Best Foote Forward: Power Ranking the NFL Playoff Teams

The NFL regular season has concluded and each team now knows either where it will be drafting in April or, in fortunate cases, where it is seeded in the playoffs.
With that said, last week was the final week featuring all 32 NFL teams in the Power Rankings.
Last week’s slate of games had little-to-no impact on what would be this week’s full-32 rankings, so we’re going to rank only the 12 playoff teams for this year! Let’s see where your team (hopefully it made the playoffs!) ranks in TBFF’s Wild Card Weekend Power Rankings!

12. Tennessee Titans

Tennessee took care of business (although it wasn’t pretty) on Sunday against Jacksonville and clinched a playoff berth. The 5-seeded Titans will travel to Kansas City on Saturday to face the resurgent Chiefs. Marcus Mariota is going to be the key to this game for the Titans because when he’s on target, this team is hard to beat. When the team loses, it is usually because of Mariota’s poor play. It’s going to take a very good performance on offense to outscore a Chiefs team that finished 6th in the league in points per game.

11. Buffalo Bills

The moment the Bills realized they were playoff bound was about as cool as you’ll ever see again. Buffalo did its part by beating the Dolphins and the entire team waited in the locker room to see if the Bengals could upset Baltimore and kick them out of the playoffs, sliding Buffalo into the 6th and final seed in the AFC and sending the locker room into a frenzy. Hopefully the Bills can bring that level of energy to Jacksonville on Sunday in an effort to upset the AFC South champions in the Jaguars. LeSean McCoy’s ankle injury is something to keep an eye on as the week goes on, as Shady is currently a game-time decision. I have a feeling he’ll play, which is a big boost for a Bills team facing one of the best defenses in the entire NFL.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags didn’t end the season so hot, dropping two straight to end the year. Blake Bortles had been playing great football during the team’s three-game winning streak, but went back to bad Blake for the final two weeks of the regular season. If bad Blake shows up against the Bills, Jacksonville could be headed home early. Regardless of which version of Bortles shows up, it’ll be the defense that wins this game for the Jags, just as the case has been all season.

9. Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton just can’t seem to figure out which version of himself he wants to be. The Panthers are eerily similar to the Jaguars, but Carolina’s offense is much more dynamic when it’s at its fullest potential. Carolina’s defense is going to be relied upon pretty heavily Sunday night in New Orleans, especially if Newton struggles. Carolina is a very dangerous team when both the offense and defense are rolling but lately, it’s been hit or miss with this squad.

8. Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta hasn’t been the most consistent team this season but when Matt Ryan is playing well and the defense is doing its fair share, this team is hands down one of the best in the league. Atlanta is going to need a perfect game from both sides in order to upset the Rams on Saturday in what could be the best game of the weekend. Ryan hasn’t thrown more than one touchdown in a game since November 20 – which will have to change if the Falcons have any hopes of beating LA.

7. Kansas City Chiefs

A tale of two seasons for Kansas City. Through the first five weeks of the season, Kansas City was the consensus best team in the league. The team then proceeded to lose 6 of its next 7 games and fall to 6-6 on the year. The same team finished off the year with four convincing wins to end the regular season with a 10-6 record. If Kansas City is truly back on the right track, it is one of the best teams in the league and shouldn’t have much trouble handling the Titans on Saturday. If the bad Chiefs return, it looks like Alex Smith and company will be watching the rest of the playoffs from home.

6: Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles failed to score a single point in week 17 against the Cowboys. I’m hoping this is an aberration, not a trend. If it is a trend, whoever faces Philly in the Divisional Round of the playoffs is in for a treat. Head coach Doug Pederson has reiterated that Foles is his guy for the job, but may be on a short leash. Philadelphia has a week to work out any kinks in Foles’ game before its first playoff game. This team is super talented but without steady QB play, it can only keep a game so close.

5. New Orleans Saints

New Orleans deserves to be in the top five of these rankings for many reasons. Drew Brees is playing great football. Sean Payton is still his head coach. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are the first RB duo to each have 1,500+ yards from scrimmage in the same season. New Orleans has the leading DROY candidate in Marshon Lattimore. The Saints will come marching in on Sunday looking to defeat a bitter division rival in the Panthers, who have played some very inconsistent football as of late. The Saints have been a model of consistency this season and should bring the same style of play to the field in the Wild Card round.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

Le’Veon Bell. Ben Roethlisberger. JuJu Smith-Schuster. That’s scary enough without arguably the best WR in the NFL in Antonio Brown, whose status for the divisional round of the playoffs is still unknown. Brown is making good progress in his attempt to return from a calf injury, but we’ll see if that translates to him being able to play. Even if Brown can’t go, Pittsburgh boasts one of the best offenses in the league and an athletic defense that can get after you all throughout the game. The Steelers are the main threat to the Patriots in the AFC without Brown. With him, this team can go toe-to-toe with anyone.

3. Los Angeles Rams

The Rams lost last week to the 49ers without the majority of their starters, so I’m not going to knock them down a spot or discredit the amazing work Sean McVay has done with this bunch. The Rams’ offense put up more points than any other team this season and the defense has allowed the 12th-fewest points, still very solid. The Falcons are a very good matchup for this team and should prove to be a decent test for the defense. Goff and Gurley are going to have good games no matter who they’re facing, which could be the difference on Saturday.

2. Minnesota Vikings

Case Keenum or not, this is still one of the most complete teams I’ve ever seen. Minnesota has playmakers for days on both sides of the ball, a great head coach and a quarterback who knows what he has to do in order to win. Keenum has played his way into a starting job (somewhere) next season and can help his situation even more with a couple solid performances in the playoffs. Many want to write the Vikings off and consider them a great team that isn’t capable of reaching the Super Bowl, but that’s foolish. This team is insanely talented and behind efficient QB play and some dominant defense, Minnesota is a scary opponent to face.

1. New England Patriots

Who else would be in the top spot? New England scored the second-most points in the NFL this season while allowing the fifth-fewest point total. Defense was a weakness at the beginning of the year for this bunch and is now something that can help the team, not hold it back. Tom Brady hasn’t been dominant as of late but I’d rather best against any other NFL player than him, especially in the postseason. Brady has more playoff experience than any other player currently in the league and I’m thoroughly convinced he can snap out of this slump at any time and deliver a vintage performance, which is scary for the rest of the NFL. New England is the defending Super Bowl champion and deserves the utmost respect, thus sitting atop these rankings.
I hope everyone is as excited as I am for the playoffs.
Stay tuned for my Wild Card Weekend Playoff picks.
Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

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