Divisional week was highlighted by the youth of the AFC quarterbacks (each of the four participants was age 25 or younger) and the grizzled experience of those on the NFC side (aside from Jared Goff, the other three gunslingers have been in the league since Westerns about gunslingers were all the rage). Now, we know that Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers will be holding the Lombardi Trophy in a few weeks. Allen’s Bills and Mahomes’ Chiefs were the top two seeds in the AFC, so their presence is hardly a surprise. Nor are the Rodgers-led Packers, who are hosting their first conference championship in the post-Brett Favre era. The only real surprise is Brady and the Buccaneers, but can we even call the most accomplished quarterback in history earning a berth in his 14th conference championship game a surprise? No, the answer is that we cannot.
Interestingly, both of these upcoming games are rematches from earlier in the regular season. Tampa Bay beat Green Bay 38-10 on October 18th, although that matchup was played in Tampa. Similarly, Kansas City beat Buffalo 26-17 on October 19th in Buffalo. The second bout will be in Kansas City, of course. Since a lot has changed in the last three months, those games are worth examining, yet they will not be predictive of this weekend’s outcomes. Keep in mind that New Orleans had beaten Tampa Bay twice before losing by 10 at home on Sunday. With that out of the way, let’s get to the rankings!
(Editor’s note: this will be the final power ranking article of the postseason. We will unveil a final ranking after the Super Bowl, listing all 32 teams and how they fare entering the offseason)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-5, Last week: 5)
Devin White sent Drew Brees into retirement on a sour note. The Bucs’ star linebacker recorded 11 tackles, intercepted a pass, and recovered a fumble. White prevented New Orleans from doing much of anything offensively, and Brady added three total touchdowns to seal the victory. One important injury to note is that of Antonio Brown, who underwent a MRI on Monday to determine his availability for the NFC Championship game.
Next week: at Green Bay (14-3)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (15-2, Last week: 1)
Mahomes suffered a head and neck injury in the second half against Cleveland, leaving Chad Henne–who, yes, is still in the league–to close out the win. Henne tossed a pick that gave the Browns a lot of momentum, but he also connected with Tyreek Hill on a fourth down to put the game on ice. Andy Reid sounded confident that Mahomes would be able to return soon. However, without their starting quarterback, Kansas City’s incredible offensive firepower loses a lot of its punch.
Next week: vs. Buffalo (15-3)
2. Buffalo Bills (15-3, Last week: 3)
The Bills’ defense held Baltimore’s offense in check, capped off by Taron Johnson‘s 101-yard pick-six that all but squashed any hope of a Ravens’ comeback. Against the Chiefs, Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison will need to replicate their pass rush success (they combined for three of the team’s four sacks on Sunday). Of course, Henne is nowhere near the threat that Mahomes is, which would make it even more important to gain pressure with a four-man rush and drop seven into coverage. To contain Hill and Travis Kelce, bracket coverage is a must.
Next week: at Kansas City (15-2)
1. Green Bay Packers (14-3, Last week: 2)
Rodgers made short work of the Rams’ top-ranked defense on Saturday. Los Angeles was undermanned, to be sure, but if the Packers can get into a rhythm offensively, Tampa Bay may not be able to withstand the surge. With an explosive passing attack, balanced running backs, and a defense giving up just over 17 points in the last six games, Green Bay is a legitimate contender. All they have to do now is beat a six-time Super Bowl winner. Easy peasy, right?
Next week: vs. Tampa Bay (13-5)