NFL Playoff Power Rankings: Can underdog Patriots make a run?
Twenty teams are finished and can now begin canning and/or hiring coaches, ordering their draft board and prioritizing free agents. None of the 20 that got bumped will be missed.
There wasn’t a dark-horse in either conference that made you say, “Hmmmm … that would have been a dangerous opponent in the postseason. And that’s good because — among the dozen remaining — there are five AFC teams that have a shot to win and four in the NFC.
It feels like a changing of the guard may take place in the AFC where the Patriots stagger into the postseason off their stunning loss to Miami.
Here’s how the postseason field stacks up.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
The Eagles sneaked into the postseason by taking care of business in their moribund division.
Their final four wins against the Giants (twice), Redskins and Cowboys put their three-game losing streak to the Patriots, Seahawks and Dolphins in the past. Now they get to host a playoff game against the 11-5 Seahawks. If they survive, they go cross-country to meet the Niners in the Divisional Round.
Part of me would like to see that rather than another eventual Seahawks-Niners game. Seems like they play every other week.
11. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
A really resourceful team. After getting backed into a corner with late-season losses to the Texans and Saints, Tennessee responded in a game it had to have in the finale, winning over Houston, 35-14.
The Titans waxed the Patriots 34-10 last year and knocked Tom Brady around. Their 9-7 record last year wasn’t enough to qualify. They have a 1,000-yard rusher in Derrick Henry; a 1,000-yard receiver in A.J. Brown, a rejuvenated Ryan Tannehill completing 70 percent of his passes and no reason to be scared of the Patriots.
10. Buffalo Bills (10-6)
They will play at Houston. While three of their final four games were losses, their finale was a mail-in job against the Jets.
Before that, they lost to the Patriots and Ravens but they won late-season games at Pittsburgh and Dallas.
The Bills will go as far as their defense takes them.
9. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
Their seeding secure, they took a loss in the finale against Chicago.
But it’s been a while since they had a win to get excited about. The only playoff team they beat was the Eagles, and that was in early October.
Probably going to get demolished by the Saints.
8. New England Patriots (12-4)
Finished the season by losing two of their final three home games and went 4-4 over the second half. Lost to all three division winners in the AFC.
They were fortunate to play the worst NFC division in 2019, the NFC East. So strapped offensively and undressed in the season finale against Miami a week after appearing to awaken against the Bills.
The Titans could be a problem.
7. Houston Texans (10-6)
With their division title secure, the Texans mailed it in against Tennessee. They are capable of anything — they followed up their handling of the Patriots with a 14-point home loss to the Broncos.
They also got crushed at Baltimore when the Texans were still competing for the top spot in the AFC. They allowed 48.6 percent conversions on third down and Deshaun Watson took 44 sacks behind an inconsistent offensive line.
They’ll host the Bills. I won’t be surprised if they lose.
6. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
Their reward for an 11-5 record is going cross-country to play at the Eagles in the late game next Sunday.
They won at Philly in late November, 17-9, but they’ve closed the season in a bit of a funk losing three of their final four games including a home loss to the Cardinals in Week 16.
Russell Wilson takes way too many sacks (48), but he’s too singularly brilliant to bet against.
5. Green Bay Packers (13-3)
They won their last five games — though only one was against a playoff team (at Minnesota).
They got demolished by the Niners and Chargers and their offensive woes (36 percent on third down) kind of mirror the Patriots' struggles as a great quarterback seems tethered to an offense that isn’t operating with the precision Aaron Rodgers wants to see.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
They lost four out of six from October 6 to November 10 but buttoned up defensively after that and won their last six, giving up a total of 66 points in those games.
All their losses were by a touchdown or less and even though the spotlight swung away from Patrick Mahomes after his injury, he still had a monster season with 26 TDs and five picks while completing 66 percent of his passes.
3. New Orleans Saints (13-3)
They scored 30 or more in 11 games, plus 34 or more in each of their last four including a 48-46 loss to the Niners.
They’ll open with the Vikings, who lost three of their last five and were just 4-4 on the road. A good chance for the Saints to repay the Minneapolis Miracle loss from two years ago.
Between Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook, Drew Brees has more than he needs to take out Minny.
2. San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
Aside from their aberration of a loss at home to the Falcons, their only defeats were at Baltimore and in overtime against Seattle.
They have playmakers on defense, finishing with 48 sacks, and they have plenty of firepower on offense, led by tight end George Kittle and Jimmy Garoppolo who finished with 27 touchdown passes, 13 picks and a 102.0 rating.
They’ll go as far as he takes them — and he’ll take them far if he avoids turnovers (five lost fumbles along with the 13 picks).
1. Baltimore Ravens (14-2)
A layup for the top team in the power rankings.
They won at Seattle, they took care of the Niners in Baltimore, they handled the Patriots with ease, they won in Buffalo, and they demolished Houston. Their losses came in back-to-back weeks at Kansas City and then at home against Cleveland.
Since then, they’ve been a wrecking ball.