Well, here we are. It’s hard to believe but the NFL Playoffs are upon us. Twelve teams are left playing, all with the same goal. Which teams have the best shot?
The beauty of the playoffs is that anything can happen. Although with some of the quarterbacks in this postseason, it seems like some teams face an impossible challenge.
Remember, we switch formats this week moving forward. The past five weeks we have given you each conference’s Power 5 and one Honorable Mention. This week, and for the rest of the season, we give you the Top 12, playoff teams only.
So, how did they fall?
12. Dolphins (Last Week: AFC Honorable Mention). Believe it or not, of all the not-starting, starting quarterbacks in the playoffs, Matt Moore is probably our favorite. That being said, the Steelers are rolling, winners of seven in a row, and in Pittsburgh you can be sure they will be looking to avenge their loss earlier in the season.
11. Texans (Last Week: AFC No. 5). Brock Osweiler is back under center. As one of his biggest skeptics, when they opened up the offense for him and went hurry up in the second half last week, he looked pretty darn good. We think the Texans move on this week because of the Raiders injury situation. Their defense makes them a scary team. If Brock figures it out and can play mistake-free football, this defense is strong enough to scare some teams. This is the one team in the bottom third that could make the biggest jump.
10. Raiders (Last Week: AFC No. 4). Matt McGloin and Connor Cook was not the decision Jack Del Rio wanted to make in the Raiders first playoff appearance since their 2002 Super Bowl run. Needless to say, no one expected this to be the Raiders year. They are far ahead of the curve, Del Rio is the Coach of the Year (in our opinion) and getting Carr healthy is top priority, because with a young roster under reasonable control, this team is a Super Bowl contender next year. Win or lose Saturday, they walk away victorious with the playoff experience this team gets.
9. Lions (Last Week: NFC Honorable Mention). You just can’t rule out Matthew Stafford. Sunday night’s game was closer than it looked. A missed field goal early on and the steam roller that Aaron Rodgers has been changed the pace of the game. The problem is that they are heading to one of the hardest places to play in January the past few seasons.
8. Giants (Last Week: NFC No. 5). The Giants may be the second best defense in the playoffs, which makes them scary. The difference between this Giants Wild Card team and the past two that made Cinderella runs is Eli Manning. I’ll take a lot of heat for this, but Eli is no longer a Super Bowl quarterback. This defense could get them far, but we have little confidence that Eli can close the book as he has done in the past, especially in Green Bay.
7. Seahawks (Last Week: NFC No. 4). Never count out the Seahawks in January. This is when they play some of their best football (remember when they were 7-9 and beat the Saints?) Still, they are dealing with some big injuries. They should sneak by week one, but playing on the road in the Divisional Round will prove challenging.
6. Steelers (Last Week: AFC No. 3). This offense has three high-profiled players and arguably the best running back and wide receiver in the game. The defense steps up at the opportune time, the problem has simply been their consistency. This team can definitely make a run.
5. Chiefs (Last Week: AFC No. 2). Talk about a defense that makes the most of their opportunites. The Chiefs find themselves in close games, and then a pick-six (or returned two-point conversion) wins them the game. Tyreke Hill has become a game changer and if teams sleep on him (or continue to kick to him) he can take this team to the next level. They have to make sure Travis Kelce is doing Travis Kelce things in the playoffs.
4. Packers (Last Week: NFC No. 3). Aaron Rodgers is likely going to swoop in and steal the MVP from Matt Ryan because of his play the past several weeks. This offense is lethal and I have always loved the Packers defense. With a gritty, young secondary and an electric offense, this team could easily be in Houston in a few weeks.
3. Cowboys (Last Week: NFC NO. 1). They are the best team statistically speaking in the NFL, yet we have them at No. 3? As Saucy T has pointed out, it’s tough to trust a rookie quarterback in the playoffs. Paired with a rookie running back and a questionable defense, that’s a big question mark. Much like the Raiders, no one thought this was the Cowboys year. They are ahead of the curve, and this could be the start of another dynasty.
2. Falcons (Last Week: NFC No. 2). This offense is sick. Matt Ryan is the MVP of the league, although Brady or Rodgers will likely win it as the media darlings. Julio Jones is healthy, and Devonta Freeman is explosive out of the back field. It all comes down to defense for the Falcons. How much does Vic Beasley have in the tank?
1. Pats (Last Week: AFC No. 1). From Day One of the NFL season, the Pats have been the best all-around team. Let’s be honest, since 2001, the Pats have been the best team in the NFL. Rob Gronkowski out for the year? No problem, Brady will throw a jump pass to Martellus Bennett. Tom Brady suspended four games? No problem, we will win with our second and third string quarterbacks. Danny Amendola aging and hurt? No problem, we’ll make Malcolm Mitchell a star. Say that the Pats are all Brady and the dink and dunks to Edelman and Gronk? No problem, we’ll get LeGarrette Blount to lead the league in touchdowns. Tell us our defense is a question mark? No problem, we’ll allow the least points in the entire NFL. These Patriots are not only one of their best squads to date, they are playing with a huge chip on their shoulder. I wouldn’t want to have to go to Foxboro.