Splash’s NFL Power Rankings: Wild Card Round

NFL Power Rankings

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 14 teams who made the playoffs

No.14: Pittsburgh Steelers (+0)

Ben Roethlisberger’s (likely) final playoff game was a disaster in every sense of the word for the offense. Defensively, the Steelers held up their end of the bargain for most of two quarters, but offensive ineptitude eventually undermined the game. The final stats do not paint an accurate picture of how poor the Steelers were on Sunday night. There may be 14 playoff spots, but there were not 14 playoff-caliber teams in 2021.

No.13: Philadelphia Eagles (+0)

Speaking of non-playoff-caliber, the Eagles exited stage left after a horrific performance in Tampa Bay. The result was so poor that some Eagles fans are calling for the team to take a quarterback in the first round of the draft. Logically speaking, the Eagles should not take a quarterback. Even if they regress under Jalen Hurts next season, they will have three blue-chip studs from the 2022 draft to help the next quarterback.

No.12: Las Vegas Raiders (+0)

It only took two days, but the Raiders blew up any momentum from their overachievement of a season. Mike Mayock is out as general manager, and the Raiders are likely to replace Rich Bisaccia. They have to interview other candidates to satisfy the Rooney Rule, but there seem to be rumblings that Jim Harbaugh will replace Bisaccia after a 7-5 end to the season. It seems that the Raiders would rather not be successful.

No.11: Arizona Cardinals (-1)

Kyler Murray had a passer rating below 39.6 deep into garbage time, and the offense as a whole was disgusting. J.J. Watt’s return did not add any fire to the defense, but they were just bad rather than inconceivably poor (as the offense was). Kliff Kingsbury could find himself on the hot seat after another late-season collapse. The Cardinals have several holes to fix moving forward.

No.10: New England Patriots (-1)

Mac Jones was fairly competent, but the Patriots fell off pace on their first drive. Bill Belichick’s defense was obliterated to a historic degree as they surrendered seven consecutive touchdowns to open the game. The offense might be solid moving forward, but the defense needs a strong look in the mirror. Perhaps the biggest issue for the Patriots is that they do not have any particularly large flaws. They have to improve along the margins.

No.9: Dallas Cowboys (-1)

The Cowboys nearly snatched victory, but Dak Prescott slid down one yard too far, and the Cowboys did not get a spike off. However, they would not have been in the situation if they did not have an obscene number of penalties. If the Cowboys can take any solace, they deserved to make the playoffs, and they would have beaten any of the other five teams that lost over the weekend.

No.8: San Francisco 49ers (+3)

Despite injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo, Trent Williams, Nick Bosa, and Fred Warner, the 49ers persevered and escaped with a win over the Cowboys. The Deebo Samuel show continued to ride, and Elijah Mitchell opened with a touchdown in his playoff debut. The 49ers will need to find their 2019 form for their upcoming trip to Lambeau. If they lean on Samuel and Mitchell, they might be able to pull off the upset.

No.7: Tennessee Titans (-1)

Even with the inevitable return of Derrick Henry, one must question the ceiling of the Titans. They have a slim margin of error, and it only takes one mistake from Ryan Tannehill for the Titans to be in a bad spot. While the Titans do have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs (and wins over two of the other three teams in the AFC), they might have the longest odds of making the Super Bowl.

No.6: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1)

With their first home playoff game in 14 years under their belt, the Buccaneers will host the Rams this weekend. Tom Brady had yet another solid playoff performance, his 35th postseason win. He now has 10 wins over NFC teams in the playoffs despite starting just five playoff games with the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers may not have the same upside they did last season, but they are still loaded with talent.

No.5: Los Angeles Rams (+0)

The Rams took care of business against an overmatched Cardinals team. Matthew Stafford got the proverbial playoff monkey off his back with a solid three-touchdown performance. Aaron Donald and Von Miller flashed as stars, and the Rams won a playoff game for the second year in a row. They knocked off the Buccaneers in Week 3, but that game was at SoFi. Can Stafford replicate his Week 3 dominance?

No.4: Buffalo Bills (+0)

It took eight drives for the Bills to have a non-touchdown result. That drive ended with kneel-downs. Josh Allen had perhaps the greatest playoff performance in NFL history. He fired five touchdowns, tacked on nearly 400 total yards of offense, and he had a PFF grade in the 90s. He now owns the highest single-game QBR in a playoff game with a ridiculous 98.5.

No.3: Kansas City Chiefs (+0)

Not to be outdone, Patrick Mahomes threw five touchdowns on Sunday night. His outburst happened to be the fastest streak in playoff history, striking five times within 12 minutes. While the Chiefs were stagnant early, they torched the Steelers for the final 35 minutes. They had two goofy turnovers, however, and they cannot afford even one turnover against the red-hot Bills. The Bills knocked off the Chiefs when they played earlier in the season.

No.2: Cincinnati Bengals (+0)

Joe Burrow was sensational yet again, fueling the Bengals’ first playoff win in three decades. While the game ended as a one-score win, the Bengals controlled the game, and they are a bad matchup for anyone left in the playoffs. Jessie Bates had his best game of the season, and his return to All-Pro level could be the difference between the Bengals losing in Nashville on Saturday and lifting the Lombardi.

No.1: Green Bay Packers (+0)

The Packers enjoyed a first-round bye for the third consecutive season. Aaron Rodgers is now a four-time All-Pro, and he is likely to win his fourth MVP. More importantly, the trio of David Bakhtiari, Jaire Alexander, and Za’Darius Smith should be fully healthy for their game against the 49ers. This is the best team Rodgers has ever had at his disposal, and it is one of the best Packers teams ever.

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