Splash’s NFL Power Rankings: Conference Championships

NFL Power Rankings Splash

Welcome back to the futile exercise of ranking NFL teams. As always, these Power Rankings will be updated weekly, so be sure to watch out as teams move up and down. If teams continue to win, they will rise. If teams continue to lose, they will fall. Similarly, a loss does not necessarily equate to a team being ranked lower than their opponent. Upsets in the NFL do happen, so trends will usually be needed for a team to drop many slots.

Numbers in parentheses refer to last week’s rankings.

Note that this ranking only includes the four teams who made the conference championships.

No.4: San Francisco 49ers (+0)

The 49ers got off to an excellent start in the NFC title game. However, their biggest strength all season soon faded. After 19 games of sensational offensive line play, Trent Williams, Laken Tomlinson, Daniel Brunskill, and Tom Compton registered some of their worst performances of the season. Alex Mack held his own, but it was not enough as the other four were beaten continuously.

Jimmy Garoppolo will get a lot of the blame for the 49ers losing, but it is not all his fault. While he was quite poor, and he turned into Santa Claus in the fourth quarter, the 49ers would have iced the game if they had been able to secure one of Matthew Stafford’s errant passes. While Garoppolo struggled, Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel were unable to get much going in the rushing attack, and even George Kittle had a quiet night through the air.

No.3: Kansas City Chiefs (-1)

For as much as the Chiefs struggled at points during the season, the end result always felt inevitable. They would be going to their third consecutive Super Bowl. Patrick Mahomes would find some magical way to lead the Chiefs through the AFC playoffs once again and head to Sofi Stadium for the Big Game. However, that veil of pixie dust quickly left Arrowhead Stadium when Mahomes collapsed in the waning moments. 

Mahomes was not alone in his struggles, but he is the most high-profile choke artist of the playoffs to this point. During the Chiefs’ final drive of the regulation, Mahomes turned in a comedy act on par with Josh Allen in the 2019 wildcard game against the Houston Texans. He took one of the worst sacks imaginable for the situation and was bailed out by Harrison Butker.

In a roundabout way, this might have been the best result for the Chiefs. They were a painfully flawed team throughout the regular season, and they got here based on a coin flip. If they had gone to the Super Bowl and lost, nothing would change within the organization. The Chiefs might have needed this loss to propel them to a new level in the coming seasons.

No.2: Los Angeles Rams (+1)

Sunday night was ugly for the Rams. However, they persevered and pulled out the victory in a dramatic come-from-behind win over their in-state rivals. Stafford tried to throw the game away in the fourth quarter, but the 49ers failed to capitalize, and the Rams led scoring drives to take the lead late. Cooper Kupp had another exceptional performance, finding the end zone for two touchdowns. Odell Beckham shined on the biggest platform of his career, going over 100 yards.

Heading into the Super Bowl, the Rams have key pieces that could be the difference between winning and losing. Von Miller, the MVP of Super Bowl 50, is ready to win his second ring. Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey are as good as it gets at their respective positions. The rest of the defense is rounding into form, and even Eric Weddle is playing well.

However, the pressure lies squarely on the shoulders of Stafford. It is his time to show that one player can be taken out of Detroit and leave the Lions in the dust. He will have 60 minutes in two Sundays to establish a legitimate legacy for himself. He has help, but he will need to make some of the biggest throws imaginable to deliver a second Super Bowl ring for the Rams.

No.1: Cincinnati Bengals (+1)

Against all odds, the Bengals are heading to the Super Bowl. They were longshots even to win the AFC North in the preseason. However, the immense swagger of Joe Burrow persevered. The connection between Ja’Marr Chase and Burrow was as electric as ever as Chase romped to an Offensive Rookie of the Year-caliber season. Joe Mixon was finally healthy, and he put the world on notice. Tee Higgins had quietly one of the best seasons by receiver all year, and Trey Hendrickson replicated a stellar 2020 season.

However, the most important quality of the Bengals is the way they handle themselves in crucial situations. Burrow’s exploits are legendary already, but his aura permeates the entire city of Cincinnati. When Super Bowl 56 comes down to the closing moments, there might be no duo more ready for the moment than Burrow and kicker Evan McPherson. It may be the first Super Bowl for Burrow and his teammates, but they will play as if it is their 10th straight.

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Embed from Getty Images

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