What began with 32 teams have been whittled away to eight. Some would say they are an elite group of eight. Wild Card weekend is behind us and we head to the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs. The top seeds from both the NFC and AFC get a chance to join the fray. It’s time for some power rankings! Ahead of the weekend’s matchups we rank the remaining eight teams, and toss in the vanquished for good measure.
Head coach Sean Payton reportedly walked into the Saints locker room this week with the Vince Lombardi trophy and $225,000 in cash. He asked his team if they wanted the chance to hold both of those items. According to nola.com, playoff bonuses for wins in the divisional, conference, and Super Bowl total about $201,000. Payton’s math may not be correct but the motivation tactic has worked before. He pulled a similar stunt in 2009, the year his team won the franchise’s only championship. The Saints have Drew Brees and a talented ground game on offense coupled with a talented defense. New Orleans have the home field advantage throughout the playoffs and remember the sting of last season’s heartbreaking loss in Minnesota. The Eagles stand in their way. It has the makings of being a beautiful battle.
With the Chiefs the name of the game is offense. Kansas City has by far the worst defense of all the playoff teams. However, they also possess the most explosive offense. Patrick Mahomes is likely the league MVP and instills a belief not normally seen surrounding an Andy Reid coached playoff team. The failures of Reid in the playoffs have hung over the Chiefs since they squandered a 28-point lead against the Colts in the 2013 playoffs. Regardless of past season performances, the Chiefs earned the top seed in the AFC. Kansas City will need to continue their offensive explosion on Saturday as the Colts come to town. Indianapolis is playing with house money and believe they are destined to make a run. At some point the Chiefs defense will need to make a big stop. Will that come this weekend?
The Rams stumbled their way to the second seed in the NFC. A high-powered offense hit a few speed bumps over the final weeks of the season but used the 49ers for a glorified scrimmage and got back to business. The defense is talented on paper but has been inconsistent. Jared Goff may have found his Pro Bowl self again but needs to prove he can play at a high level in the playoffs. Head coach Sean McVay has his hands full with a fast and physical Dallas defense. Los Angeles needs the victory to avoid a second straight season of being a one and done playoff team. Dallas is perhaps the toughest matchup the Rams could have hoped for as the Cowboys offensive line is the best suited to neutralize defensive tackle Aaron Donald. If the Rams defense can’t stop the Dallas rushing attack it will be a long day in Hollywood.
Of any team involved in Wild Card weekend, the Chargers had perhaps the toughest battle. The Chargers traveled to Baltimore and beat the Ravens with a swarming defense and effective offense. Points were at a premium and Los Angeles benefited from kicker Michael Badgley’s five field goals. It was shocking to see a Chargers kicker succeed in a playoff game after years of horrors from the position. The Chargers offense held a seven minute time of possession advantage while mustering just 243 total yards. Philip Rivers was effective and stood strong against a very good Ravens defense. Defensively the Chargers shut down the Baltimore run game and kept the Ravens to under 100 yards of total offense in the first half. The Chargers head to New England on Sunday.
The Patriots enjoyed a bye week. Sunday brings the Chargers and a chance for New England to show they are as dangerous as ever. Truth be told, this may be one of the least talented rosters during the Bill Belichick era. However, underestimate the Patriots at your own peril as they again are one of the top seeds in the AFC and will host Los Angeles. Beating the Patriots in Foxborough is never easy. Since 2001, the Patriots are 19-3 in home playoff games. Having Tom Brady at quarterback and the greatest head coach in NFL history will give you a sizable advantage. New England has significant holes on both sides of the ball and can be beat. Are the Chargers the team who can finally slay the beast?
Frank Reich’s bunch continued their winning ways with a dominating victory over the Texans. The Colts stepped into NRG Stadium and controlled the trenches on both sides of the ball. Indianapolis used a balanced attack on offense. The Colts ran the football on a normally stingy Texans defense. Indianapolis finished with 200 yards on the ground, led by Marlon Mack and his 148 yards on 24 carries, including a score. Andrew Luck threw for two scores in addition to 222 yards on 19 of 32 passing. By halftime it was a 21-0 score in favor of the Colts. Defensively the Colts suffocated the Texans offense. Rookie Darius Leonard continued his great first season and finished with 13 tackles and one pass defended.
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Dallas bested what many believed to be the most dangerous team entering the playoffs, the Seattle Seahawks. The Cowboys fed Ezekiel Elliott and rode their running back to a two-point victory. Dallas’ defense put up a roadblock on the Seattle vaunted ground game. Seattle finished with just 73 yards rushing on the game. The Seahawks had previously totaled over 150 yards rushing in each of their previous five games. Dallas has the ground game and defense to go far in the playoffs. They will be tested again on Saturday as they travel west to play the Los Angeles Rams.
The Eagles went into Chicago and survived against a tough defense. Philadelphia’s offense came through in the clutch and Nick Foles played fearlessly. On defense the Eagles controlled the line of scrimmage and did well to make tackles in the open field. Chicago’s offense got going in the second half but the Eagles minimized damage by forcing field goals. In the end it was defensive lineman cut by the Raiders in the preseason who got a finger on Cody Parkey’s field goal attempt. The victory served as a warning to the rest of the NFC: The Eagles will defend their title until the bitter end.
The Seahawks were the only road team who suffered a loss on Wildcard weekend. Pete Carroll’s bunch got beat by the better team.
Baltimore’s offense thought they could use the same gameplan against a talented Chargers defense. This is the NFL, you need to keep progressing or you lose, and Baltimore lost.
The defense was as advertised, unfortunately a tipped kick prevented Chicago from moving forward. It was a game they should have won. Oh, and I apologize in advance.
The worst performance from any team in the playoffs. This is pretty simple.
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Do you agree with the rankings? Which team would hold the top spot for you? Divisional weekend is quickly approaching and each game looks to bring exciting endings. Come back next week and see where each team falls on our power rankings.