NFL Power Rankings: Wild Card Weekend

We have officially made it to the NFL playoffs, and it’s been a wild ride.

Below you are going to find the power rankings for the playoff teams and analysis on each one.

We have listed their final regular season rank and their preseason power ranking. I figured it would be fun to see what changed over the course of the season, and what didn’t.

As will happen every Tuesday until the offseason, nine of our contributors — Zach Lyons, Mike HerndonJustin MeloJimmy MorrisRobert GreenlawWes WisleyAustin NelsonJosh Hong, and Justin Graver — have submitted their power rankings. Below is the aggregate results of those rankings.

Biggest Hit: We nailed the Kansas City Chiefs. Surprising I know.

Biggest Miss: We put the Washington Football Team all the way at Number 30 in the preseason, and here they are against all odds at Number 14 and in the playoffs.

Here’s where we landed with our rankings as we head into Wild Card Weekend…

To see the full list of everyone’s individual rankings click here.

End of Season Rank:1stPreseason Rank:1st

Mike: The Chiefs wrapped up another great regular season, going 14-2 with one of their two losses coming in a meaningless Week 17 game where they rested their key players. However, there is a lingering question about their dominance… why aren’t they blowing teams out? Since beating the Jets 35-9 back in Week 8, KC hasn’t beaten any opponent by more than six points.

Maybe Kansas City was just bored and toying with opponents as they played out the string before their real season started, but wins like the Chiefs 17-14 struggle against the 4-12 Falcons in Week 16 still sit in the back of my mind and make me question whether this group is truly invincible. Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill are still elite — and this is still the team to beat in the NFL — but there are holes on the offensive line and on the defense that could be exploited by the right matchup in the playoffs.

End of Season Rank:2ndPreseason Rank:8th

Josh: MVP candidate quarterback? Check. Elite wide receiver? Check. Young offensive guru head coach? Check. Experienced defensive coordinator? Check.

On paper, the Packers have everything you need to push for a deep playoff run and potentially a Super Bowl. Having clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC, they also earned the lone bye week in their conference to rest up some of their starters.

In 2019, the Packers were able to make it to the NFC Championship game before being defeated by the 49ers. However, this year, all of the NFC playoff teams seem fairly beatable and none have a quarterback playing at as high of a level as Aaron Rodgers right now. After taking Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Rodgers looks more motivated than ever to reach his second Super Bowl.

End of Season Rank:4thPreseason Rank:12th

Justin G: Josh Allen is an MVP finalist, Brian Daboll is a hot head coaching candidate, and the Bills are NFC East champions for the first time since 1995, also the last time the Bills won a playoff game. This team enters the postseason as hot as any in the league, coming off a 52-26 shellacking of the Miami Dolphins, when Buffalo had little incentive to try while Miami was fighting for their playoff hopes.

In fact, Buffalo’s only loss in their last 10 games was on the “Hail Murray” incredible game-winning catch by DeAndre Hopkins. Before that, their last loss was to the Chiefs… back in Week 6! This team looks near unstoppable as they prepare to host the Indianapolis Colts this weekend.

End of Season Rank:3rdPreseason Rank:3rd

Zach: The New Orleans Saints utterly decimated the Carolina Panthers 33-7 on Sunday without any of their star running backs and Michael Thomas. Right now, the Saints are the least respected 12-4 team in the NFL, and I think they prefer it that way.

They secured the No. 2 seed in the NFC and draw home field advantage for the next two weeks. While COVID-19 has lessened the actual advantages considerably, there is still plenty to like about not having to travel.

The Saints’ defense ends the regular season ranked fourth in yards allowed, third in turnovers generated, fifth in passing yards allowed, first in interceptions, fourth in rushing yards allowed, and fifth in points allowed. They’re a monstrous unit who swept Tampa Bay and very narrowly lost to Green Bay.

The New Orleans Saints offense is no slouch either — they’ve scored the fifth most points in the NFL, and that’s without Michael Thomas and Drew Brees for most of the year. Even with Taysom Hill at QB, this unit was able to win and put up points doing so.

That credit belongs to this staff, who, with Sean Payton at the helm, just finds ways to innovate and win. I think the Saints have as good a shot as anyone in the NFL to walk home with the Lombardi trophy when it’s all said and done.

End of Season Rank:5thPreseason Rank:9th

Zach: Staying in the NFC South, I also chose to write about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Here’s why I chose this team: to essentially just gloat.

I told everyone that this team would have double digit wins and, on top of that, make the playoffs. Sure, sometimes it was ugly to watch this offense, and an aging Tom Brady had plenty of games where he proved Father Time was whispering in his ear.

This defense is legit, yet not without flaws. You have to attack them through the air, because the Bucs are first in every rushing defense category imaginable. While they’re sixth in yards allowed and eighth in points allowed, they have been exploitable in the passing game.

Which is surprising given the beatdown they gave Green Bay in Week 6 when they won 38-10.

What can we say about Tom Brady? Well, despite some turmoil here and there, he fit the Bruce Arians model of QB. He threw 40 TDs, which was the most since he’s totaled since 2007, but like Arians’s offenses tend to, he had a high number of interceptions (12) — his most since 2010.

When you have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Gronk, Antonio Brown, and elite Scotty Miller, that Brady stat line was bound to happen. (Psst, that’s why he chose them, which I also got right.)

All in all, I pegged this team pretty well, and I just want you all to know I’m always right and never wrong, and that’s why you should believe me when I tell you that while Tampa will win Sunday, you should be taking Washington +8.5 all day long.

End of Season Rank:10thPreseason Rank:5th

Justin G: The Titans have the NFL’s leading rusher after Derrick Henry eclipsed 2,000 yards last week. The Titans would’ve had the leading rusher if Henry had sat out the last two games. They also have a 40-touchdown quarterback and a 1,000-yard receiver. This offense is a machine.

However, the defense is also a machine… a “let the other team score” machine. The biggest obstacle in the way of the Titans’ Super Bowl hopes will be that defense. Can Mike Vrabel get his unit to play at a respectable level against the league’s best teams? If they can create some turnovers and play well in the red zone, anything is possible with this defense.

End of Season Rank:7thPreseason Rank:2nd

Josh: Will Lamar Jackson finally get his first playoff win?

The Ravens will only go as far as Jackson can take them. In his first two playoff games, he’s thrown three interceptions, lost four fumbles and taken eleven sacks. These types of negative plays just can’t happen in the playoffs, when the margin for error is so low.

After getting embarrassed by the Titans in the Divisional Round last year, the two teams have the opportunity to face off once again. The Titans beat the Ravens earlier in the season 30-24 in a thrilling overtime contest, but the Ravens should be plenty motivated for this one after losing last year and this season. Don’t forget the Titans’ players warming up on their logo.

If Jackson can play a cleaner brand of football than his previous playoff performances, he should have a real shot at finally getting his first playoff win.

End of Season Rank:9thPreseason Rank:15th

Mike: The Colts-Bills matchup is one of the most interesting first round tilts coming up this weekend. Indy’s tough defense and an emerging Jonathan Taylor running behind an elite offensive line are playoff ready and will make them a tough out, even for the red hot Bills.

The question with Indianapolis remains the same one that we opened the season with… can Philip Rivers get it done when it matters? The 39-year old veteran passer had his eighth straight season of at least 4,000 yards passing and 20 passing touchdowns this year, but he still remains prone to poorly timed turnovers and has a long track record of shrinking in the playoffs, even on some Chargers squads that were more talented than the 2020 Colts. I may be alone on this, but I think a first-round upset of the heavily favored Bills is entirely possible, but it’s hard to imagine Rivers winning three straight to send Indy to the Super Bowl.

End of Season Rank:6thPreseason Rank:7th

Robert: The Seahawks got out to a flying start this year. The lowest point total they put up in their first eight games was 27. Russell Wilson was considered the MVP frontrunner and for good reason. Since then, the offense has sputtered, as has Wilson.

The Seahawks finished 8th in scoring offense, but over the last half of the season, only averaged 23 points per game. A third matchup against the Rams will make it difficult to put up points, but facing a potentially Goff-less offense should help mitigate a poor scoring output.

Should the Seahawks defeat Los Angeles, it’s very tough to see a path to a Super Bowl. That is unless the Bears and Washington Football Team both pull upsets and weaken the NFC pool going forward.

End of Season Rank:11thPreseason Rank:21st

Justin M: The Browns finally did it! They defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17 and ended the league’s longest standing playoff drought while doing so. The victory earns them a playoff date with… the same Steelers team they just defeated. Well, not exactly. The Steelers rested a ton of starters on Sunday, including starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

This Browns playoff appearance may be the feel-good story of the year. This franchise broke the curse, right? Wrong…

Talk about bad luck. The Browns will now enter their first playoff game in nearly two decades without their head coach and several other members of his staff.

If Baker Mayfield and company can pull off a victory despite the odds, it will be the best story of the weekend.

End of Season Rank:8thPreseason Rank:11th

Austin: I have been hard on the Steelers all year long simply because: I think they are overrated.

Some may agree, some may not. I have two eyes and their offense is nothing special. Pittsburgh’s elite defense has bailed the offense out time and time again over the season.

Now, we get Browns/Steelers III this weekend and Pittsburgh is getting some luck again from the football gods. As Melo said above, the Browns will be without Head Coach Kevin Stefanski and starting guard Joel Bitonio.

The Steelers are only going to make a Super Bowl run if Big Ben can look like vintage Big Ben and he gets some help from his receivers.

End of Season Rank:12thPreseason Rank:16th

Austin: Who are the Rams? At one point, they were in first place in the NFC West and then gave the Jets their first win of the season.

Now, they hobble into the playoffs possibly without their starting QB. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Jared Goff could be a game time decision.

The Rams were too inconsistent at the end of the season for there to be any hopes of a deep playoff run. The defense has been their backbone all year long, but they will need Goff to play if they have any chances at upsetting the Seahawks.

End of Season Rank:14thPreseason Rank:24th

Wes: The Chicago Bears have turned it up over the final stretch of the regular season. Mitchell Trubisky has come to life and led his team to a shocking playoff appearance.

The defense has been the foundation of the team all year with many wondering “what if” about how good this team could be with a better offense. We now get a chance to see they are legit or pretenders with a Wild Card matchup with the Saints.

It will be a tough task for the Bears’ offense which will need a Herculean performance from Trubisky if they are to upset the highly favored Saints. Can Khalil Mack and their strong defense make life difficult for Drew Brees’ (possibly) final post-season? Crazier things have happened!

End of Season Rank:15thPreseason Rank:30th

Wes: The Washington Football Team were the Champions of the worst division in the NFL. Congratulations!After starting the season 2-7 the WFT finished strong with a 7-9 record. Between their improving defensive front and my hero QB Alex Smith, they did just enough to earn a home playoff spot despite ending the season with a losing record.Not many people give them a chance to get out of the wild card round. Smith is dealing with a calf strain that could force him to share snaps with backup QB Taylor Heinicke. Tom Brady and the Bucs should win this game, but as we’ve learned, anything can happen.

Who is too high? Who is too low? Drop a comment down below!

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