We’re down to the final four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs. One of these teams will make history by winning LVII. All these teams have numerous playmakers, but like anything else, there are always a few who stand out above the rest. So, we’ll rank the top five non-QB playmakers remaining in the NFL postseason.
5b. George Kittle
This Niners squad is built on defense, but they’ve got a ton of weapons in their offensive arsenal. The offense is so deep that Kittle can sometimes get lost in the shuffle with so many mouths to feed, but he’s still one of the best tight ends the NFL has to offer. He could even be the next best thing to Travis Kelce.
5b. George Kittle (cont’d)
On Sunday against the Cowboys, Kittle had a couple of big catches, one being an amazing one that even bounced off his facemask before he reeled it in. Kittle served as the go-to receiver for Brock Purdy Sunday, hauling in five catches for 95 yards. That doesn’t sound like much, but in a game where both defenses were in their bags, Kittle’s contribution was enormous in San Francisco escaping, 19-12 in the end.
5a. Deebo Samuel
Samuel is like a one-stop-shop football player. San Francisco can line him up anywhere on offense, and he can be successful. Samuel didn’t have a great game statistically in the win over Dallas Sunday, but sometimes the presence and the threat of certain players are enough to shift the balance.
5a. Deebo Samuel (cont’d)
Kyle Shanahan will line up Deebo out wide, in the slot, the backfield, or anywhere else that gives the Niners an advantage. Samuel can take a screenplay and make it happen by taking it the distance. He’s not your typical WR, which makes him such a threat to opposing defenses.
4. Ja’Marr Chase – Bengals
Cincinnati might be the most balanced team left in the postseason, but they don’t do it with a lot of hoopla and theatrics. They clock in, hit the field, do their jobs, and win games. The Bengals are in the midst of a 10-game win streak since Nov. 6, and they’ve done it quietly.
4. Ja’Marr Chase (cont’d)
Ja’Marr Chase has been a massive part of that, and although he didn’t have a big game against Buffalo in the divisional round, his knack for making big plays means he can take a game over at any time. Look for Chase to show out against KC in the AFC title game as he did in Cincy’s Week 13 win over the Chiefs, where he caught seven balls for 97 yards.
3. DeVonta Smith – Eagles
Some might say A.J. Brown should be in this spot over DeVonta Smith, which is a valid argument. But Smith’s speed and big play ability downfield make him a different type of threat. Smith led the team in receptions (95) in the regular season on fewer targets than Brown. Plus, Brown tweaked his left hip in the playoff win over the Giants, so his status heading into the NFC championship will be something to keep an eye on.
3. DeVonta Smith (cont’d)
Smith can line up and beat you from different spots on the field with a combination of quickness and good route running. When a receiver is that fast and runs routes the way they’re drawn up, it’s tough for defenses to eliminate him during a game. It’s hard to double-team him with Brown on the other side, and a dynamic QB like Jalen Hurts in the backfield.
2. Christian McCaffrey – 49ers
When the 49ers made the midseason trade for Christian McCaffrey, that put the league on notice for what was to come, even if they didn’t realize it. Nearly three months later, San Francisco is set to compete in their third NFC title game in four years and on the cusp of a second Super Bowl appearance in that time.
2. Christian McCaffrey (cont’d)
As great as the defense is, and they get a ton of credit, this run of 12 victories in a row, dating back to Halloween weekend, might not be possible without McCaffrey. The Niners already had weapons in Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and others. Still, CMC put them over the top, making this offense nearly impossible to contain for an entire game.
1. Travis Kelce – Chiefs
With Tyreek Hill heading to Miami, Travis Kelce showed up and showed out this season. He became the undisputed No. 1 option and safety blanket for Patrick Mahomes and continued to back that up in Kansas City’s divisional-round win over Jacksonville. Against the Jaguars, Kelce snagged 14 of 17 targets, two TDs, and 98 receiving yards.
1. Travis Kelce (cont’d)
Kelce presents a matchup problem for most teams, even when they know he’s getting the ball. On Saturday against the Jags, he did it all day. Patrick Mahomes suffered an ankle injury and didn’t have full access to his usual bag of tricks, and Kelce was there to bail his QB out. Kelce showed why he’s a four-time All-Pro and the best tight end in the game.