponent: vs Eagles
Outlook: A year after winning the Super Bowl, Tom Brady and company followed it up with a stellar regular season in 2021. At 44 years old, Brady led the NFL in passing yards (5,316) and touchdowns (43) to help the Bucs get the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
Even though the Bucs are dealing with a handful of injuries on both sides of the football, it’s impossible to count out the greatest quarterback in league history, who is chasing an unprecedented eighth Super Bowl title. Their journey begins on Sunday when they host the Eagles in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
Wild-card opponent: vs Steelers
Outlook: Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have their sights set on returning to a third straight Super Bowl appearance. Last year, Kansas City would like to forget its performance against the Buccaneers in Tampa, and it starts with a favorable matchup against the Steelers in the wild-card round.
Mahomes threw for 4,839 yards with 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season. Tyreek Hill had 111 receptions for 1,239 yards and nine TDs and tight end Travis Kelce pulled in 92 catches for 1,125 yards and nine scores. All three players will be critical in Kansas City’s quest to return to the Super Bowl.
Wild-card opponent: Bye
Outlook: The No. 1 seed in the NFC is the favorite to win the Super Bowl.
Aaron Rodgers – who is the favorite to win back-to-back NFL MVP awards – once again led the Packers to the NFC North crown. He threw for 4,115 yards with 37 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Wide receiver Davante Adams had 123 catches for 1,553 yards and 11 scores in another All-Pro-worthy season.
The offense will be fine for the Packers, but will their defense rise to the occasion this postseason? Green Bay’s defense finished the regular season ninth in total yards allowed per game (328.2) and 14th in points allowed (21.8). In order for the Packers to win a second Super Bowl with Rodgers under center, the defense will need to be at their best as well.