Rating the NFL’s 14 playoff groups: Packers, Buccaneers high the contenders in 2021 postseason


The 2021 NFL playoffs are lastly right here. With the Raiders edging the Chargers in an time beyond regulation thriller to shut Week 18, your complete 14-team postseason image is formally full. Now, it is off to the races, with a Lombardi Trophy on the end line.

However how do the playoff groups stack up? The postseason is nearly as good a time as any for unbelievable upsets, and underdogs are by no means to be counted out. (Simply ask the Colts concerning the Jaguars.) However in celebration of the postseason’s arrival, here is how we would choose the 14 finalists in response to championship prospects:

14. Steelers

File: 9-7-1
Wild Card opponent: Chiefs

That is proper the place they wanna be: neglected. They usually deserve credit score for preventing — and profitable — ugly. T.J. Watt and the protection will hold them swinging. However Ben Roethlisberger, for all his grit, simply is not captaining a gradual, not to mention explosive, offense.

13. Raiders

File: 10-7
Wild Card opponent: Bengals

Give it to Derek Carr and Wealthy Bisaccia and the entire gang for by no means quitting. Their ugly however regular resiliency is harking back to the Steelers, besides they’ll transfer the ball. The issue is, can they maintain up on protection? And win one other shootout or two?

12. Eagles

File: 9-8
Wild Card opponent: Buccaneers

Who is aware of how Jalen Hurts will fare if requested to step up as a passer in opposition to an elite workforce? However he is proven actual enchancment down the stretch, and Nick Sirianni has deployed him properly because the cog of their floor recreation. If the “D” could make performs, they’re going to be feisty.

11. Cardinals

File: 11-6
Wild Card opponent: Rams

Their expertise — and the way in which they began 2021 — suggests they belong so much larger. However Kyler Murray has had some clunkers, and Kliff Kingsbury’s observe report is chock-full of late-year crumbles. They’re 1-4 with an erratic method over their final 5.

10. 49ers

File: 10-7
Wild Card opponent: Cowboys

They’ve a ceiling with Jimmy Garoppolo, however the veteran QB confirmed up in Week 18. Extra importantly, Kyle Shanahan has been right here earlier than, and if his floor recreation is clicking, they’ll management the ball en path to some shock wins.

9. Patriots

File: 10-7
Wild Card opponent: Payments

Invoice Belichick will certainly discover a approach to put Mac Jones able to win, particularly if the Patriots’ protection reveals up, however the actuality is that they’re not likely constructed to outlive a couple of huge mistake from the rookie QB at this juncture.

8. Cowboys

File: 12-5
Wild Card opponent: 49ers

After they’re on, they’re about as balanced and explosive as anybody. However they’ve crushed up on 1.) Washington and a pair of.) Eagles backups currently. Dak Prescott and their O-line must be in tip-top kind in the event that they wanna make actual noise.

7. Rams

File: 12-5
Wild Card opponent: Cardinals

Matthew Stafford has picked the worst instances to make unhealthy selections for some time now, however Sean McVay nonetheless boasts a proficient roster on each side of the ball. They do not really feel like a remotely secure guess to go the space, however they’ll make performs.

6. Bengals

File: 10-7
Wild Card opponent: Raiders

Neither Joe Burrow nor Zac Taylor has playoff expertise, and who is aware of if the latter may be trusted right here? However in a single sense, the stress is off, then! Extra importantly, Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase and Co. are means too explosive to depend out.

5. Titans

File: 12-5
Wild Card opponent: Bye

They simply do not die, as Mike Vrabel would say. Ryan Tannehill might want to step up with a profession second for them to go the space, however Derrick Henry is returning, A.J. Brown is again, and their protection might be higher after Week 18.

4. Payments

File: 11-6
Wild Card opponent: Patriots

It is all about getting sizzling on the proper time, and so they enter having received 4 straight. Higher but, they’ve really discovered a floor recreation to enrich Josh Allen, who might be decided to construct off his 2020 playoff run.

3. Chiefs

File: 12-5
Wild Card opponent: Steelers

It was an uneven season for the defending AFC champs, and downright ugly at instances. But they nonetheless outscored everybody aside from the Payments within the convention. Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes will rating at will when they should.

2. Buccaneers

File: 13-4
Wild Card opponent: Eagles

The one cause they don’t seem to be up high is due to the depth issues out vast and within the secondary. Their protection has often confirmed weak. However let’s simply face actuality: Tom Brady’s presence alone ensures they are going to be severe contenders to repeat.

1. Packers

File: 13-4
Wild Card opponent: Bye

It is easy: they’ve the MVP beneath heart. OK, so it is greater than that: even when Aaron Rodgers would not formally declare his second straight award, he is the smoothest, most assured QB within the recreation proper now, and whereas he and Matt LaFleur have but to advance previous the NFC title recreation, their observe report is healthier than anybody’s throughout their time collectively.



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