WILDcARD WEEKEND POWER RANKINGS
Well we made it to the playoffs and things are getting exciting. In the first Wild Card weekend of its kind we have six games instead of the usual four. That makes for the most exciting Wild Card weekend ever. Three games on Saturday and three games on Sunday is exactly what we need after another hard week in the fight against COVID-19. The NFL has provided the population with a release every Sunday night and luckily for us we have it for the month of January.
Week 17 signified the end of the journey for 18 teams but for the remaining 14 the real work has just begun. Records are out the window and it comes down to each individual matchup as the remaining teams start their journey towards the Lombardi trophy. Firstly let’s look at the fixtures that await in Wild Card Weekend:
(7) Colts @ (2) Bills
(6) Browns @ (3) Steelers
(5) Ravens @ (4) Titans
(7) Bears @ (2) Saints
(6) Rams @ (3) Seahawks
(5) Buccaneers @ (4) Washington
After this round the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers await. Let’s look at how these teams are ranked headed into the playoffs.
14. Washington Football Team - 7-9
The Washington Football Team will go into the playoffs as one of the only teams to ever do it with a losing record. That being said the Washington defense have proved capable of upsetting anyone on their day. Chase Young has been a revelation and will be looking forward to chasing down Tom Brady on Saturday night. Washington went into Week 17 needing a win to secure a berth in the playoffs and luckily for them the Eagles benched their starting quarterback and basically handed them the victory.
The Football Team are the weakest team on paper heading into the Wild Card Weekend but don’t count them out, they have battled adversity for the entire season and maybe they have a few more upsets on the cards.
13. Chicago Bears - 8-8
Despite losing six games in a row the Chicago Bears somehow managed to sneak into the playoffs. A win against Green Bay would have secured their spot by themselves but Mitchell Trubisky was unable to keep up with the Packers offense as they were soundly beaten. Luckily for the Bears, Arizona couldn’t beat the Rams and Chicago snuck into the playoffs through the back door. Chicago now faces the New Orleans Saints and will have to come up with something special if they want to advance to the divisional round.
12. Los Angeles Rams - 10-6
John Wolford is the hero that Los Angeles never knew they needed. In Week 16 Jared Goff broke his thumb and was set to miss some time and the Rams chances at postseason glory took a substantial hit. In the end Wolford actually looked okay. If you take away his first pass (an interception) he did enough to get his team into the playoffs. His mobility was refreshing to see as the Rams eased past the Cardinals. Up next another tilt against the Seattle Seahawks and despite Wolford looking decent the Rams will be hoping for Jared Goff back.
Even if Jared Goff is back the Los Angeles defense is the reason that they are here and if they want to go any further then Aaron Donald and company will need to step up once again.
11. Cleveland Browns - 11-5
Only three seasons ago the Cleveland Browns found themselves with a record of 0-16. Now they are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002. It went down to the wire in a game against a Pittsburgh team that were resting their star players. In the end a failed two point conversion is all that stopped the Steelers completing another second half comeback. Cleveland will now have to travel to Heinz Field to face the Pittsburgh Steelers for the third time this season.
Unfortunately for the Browns the COVID bug has struck and they will be missing Head Coach Kevin Stefanski and left guard Joel Bitonio. A hard game just became that much harder.
10. Indianapolis Colts - 11-5
Indianapolis went into Week 17 knowing that they needed some dominoes to fall in their favour if they were going to make it to the postseason. Luckily for them Buffalo brought their A game as they dismantled the Miami Dolphins. This opened the door and all the Colts had to do was see off the one win Jaguars, which they duly did.
In huge news for the Colts, Jonathan Taylor is looking like the game changer we all thought he would be. He finished the season with a 253 yard game against the Jaguars as he ran all over them. Taylor has found his form at just the right time as he averages 123.5 yards per game since Week 11. This could be vital if the Colts fancy an extended stay in the postseason.
9. Tennessee Titans - 11-5
The Tennessee Titans went into Week 17 knowing they could win the division, get a wildcard spot or even be knocked out of the playoffs entirely. Luckily for them the Miami loss in the early window secured them a playoff spot and now they just had to win to secure the division. Going up against a Houston Texans team that has struggled against the run all year would make you think that the Titans had this one sorted. You would have been half right. Derrick Henry ran all over the Texans as he reached the 2000 yard mark for the season. On the other side of the ball however the Titans struggled.
In the past two weeks they have given up 40 points and 38 points. If the Titans want to beat Baltimore this weekend then the defense has to step up or Derrick Henry may have to run for another 2000 yards.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 11-5
Tom Brady is 43 years old and he is out there playing some of his best football. In week 17 he put up another monster display as his Buccaneers team dismantled the Atlanta Falcons. To close out the season this Tampa offense has been playing lights out as they faced off against some of the weaker defenses in the league. Detroit, Minnesota and Atlanta twice, haven’t been able to stop this juggernaut but this coming weekend they will face a stronger defense. The Washington Football Team has a scary front seven who are more than capable of getting pressure.
Throughout this season Tom Brady has looked a lot more human when he is feeling the pressure. Despite Tampa being the heavy favourites they will need to find a way to slow down Chase Young and company.
7. Baltimore Ravens -11-5
It hasn’t been the same dizzy heights as last season but the Baltimore Ravens once again find themselves in the playoffs. It took them until week 17 to secure the spot but they did it in convincing fashion. Baltimore ran the ball for 404 yards in a 38-3 victory over a Cincinnati Bengals team that just looked ready for the season to be over. On a weekend where there was big rushing performances all over the league, the Baltimore Ravens showed why they may have the best rushing attack in football.
JK Dobbins finished with 160 rushing yards and Lamar Jackson added another 97 of his own as the Ravens sent a message to the Tennessee Titans. In a repeat of last year’s divisional matchup the Baltimore Ravens will be looking to exact some revenge.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers-12-4
Pittsburgh took the wise decision to rest some of their key players in the matchup against the Cleveland Browns in Week 17. Ben Roethlisberger, TJ Watt, Cam Heyward and others didn’t travel with the team to Ohio and still the Steelers almost got the win. A failed two point conversion late in the fourth is all that stopped Pittsburgh tying the game and forcing overtime. In the end Pittsburgh lost to the Cleveland Browns but they get to welcome them back to Heinz Field for Wild Card Weekend. With all the starters coming back and the COVID related issues in Cleveland the Pittsburgh Steelers have to be feeling pretty confident right?
5. Seattle Seahawks- 12-4
Halfway through the season the Seattle Seahawks had one of the most entertaining offenses in the league and one of the worst defences. Now at the end of the season it’s the offense that is posing the difficult questions. Russell Wilson has failed to have the same connection with his receivers that he had in the opening weeks of the season and the offense has failed to continue drives as successfully. Luckily for them the defense has stepped up and managed to actually defend the pass.
Up next is a visit from divisional rivals the Los Angeles Rams in what will be a hotly contested Wild Card matchup. Russell Wilson will need to find his game as he prepares to do battle with one of the best defenses in the league.
4. New Orleans Saints - 12-4
New Orleans knew going into their week 17 matchup that they still had an outside shot at the number one seed and that all important bye week. A win against the Carolina Panthers and a Green Bay loss to the Chicago Bears would allow them to have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Saints did everything they had to as their offense looked good with Drew Brees throwing three touchdown passes and the defense forced five interceptions en-route to a convincing 33-7 win.
Now attention turned to Green Bay and unfortunately the Bears couldn’t do what was needed as they were dismantled by Aaron Rodgers. Luckily for the Saints they now get to welcome the Bears to their house and exact some revenge. This game could turn embarrassing for Matt Nagy and company.
3. Green Bay Packers - 13-3
When this season is all said and done the Green Bay Packers could find themselves walking away with all the important silverware up for grabs. No team looks stronger to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl, Aaron Rodgers will be named the regular season MVP (further improving his credentials with a four touchdown game in Week 17) and Davante Adams will more than likely be walking away with the Offensive Player of the Year award.
Everything is working for Green Bay as they get the chance to rest up for a week before going into action in the divisional round. One stat that sums up just how good this Packers season has been is the fact that they have thrown more touchdown passes (48) than they have punts (46). Incredible effort.
2. Kansas City Chiefs - 14-2
The number one seed was tied up and the Chiefs took the decision to rest their starters against the Los Angeles Chargers. A wise decision given that since the start of November they haven’t won a game by more than one score. They now get a bye week and will reap the benefits of some well deserved time off. Time off that could be crucial as they look to defend their Super Bowl crown against a stacked playoff field.
Kansas City have been the pinnacle of the football world for the last two years but they now find themselves struggling to put teams away and find themselves in close games. That being said they continue to keep winning (minus week 17 but there was no Patrick Mahomes) and that is truly all that matters at the end of the day.
1. Buffalo Bills - 13-3
AFC East Champions, the number two seed in the AFC and many peoples new favourites for the Super Bowl. Buffalo faced off against one of the best defenses in the league in Week 17 and thoroughly dismantled them. Josh Allen and company racked up 56 points as they further cemented why they could be the team to take down the Kansas City Chiefs. No other team has looked anywhere near as capable as this Bills team do of stopping the Chiefs.
They have a quarterback who would have won MVP if it wasn’t for a superhuman season from Aaron Rodgers, a wide receiver group led by Stefon Diggs that seem to just be open all the time and a defense that is stepping up and stopping teams. All that mixed in with a fantastic head Coach and a savvy GM is just the recipe you want heading into playoff season.