In the National Football League, Pro Bowlers are made during the regular season, and legends are made during the postseason. With the regular season now officially in the books and the playoff brackets in both conferences set, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at how each of the remaining 12 teams compare to each other. As you read on, you will notice that there was some subjectivity involved with our rankings, as we placed more of an emphasis on each team’s current level of play, rather than strictly looking at overall records.With that being said, here is a look at our NFL Playoff power rankings heading into Wild Card weekend.
12. Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Things just haven’t been the same for the Packers since their Week 8 loss to the Denver Broncos. We still believe that Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in football, but when he spends the majority of his time on the field running for his life, it makes it nearly impossible for him to do what he does best. For the Packers to make a serious postseason run, they will need to improve dramatically in every aspect of the game, which is something we don’t see happening.
11. Washington Redskins (9-7)
The Redskins are the surprise team of the NFL Playoffs this year, and with the way their quarterback, Kirk Cousins, has been playing over the last month, we wouldn’t be surprised to see them knock off the Packers on Wild Card weekend. While they are still far from being a finished product, the Redskins look like they have the building blocks to develop into one of the NFC’s top teams for years to come.
10. Houston Texans (9-7)
The Texans are a team that could easily sneak up on their opponents this postseason. Their defense, led by likely 2015 NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, has the ability to suffocate opposing offenses. However, the key to the Texans having any kind of playoff success is their offense – specifically quarterback Brian Hoyer. If Hoyer plays at a high level, this team can play with any other team in the AFC. If he struggles, they will likely be making an early postseason exit.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
The Bengals undoubtedly have one of the most talented rosters in the league, but without starting quarterback Andy Dalton, it’s hard for us to consider them serious Super Bowl contenders. The good news for Cincinnati is that Dalton will likely be healthy in time for the Divisional round. The bad news is that the Bengals will first have to get through one of the most talented teams in the league, the Pittsburgh Steelers, on Wild Card weekend for that to even be a possibility.
8. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
Their best player, running back Adrian Peterson, may be 30-years-old, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Vikings have one of the most talented young rosters in the league. They have all of the pieces in place (assuming Peterson is healthy) to make a surprise run in the NFC Playoffs, but may find it hard to do so with the depth of the NFC this season.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
The Chiefs may be the hottest team in the entire league right now. They have won 10-straight games, which is a remarkable feat in today’s NFL, even if only two of those wins came against 2015 playoff teams. The postseason success of this team will likely come down to the health of outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, as well as the play of quarterback Alex Smith.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
The Steelers are hands down one of the most dangerous teams in the AFC. When their offense is clicking, there may not be a better offensive unit in the league. Ben Roethlisberger is arguably the best big-game quarterback in the business, and his arsenal of weapons, led by All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, may also be the best in the league. The key to their postseason success, though, will be their young, and relatively untested, defense.
5. New England Patriots (12-4)
If the Patriots were completely healthy, they would rank much higher on this list. As it stands, it seems like every key player on New England’s roster – including quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski – is dealing with some sort of nagging injury. While the Patriots are still among the elite teams in the league, it’s hard to believe that they will be able to win another Super Bowl without their roster being full strength (or close to it).
4. Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
The Seahawks appear to be peaking at just the right time as evidenced by their 36-6 drubbing of the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17. And with All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch set to return to the field this week, the Seahawks will only be getting stronger. We wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the Seahawks win their third-straight NFC title, despite entering the NFL Playoffs as the NFC’s No. 6 seed.
3. Denver Broncos (12-4)
If the Broncos ever truly get things figured out offensively, there is a good chance that they will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl 50 champions. As is, the Broncos have the best defense in the league and a subpar offense. That could all change, however, with Peyton Manning nearing full health and likely reclaiming his position as the team’s starting quarterback.
2. Carolina Panthers (15-1)
All the Panthers do is win. They will be without cornerback Charles Tillman for the playoffs, but we are confident that their defense won’t skip a beat without the 13-year NFL veteran on the field. If quarterback Cam Newton continues to play at an MVP-caliber level, this team has to be considered one of the Super Bowl 50 front-runners.
1. Arizona Cardinals (13-3)
We are fully aware that the Cardinals are without safety Tyrann Mathieu and that they got crushed by the Seahawks by a score of 36-6 in Week 17. Nonetheless, we firmly believe that this is the most complete team in the league. Carson Palmer has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league all season, and their defense has very few (if any) weaknesses. Heading into Wild Card weekend, we see the Cardinals as the favorites to win the Super Bowl 50 title.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.