Every team in the NFL playoffs, ranked

Every team in the NFL playoffs, ranked

Now that the playoff field is set, we tell you who has the best shot at a ring, from Patrick Mahomes to Kirk Cousins

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Miami is dancing into the playoffs like ....
Miami is dancing into the playoffs like ....
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Aaron Rodgers couldn’t beat the Detroit Lions. Who’d have thought I’d be uttering that statement at the beginning of the season? And with that loss, the NFL playoffs are set. Throughout the regular season, we laughed, cried, held our heads in shock, and Tom Brady endured his first losing season as a starter ever. Some things are just incredible to witness.

We got to witness the incredible rise of Geno Smith and the remarkable fall of Russell Wilson. We saw the emergence of the greatest Mr. Irrelevant in NFL history, and were offered a reminder that no matter where Doug Pederson goes, he wins. The NFL playoffs are sure to give us many more remarkable moments. Here’s our ranking of every team still in the hunt for Super Bowl LVII.

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14. Miami Dolphins

14. Miami Dolphins

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The Dolphins needed to win this weekend in order to secure a spot in the playoffs. They achieved that, but in arguably the most disappointing fashion imaginable, beating the Joe Flacco-led Jets by the ugliest score ever witnessed, 11-6. That feels like a baseball score. Yeah, I know the team was rolling with Skylar Thompson at quarterback, but they might have to do so again next week against the Bills. Teddy Bridgewater is out for the season, and nobody is willing to give any answers regarding Tua Tagovailoa’s availability next week. That makes me think he will play, but as long as his status is up in the air, the Dolphins will be at the bottom of this list.

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Dolphins (cont’d)

Dolphins (cont’d)

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The Fins lost five of their last six, went an abysmal 3-6 on the road, and despite ending a six-year playoff drought, reportedly put head coach Mike McDaniel’s job on the line after just one season if they lost to the Jets. If the Stephen Ross situation didn’t warn you that this organization was mismanaged, that rumor should. How are you going to fire a guy who’d led you to nine wins despite a multitude of injuries at the quarterback position?

Given their incredibly poor play during the final third of the season, Miami is lucky to be in the postseason at all. Unfortunately, barring the return of Tagovailoa, the Dolphins are surely a one-and-done team that the Bills won’t give a second thought to before moving on to the Divisional Round.

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13. New York Giants

13. New York Giants

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The definition of mid, the New York Giants are pretty mediocre everywhere. They have two bright spots on their offense in left tackle Andrew Thomas and halfback Saquon Barkley. I understand Daniel Jones played well this year, but I’m still not sold that he’s the team’s franchise signal-caller.

This team has the fortune of playing the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the playoffs. The Vikings’ pass defense is horrendously bad. Too bad Jones doesn’t have the talent to take advantage of such an obvious weakness. As has been the case all year, the Giants’ success will live and die with Saquon Barkley. While it does help that the Giants had the luxury of resting all of their starters for their final game of the season, that doesn’t make their Super Bowl hopes any greater. Could they beat the Vikings? Yeah. Could they beat the rest of the NFC contenders? Ehhhh. They pretty much get outclassed in every category.

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Giants (cont’d)

Giants (cont’d)

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They’ve won just two games of their last eight. They don’t have the receiving corps to lighten Jones’ load in the passing attack when playing from behind, and their run defense has more holes than the plot of the movie Armageddon. If there was ever a time for Daniel Jones to prove he could carry a franchise by his lonesome, the playoffs would be that time. I doubt he will though. In order to win, the Giants will have to keep games at very low scores, and against the more efficient offenses in the NFC, that porous defense will let the Giants down.

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12. Seattle Seahawks

12. Seattle Seahawks

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As fun as their season has been to watch, the second half of the season was almost too difficult to witness. This team fell harder than the giant gingerbread man in Shrek 2. Despite the incredible efforts of Geno Smith, the Hawks won just three of their final eight games. One of those wins was against Mike White. The other two were both one-possession wins against the Los Angeles Rams. One of those games saw the Rams trot John Wolford out at quarterback, and the Seahawks squeaked by 27-23. In fact, the Seahawks needed a last-minute touchdown from DK Metcalf to pull out the win.

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Seahawks (cont’d)

Seahawks (cont’d)

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They were so fun to watch in the first half of the season, and people are still holding out hope that this incredible story we’ve witnessed still holds true. The truth of the matter though is that this team isn’t the facade it flashed in Weeks 1-9. They get their division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card Round. They’ve already lost to the 49ers twice this year. While the saying goes, “You never want to play the same team three times,” the 49ers match up so well with Seattle, it’s hard to envision the Hawks making any sort of wave in the postseason.

While the team’s defense has improved, Kenneth Walker has looked solid, and both Tyler Lockett and Metcalf have remained incredible outside targets, Smith has regressed, coughing up 10 turnovers in the final eight games of the season. That sloppiness is a big reason the Seahawks were 2-4 in one-score games in the second half of the season. Sure, Pete Carroll has experience on his side, but at this point, so does Kyle Shanahan. The Hawks aren’t a team anyone can overlook, and their offensive talent places them above the likes of New York and Miami on this list, but make no mistake, they’re no serious contender.

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11. Jacksonville Jaguars

11. Jacksonville Jaguars

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Talent-wise, this team doesn’t stack up to the rest of the AFC. Sure, they’re young and have a lot of potential, but that potential is still probably a year or two from being truly unleashed upon the NFL. But a hot team is a hot team, and the Jaguars have won five in a row. That said though, are the Jaguars really that hot? Sure, they beat the Dallas Cowboys during this five-game win streak, but they also almost lost their division to Joshua Dobbs. The defense allowed just 22 points over the last three games, but those games were against the Jets, Texans, and the aforementioned Dobbs.

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Jaguars (cont’d)

Jaguars (cont’d)

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As much as I’d like to root for Trevor Lawrence, this experience will likely be a growing point for the entire team. Head coach Doug Pederson knows how to win and with this bit of playoff experience under their belts, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jaguars make a deep run in 2024. Right now though, they’re probably one-and-done.

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10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Eight wins? Yeah, that’s not good. Tom Brady? Now, that’s something I can get behind. Love him or hate him, you can’t really doubt him. Somehow, some way, Tom Brady always ends up coming up big in the playoffs. Sure, he gets the very formidable Dallas Cowboys in the first round, but the Bucs have yet to lose to the Cowboys with Tom Brady under center. In fact, way back in Week 1, the Bucs dominated the Cowboys 19-3. They made the Dallas offense look like a paper tiger. Although, I think it’s fair to say that both teams have changed drastically since then.

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Buccaneers (cont’d)

Buccaneers (cont’d)

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Regardless, the Bucs still have a veteran corps of players, all of whom have playoff experience. Head coach Todd Bowles’ physical defensive play-calling is good enough to keep the Bucs in most games until the very end, and crunch time is when this team shines. While his offensive play-calling leaves a lot to be desired, often leaning on safe, conservative decisions, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rachaad White can’t be ignored. The Carolina Panthers had an opportunity to steal the NFC South away from the Bucs in Week 17, and after several weeks of Evans seemingly disappearing from the Bucs’ offense, he explodes for 200 yards and three scores. Just when you think you have Tampa Bay by the neck, they slip out and pull off a miraculous comeback.

Everything about this team says they shouldn’t make it past the Wild Card Round, but I’d be lying if I told you their first game was going to be a blowout. I can’t imagine Brady getting blown out in the playoffs. This will be hard-fought down to the wire, and while the Bucs might not win, they’ll sure as hell shorten several lifespans in the greater Dallas metro area.

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9. Minnesota Vikings

9. Minnesota Vikings

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This team won small against weak opponents and lost huge against tough opponents. That’s not a winning combination. In fact, in the history of the NFL, the Vikings are the only team with 12 or more wins to record a negative point differential. While someone might easily look at that figure and think the Vikings aren’t serious contenders, their horrendous point differential also implies that the Vikings are very good at winning close games. They went 10-0 in one-possession games. That’s not nothing.

Kirk Cousins may not be an elite talent at quarterback, but he’s proven capable of beating some of the best teams in the league, even if the wins aren’t pretty. This team doesn’t give up when the going gets tough. They came back from down 33 at half for goodness sake. The offense, led by Kevin O’Connell certainly isn’t what’s holding this team back, and if Cousins, Jefferson, Hockenson, and company can all get going in a game, then anything can happen. However, it all comes down to the Vikings’ pass defense, and frankly, it will let them down. Maybe not in the Wild Card Round, but it will happen.

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Vikings (cont’d)

Vikings (cont’d)

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Any team with a shred of talent at receiver will decimate the Vikings. Fortunately for them, that’s not the New York Giants. Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins, and Richie James aren’t good enough to take advantage of Minnesota’s greatest weakness. That said, when the Vikings play San Francisco on the road in the Divisional Round, a bloodbath could be on the table.

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8. Baltimore Ravens

8. Baltimore Ravens

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Yes, Lamar Jackson is coming back. Yes, that makes this team much better than they have been in recent weeks. No, it doesn’t catapult them to the top half of the AFC playoff teams. The fact is that a great offense needs explosive playmakers, but when your most explosive playmaker is your quarterback, your offense tends to lack explosiveness. Sure, Mark Andrews is great, but can he catch a 60-yard bomb? No. His longest reception all year was just 36 yards. He hasn’t caught a touchdown since Week 6. Dobbins has looked solid, but as a runner, he pales in comparison to Jackson. The only receiver with any spice to their name is Devin Duvernay, and all of his rep has been earned as a returner.

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Ravens (cont’d)

Ravens (cont’d)

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Furthermore, there is no guarantee that Jackson’s PCL injury won’t still hinder him during the Wild Card Round. If Jackson is 100 percent good to go, maybe the Ravens have a chance, but that’s not a guarantee. Frankly, the Ravens just don’t have the weapons to keep up with the other elite offenses in the AFC. Maybe John Harbaugh’s experience and the defense’s tendency to force takeaways will be enough to propel them through their opponents, but eventually, that lack of electricity in the passing game will catch up to them.

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7. Los Angeles Chargers

7. Los Angeles Chargers

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This team has all the talent offensively to win the Super Bowl. If they go out in front early, they’re one of the toughest teams to beat in all of football. Too bad Brandon Staley limits his team’s offensive capabilities, and the defense is atrocious. Seriously, 5.4 yards per carry allowed? That’s just abysmal. Any team with a half-decent power run or outside zone scheme would take the Chargers back behind the shed and pull an Ol’ Yeller on them. That’s exactly what the 49ers did in Week 10. That’s what the Raiders did in Week 13, and it’s what the Broncos did on Sunday.

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Chargers (cont’d)

Chargers (cont’d)

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Due to their horrible defense on the ground, the Chargers are best when they force their opponents to pass. Don’t get me wrong, their pass defense isn’t great — they have a mediocre pass rush and are just alright at creating turnovers — but compared to their run defense, it’s otherworldly. That’s why the Chargers are best when they have a lead going into the fourth quarter. The Chargers have held opponents to just a 61.4 completion percentage (seventh-best in the NFL) on the season, and any team that is forced to come back against Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler would have an easier time convincing Cowboys’ fans that Dez didn’t catch it. You know what I’m talking about.

Fortunately for the Chargers, neither the Bills nor the Chiefs have a very solid run game. The Chargers could theoretically play spoiler if given the opportunity to play either of those teams. However, the Chiefs still beat Los Angeles twice this year. Also, this team can’t overlook the Jaguars. They handed the Chargers their worst loss of the season back in Week 3, and have only gotten better since then. Travis Etienne has turned into an elite ball carrier and Even Engram has really come into his own as a weapon in that offense. While the Chargers are the better team on paper, head coach Brandon Staley holds this team back tremendously, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s outshined and defeated in Jacksonville this weekend.

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6. Dallas Cowboys

6. Dallas Cowboys

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The Dallas Cowboys are the first team on this list that I would consider capable of actually winning the Super Bowl this year. Sure, their Week 18 contest against Washington with a potential division crown on the line was underwhelming, but the talent on this roster is undeniable. Their defense is a takeaway machine, racking up 33 interceptions and fumbles on the season (most in the NFL). The pass rush is remarkable and even the run defense is one of only four teams to allow fewer than 10 rushing touchdowns on the season. The defensive unit has regressed slightly since late November, but I still wouldn’t be happy to go up against them if I were an opposing quarterback.

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Cowboys (cont’d)

Cowboys (cont’d)

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That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s the offense that concerns me when it comes to this team. Despite having arguably the second-best running back tandem in the NFL, behind only Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in Cleveland, Dallas’s ground attack has fallen flat toward the end of the season, accruing less than 120 rushing yards in each of their final three games. Couple that with the fact that quarterback Dak Prescott has become rather turnover-prone this season (15 interceptions in 12 games), and you’ve got the makings of an underachieving playoff team.

Head coach Mike McCarthy is also a question mark for this organization. Sure, he has a super Bowl win under his belt, but Prescott has yet to prove himself anywhere close to what Rodgers was during that remarkable run in 2011. Talent-wise, this team has the tools to compete for a Super Bowl title, but there has yet to be a moment where this team looked capable of putting all their pieces together for a long stretch of games. If Dallas can find a way to play to their potential throughout the playoffs though, they could win it all.

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5. Philadelphia Eagles

5. Philadelphia Eagles

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As much as I’d like to put this team higher, recent games have me on edge about this team’s legitimacy. Where once the mighty Eagles seemed like the total package, they’ve taken a step back in almost every category, and the injury to quarterback Jalen Hurts doesn’t help that matter, though hopefully, the bye will help him return to full strength. The X-factor for this team will be their defense, which although it has been very good at creating sacks and producing turnovers, has been susceptible to chip damage. Any team that can chew the clock away with long, methodical drives with tons of first downs will have a good shot of taking the Eagles down. San Francisco is the first team to come to mind that is capable of producing such an offense. Luckily for Philadelphia, they wouldn’t have to play the 49ers until the NFC Championship Game, should both teams make it that far.

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Eagles (cont’d)

Eagles (cont’d)

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Offensively, this team is arguably the best all-around in the NFL. Both Hurts and lead back Miles Sanders reached double-digit rushing touchdowns this season. AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith have blossomed into arguably the best receiving duo in the NFL. Dallas Goedert is healthy again and has looked alright in his limited time back, and the offensive line continues to be one of the best in the game. Plus, they have incredible singing voices.

While I do believe the Eagles have the most complete roster of any team in the NFC, momentum is a key factor heading into the playoffs. The Eagles lost two of their final three games, and their lone win was an underwhelming performance against the Giants’ second-stringers. That doesn’t build much confidence.

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4. San Francisco 49ers

4. San Francisco 49ers

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On a scale from 1-10, how important is the quarterback position? Depending on how you answered, your faith in the 49ers’ Super Bowl chances could range wildly from “They are the favorites” to “They might as well give up right now.” Yes, the 49ers have yet to lose with Brock Purdy at the helm, but they really haven’t been tested in that span either. The only start Purdy made against a team that ended the season with a winning record was a road tilt against the Seattle Seahawks. Aside from that, it’s been rather weak competition.

It’s impossible to decipher a quarterback’s talent when they haven’t been tested, and Purdy has yet to play with so much as a deficit. That stretch of luck will more than likely come to an end at some point in the playoffs. There will come a time when the 49ers are trailing in the second half and need Purdy to win the game through the air, and that will determine whether or not the 49ers are serious playoff contenders. Until that moment comes, all we can really judge the team on is their surrounding roster...and it’s pretty dang good.

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49ers (cont’d)

49ers (cont’d)

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A stifling defense, an underrated offensive line (although the injury to Aaron Banks does sting), elite weapons, and a genius head coach are all prevalent on the 49ers’ roster. If the quarterback was an irrelevant position, the trophy would already be in San Francisco’s hands. Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw are the best linebacker tandem in the NFL. Nick Bosa is probably going to win DPOY. Talanoa Hufanga has emerged as an exciting, play-making safety. Jimmie and Charvarius Ward are both playing well. It’s tough to find a hole in this roster anywhere outside of quarterback, but yeah...I’ve already explained why that’s a problem.

Any 49ers fan can tell you, when the team has been forced to rely on quarterback play to win games, the team disappoints. Whether it was Jimmy Garoppolo overthrowing Emmanuel Sanders in Super Bowl LIV, or the Chiefs decimating the 49ers in Week 7 by a score of 44-23, any time a team can get the offense going against this Niners’ D, the team falls apart. Given how weak the NFC is as a conference this year, the team might be sound enough to reach the Super Bowl, but I doubt they’d be the favorite in that game.

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3. Buffalo Bills

3. Buffalo Bills

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If I was making this list five weeks ago, Buffalo would be at the top, but continued defensive regression and a series of injuries to key defensive positions have slowed my roll on this team. If destiny is any factor, perhaps the Bills are on track to becoming Super Bowl champs. After watching their teammate Damar Hamlin go down in Week 17 and nearly lose his life, Buffalo has a cause to rally around. If you’re one of those “the NFL is scripted” people, the Bills are probably at the top of your Super Bowl favorites list, but as a sane person, I have to disagree.

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Bills (cont’d)

Bills (cont’d)

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Obviously, the Josh Allen-Stefon Diggs connection is immaculate and near impossible to stop, but outside of those two, the offense has zero consistent playmakers. While that hasn’t been a problem in the regular season, somebody else is going to have to step up when the going gets tough, and yes, it will get very tough.

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2. Cincinnati Bengals

2. Cincinnati Bengals

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Midseason injuries to cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and offensive tackle La’el Collins were supposed to slow this team down, but they really didn’t. Despite the injury bugging taking a serious bite, the Bengals kept prodding along the warpath earning victory after victory after victory, winning their final eight completed games, including a win over the Kansas City Chiefs, who quarterback Joe Burrow has never lost to.

This is just a very good team all around. While the offense gets all the love, the defense, even without Awuzie, has stepped up to the plate on more than one occasion. While the team isn’t getting the same sack numbers that they were in years past, the secondary has stepped up in its stead, forcing a league-low 58.9 completion percentage, and allowing only 17 touchdowns through the air — tied for the third-fewest in the league. Obviously, Burrow, Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd are a special group that is going to haunt the nightmares of every opposing defensive coordinator, but that’s just the tip of what makes this team tick.

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Bengals (cont’d)

Bengals (cont’d)

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There are some concerns with Burrow’s lack of protection, which is what ultimately cost them a Super Bowl title last season, as well as the fact that the Bengals only scored 30-plus points once in their final six games. However, those arguments are shallow considering they were all wins. I mean, the Buffalo Bills had a similar stretch between Weeks 3 and 9 this year. Nobody was worried about their offensive production, and rightfully so. They scored 30 or more points in back-to-back games immediately after.

The only real concern with this team is whether or not Zac Taylor can keep up with the other great coaches in the league, but even that is more of a “Is he too reliant on his roster’s talent” question more than anything else. If that is Taylor’s biggest problem — leaning on his gifted, confident quarterback and receivers — then the Bengals are in a very good place moving forward. As Joe Burrow said, as long as he’s around, this team’s Super Bowl window is open, and boy oh boy is the sun shining through.

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1. Kansas City Chiefs

1. Kansas City Chiefs

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Yes, the Chiefs lost to the Bengals. Yes, the Chiefs lost to the Bills. But I tell you what, until Patrick Mahomes gets knocked off his throne, I’m riding with these Missouri folk every day of the week.

Prior to the season, the Chiefs were supposed to be worse than they were in 2021. The loss of Tyreek Hill was supposed to destroy the Chiefs’ explosiveness. It didn’t. Mahomes looked as good as he’s ever been. With an aging Travis Kelce, an inconsistent ground game, and a receiving corps that consisted of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mahomes became an MVP front-runner yet again. Putting him in Andy Reid’s offense proves to be just an unfair happenstance for the rest of the NFL.

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Chiefs (cont’d)

Chiefs (cont’d)

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This team earned the AFC’s top seed for a reason, even in a conference with as many great teams as the AFC, the Chiefs are just that good. They earned this bye week, and guess which team’s coach is renowned for winning big in games after a bye. I feel sorry for whoever has to play Kansas City in the Divisional Round. It won’t be pretty.

Like I said earlier, the Chiefs may not have won against their top competition during the regular season, but that’s where Andy Reid really comes into play. He’s arguably the best coach in these playoffs, and often learns from past mistakes. Even though his team lost to both the Bills and Bengals earlier this year, I doubt he’ll be caught so flat-footed again. Where the Bills have regressed defensively, and questions have begun springing up regarding the Bengals’ offensive production, nobody is voicing concerns about the Chiefs. That’s not a coincidence. They’ve earned this reputation, and heading into the playoffs, they are, once again, the best team in the NFL.

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