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NFL Wildcard Weekend Power Rankings


by - Staff Writer -
Mike Dinovo - USA Today Sports
Mike Dinovo - USA Today Sports

1. Green Bay Packers 13-4 (no change)

For most of the offseason the Packers were one of the most questionable teams — and it all depended on reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. Well, he’s back and he’s been great this year. The Packers have lost just three times this season, to the Saints, the Chiefs and the Vikings. They’ve had strong wins against the Bengals, Cardinals, Seahawks, Rams, Bears, Ravens, Browns and Vikings as well — enough to make them the best team in the NFL. A week 18 loss to the Lions without Aaron Rodgers does not change this for me.

2. Kansas City Chiefs 12-5 (no change)

It would be hard to imagine the Chiefs falling out of the top 10 this season so long as Patrick Mahomes is healthy. This team easily boasts one of the best offenses in the league — while also adding to an offensive line that was exposed in the Super Bowl last year. At one point the Chiefs sat at 3-4 on the season, but they have rattled off six wins in a row — including wins over the Packers, Cowboys, Broncos, Raiders twice, Chargers and Steelers.

Offensively the Chiefs have started to click, so look out for KC in the AFC despite the loss to the Bengals last week. The Chiefs ended their regular season on a strong note with a win over Denver.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13-4 (no change)

It’s hard to not rank Tampa Bay in the top five in our rankings. First and foremost, the Bucs are our reigning Super Bowl Champion — and they did not lose a single starter over the offseason. The Bucs have a roster construction that could win another Super Bowl, and Tom Brady is never content. But after dropping one to the LA Rams, the Bucs fell to number two. Despite winning against the Patriots in Tom Brady’s return to Foxborough and then the Dolphins, the Bucs fell one spot because of the Cardinals and Bills’ dominance. Getting past the Eagles, blowing out the Bears but then losing to the Saints and the Washington Football Team dropped Tampa. They got back on track beating the Giants, Colts, Falcons and most recently the Bills but a 9-0 loss to the Saints drops them to 3. A dominating defeat of Carolina and tight wins over the Jets and Panthers keeps Tampa Bay at 3.

4. Buffalo Bills 11-6 (up 1 spot)

It may have surprised some people last year, but the Buffalo Bills being one of the league’s best teams this season should come as no surprise. Buffalo is led by superstar QB Josh Allen, and a brilliant coaching staff. The Steelers gave the Bills some trouble in week one, but after dominating the Dolphins, the Washington Football Team, the Texans and the reigning AFC Champion Chiefs they were the top team in the NFL I believe. The Bills had lost four of seven, including close losses to the Patriots and Bucs in back to back weeks before getting back on track against the Panthers, Patriots, Falcons and Jets to clinch to the AFC East.

5. Tennessee Titans 12-5 (up 1 spot)

The Titans are the reigning AFC South champion and have made the playoffs in consecutive seasons — oh and they’ve added Julio Jones to an offense that already had Ryan Tannehill, AJ Brown and Derrick Henry who just ran for over 2,000 yards. In 2021, no team is going to be looking forward to playing the Titans. The Titans 2021 season got off to a tough start though, getting blown out by the Cardinals, but they rebounded nicely with a come from behind win over the Seahawks and a solid win over the Colts before dropping to the New York Jets in week four. Beating the Jaguars, Bills, Chiefs, Colts, Rams and Saints on a win streak moved the Titans up consistently, but getting handled by the Texans and Patriots drops them to 11. The Titans got back on track with a 20-0 win over the Jaguars before losing to the Steelers. They won the AFC South and earned the AFC’s No. 1 seed thanks to a big win on Thursday Night against San Francisco, a dominant win over Miami and a win over Houston.

6. Dallas Cowboys 12-5 (up 1 spot)

Dallas is flying under the radar this offseason, but with a healthy offensive line plus Dak Prescott back from injury leaves Dallas with one of the best offenses in the NFL (which includes Ezekiel Elliot, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup.) The defense is still the clear weakness of this team, but has been much better in 2021 — with Trevion Diggs leading the way with over 10 interceptions and Micah Parsons making a case for DPOY. Dallas started hot and has been up and down since with with wins over the Saints, Football Team and Giants and a 56 point drubbing of the Washington Football Team as well as losses to the Raiders and Cardinals. Dallas is NFC East Champions though. Dallas has dominated their division, but the playoffs might be a different story.

7. Los Angeles Rams 12-5 (down 3 spots)

The LA Rams may be the most improved team of the offseason just because of their upgrade at QB. Instead of Jared Goff, the Rams have Matthew Stafford leading their speedy offense — and of course still have Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald on the defensive side of the ball. The new look Rams are 4-1 to show for it, losing to the Cardinals but also including an impressive beat down of the reigning champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rams blew out the Giants, Lions and Texans to keep the third spot but lost on Sunday night to the Titans, then on Monday night to the 49ers, and this past week to the Packers dropping them out of the top 5. A strong win over Jacksonville and a crucial MNF win over the Cardinals followed by a clap page of the Seahwks and Vikings help the Rams’ case. Despite falling down early, rallying to beat the Ravens puts LA back in the top 5. However, a week 18 loss to the 49ers drops LA to 7.

8. Cincinnati Bengals 10-7 (up 2 spots)

Joe Burrow and the Bengals are having strong season. In fact, their first three losses have come in a game that Burrow threw interceptions of three straight plays, one where their kicker missed the game winner twice and a stunner against the Jets. The defense may have holes, but the offense is loaded with weapons — including Ja’Mar Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, a three headed monster of receivers for Joe Burrow to throw to. Wins over the Steelers, Vikings, Jaguars, Lions and now Ravens put the Bengals as a top 10 team, but their consecutive losses to the Jets and Browns knocked them down a peg. The Bengals were able to get back on track by beating the Raiders and dominating the Steelers, and they looked great. Then we knocked them down one spot though because of their losses to the Chargers and 49ers. But the Bengals have gotten back on track with wins over the Broncos in a tough nosed game, thumping Baltimore 41-21 and a huge win over KC raising them back up to 10. A week 18 loss to Cleveland without starters does not hurt Cincinnati.

9. Las Vegas Raiders 10-7 (up 5 spots)

The Las Vegas Raiders find themselves in the post season in what might be the most wild season imaginable. Despite losing multiple players and a coach to legal miscues, Derek Carr has continued to will this team to victory week after week. The Raiders won a Week 18 win-and-get-in game against the Chargers thanks to a gutsy effort by this team that keeps finding a way.

10. Arizona Cardinals 11-6 (down 1 spot)

After looking like the NFL’s best team for most of the first half, a dramatic fall off thanks to injuries leaves Arizona as a wild card team. However, the Cardinals have been good on the road this season and are starting to get healthy. They have a good pass rush and an electric offense, it’s time for them to get back to it now that it matters most.

11. New England Patriots 10-7 (no change)

The New England Patriots are in the top 5 after strong wins over the Jets, Chargers, Panthers and a blow out of the Browns after narrowly losing to the Buccaneers and the Cowboys. This team is still coached by Bill Bellichick, so you can never count them out. Mac Jones is coming to the form and the Patriots are hard to play. The winning streak came to an end this past week against the Colts, and the couldn’t get back on track over the Bills. But New England is still a very strong team, and they showed it against Jacksonville on Sunday, putting up 50 points before losing in week 18 to Miami and falling to the No. 6 seed in the AFC.

12. Los Angeles Chargers 9-8 (no change)

LA might have had the best offseason in the AFC. Justin Herbert is coming off of an impressive campaign in which he won Rookie of the Year, and the Chargers have added to his offensive line - while also making some key acquisitions to the defense, the weakness of the team in 2020. That plus some opt-outs and injuries back leave the Chargers with one of the most talented and intriguing rosters in 2021. They’ve been up and down in 2021, with some impressive wins and some hard to swallow losses. Fact of the matter is, Justin Herbert is special and the Chargers are a tough team to beat in the AFC, even if they didn’t look like it against Houston last Sunday. They needed a win last week though, and got it against the Broncos. They needed another against the Raiders in week 18 but fell short. The Chargers are our highest ranked non playoff team.

13.Philadelphia Eagles 9-8 (up 1 spot)

The Eagles come in at number 13 this week after their most recent wins over the Giants and Washington put them in possession of a playoff spot in the NFC. Led by Jalen Hurts and a potent rushing attack, the Eagles have found their recipe to win games. They’re a very physical football team, a style that plays well in the postseason. A week 18 loss to Dallas without starters does not discourage me much in Philly.

14. Miami Dolphins 9-8 (up 1 spot)

After losing seven straight from week 2 to week 10, the Dolphins are now on a seven game winning streak, they’re the first team to ever do that. Led by a disciplined Tua Tungavoiloia and rookie Jaylen Waddle offensively and a strong Brian Flores defense — the Dolphins have a chance to make the playoffs in the AFC. With a team as hot as they are, I would not be looking forward to playing them. But Miami won’t make the playoffs, as their week 17 loss to the Titans confirmed that. The Dolphins did end the season on a strong note with a win over the Patriots in week 18, although they did let their head coach go.

15. San Francisco 49ers 10-7 (up 1 spot)

Still in our top-16 rankings this week are the 49ers after rattling together some impressive wins as of late, including a strong win over the LA Rams, Vikings, Bengals and Falcons this past week. The 9ers seem to have figured out the offense to pair with their great defense, and the results have them currently in line for the playoffs despite the recent losses to the Seahawks and Titans. San Francisco got back on track against Houston in week 17, and beat LA in week 18 to clinch a playoff spot. This is not a team I would be wanting to play either.

16. Indianapolis Colts 9-8 (down 8 spots)

The Colts are in our top 16 after stringing together some strong wins after starting slow. The Colts have been bolstered by an above average defense and breakout sophomore Jonathon Taylor who leads the league in rushing. Carson Wentz is starting to figure it out and I think the Colts are going to make a push for the playoffs. Blowing out the Bills makes this likely. They dropped a close one to the Bucs after leading, and then dominated the Texans, ended the Patriots’ winning streak and beat the cardinals. I thought the Colts had a chance to make a run in the playoffs but a crucial loss to Las Vegas and then Jacksonville keeps the Colts out of the playoffs.

17. New Orleans Saints 9-8 (no change)

18. Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7-1 (up 1 spot) - AFC WILDCARD TEAM

19. Minnesota Vikings 8-9 (up 1 spot)

20. Baltimore Ravens 8-9 (down 2 spots)

21. Denver Broncos 7-10 (no change)

22. Cleveland Browns 8-9 (no change)

23. Atlanta Falcons 7-10 (no change)

24. Seattle Seahawks 7-10 (up 2 spots)

25. Chicago Bears 6-11 (down 1 spot)

It’s been up and down for the Bears, with ugly losses against the Rams and the Browns and the Packers. Justin Fields and the Bears have shown flashes and lost some extremely tough games, but nonetheless it is a lost season for Chicago, with no playoff appearance and no draft picks. The Bears got back in the win column last week with a win over the Giants, but their season ended with a loss in Minnesota.

26. Washington Football Team 7-10 (no change)

27. Carolina Panthers 5-12 (no change)

28. Detroit Lions 3-13-1 (up 1 spot)

29. Houston Texans 4-13 (down 1 spot)

30. New York Jets 4-13 (up 1 spot)

31. New York Giants 4-13 (down 1 spot)

32. Jacksonville Jaguars 3-14 (no change)

Stay tuned as we update these rankings soon.

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