With 18 weeks down, there are just 14 teams remaining to fight for the Lombardi trophy. Let’s review the remaining teams in our Wild Card Weekend power rankings.
What an absolute wild Week 18 to end the regular season. Teams like the Indianapolis Colts were eliminated by the Jacksonville Jaguars who own the first overall pick. Then the Pittsburgh Steelers thought they were in the playoffs after not ending in a tie. They were then almost spoiled by the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers in Sunday Night Football thriller that almost ended in a tie. Let’s look at who is the best of the rest in Wildcard Weekend.
14th – Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) – AFC 7th Seed
The Steelers needed three simple things to happen to squeak into the playoffs. Defeat the Baltimore Ravens, Jaguars to upset the Colts, and the Chargers and Raiders to not end in a tie. First, the Colts lost in epic fashion. Then they took care of the Ravens in overtime. Great, they are in as long as the Raiders and Chargers don’t tie. Then the Raiders and Chargers almost ended in a tie. Luckily for them, Ben Roethlisberger gets at least one more game after assuming it would be his final game. Do the Steelers go deep in the playoffs? Probably not. The Steelers will be traveling to Kansas City to face the Kansas City Chiefs. Not an easy matchup for Big Ben and the Steelers.
13th – Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) – NFC 7th Seed
The Philadelphia Eagles were able to take care of business in Week 17 and were able to rest starters in Week 18. Jalen Hurts has done a lot better than what many thought he’d do and I’d credit first-year head coach Nick Sirianni for much of that. The Eagles look to continue taking care of business but have a tough matchup in Wild Card weekend. They’ll be on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This could be the end of the road for them, but at least they have the Colts’ first-round pick anyways.
12th – Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) – AFC 5th Seed
The Raiders did it! They continued to climb the last few weeks with several key wins against the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Colts, and Chargers. This team could have packed it up and finished 6-11, but decided that a good draft pick wasn’t worth it for this season. After battling adversity from off-field issues with Jon Gruden and Henry Ruggs III, they made it into the playoffs. This team shows that they have grit and can fight with anyone when it matters.
11th – San Francisco 49ers (10-7) – NFC 6th Seed
Here come the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs. The third NFC West team in the playoffs made their way in with a game-winning interception in overtime against the Los Angeles Rams. I’m not sure how much longer this magical ride will last for the 49ers. They’re gonna have to travel and play the Dallas Cowboys, who have been a solid team throughout the year. With a playoff run, this might have just saved Jimmy Garoppolo‘s future in San Francisco, but that’s doubtful. I think he’s going to have to lead another deep run for him to still be the starter next season.
10th – Arizona Cardinals (11-6) – NFC 5th Seed
I’m not quite sure how anyone feels about the Arizona Cardinals, including the fans in Arizona. The Cardinals started the season 9-0 and were destined for home-field advantage and more. Then injuries plagued the team midway and the team had to battle through adversity. Kyler Murray missed a few games, which led to a 2-1 record with Colt McCoy. Losing DeAndre Hopkins, JJ Watt, and Chase Edmonds throughout the season did not help the offensive production. The team failed late and didn’t exactly recover finishing 2-6 in the last eight games. This is likely an early exit for the Cardinals as they now head to play against the Rams.
9th – New England Patriots (10-7) – AFC 6th Seed
The New England Patriots often look dominant, but they’ve got their flaws. With the division on the line, they couldn’t even get through the Miami Dolphins and were swept on the season. Maybe the Patriots were coasting into the playoffs and were more focused on this upcoming weekend. The Patriots will travel to play against the Buffalo Bills in Wildcard Weekend. If they could have taken care of the Bills in Week 17, they’d be looking at hosting, rather than traveling.
8th – Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) – AFC 4th Seed
The Cincinnati Bengals are finally that team that no one wants to play right now. Knowing that they were in the playoffs, they rested starters against the Browns and took the 4th seed with pride. This team often has a dominant offense that can’t be stopped. If they can put together four great quarters, they’re looking at a deep playoff run. The Bengals playing the Raiders in Wildcard Weekend is a game that many likely could not have guessed would happen this decade, but here we are.
7th – Los Angeles Rams (12-5) – NFC 4th Seed
The Rams lost in overtime to the 49ers but still won the division. A weird thing to celebrate after losing a game, but they did it! The Rams have been up and down all season and their 12-5 record does not show for that. You should be able to look at that record and think this team has it figured out. On paper, they should have it figured out, too. This team loses easy games and wins the difficult ones.
6th – Buffalo Bills (11-6) – AFC 3rd Seed
There was a rough patch in the middle of the season, but the Bills ended up winning the AFC East for the second year in a row. Hopefully, this year the Bills can continue to grind and put together a few more wins to take advantage of the youth they have currently. The time is ticking this season before the Bills have to start paying Josh Allen for the contract extension that will pay him about $39.78 million next season. In comparison, Allen only counts for $16.38 million this year.
5th – Tennessee Titans (12-5) – AFC 1st Seed
We’ve all heard the narrative. Us vs the Tennessee Titans this season. That’s what Titans’ fans will have you believe. The narrative is that the Titans are the worst first seed in NFL history, but are they? Time will tell, but that won’t be this week as they will be resting up. This means the AFC allowed Derrick Henry to get another free week of rest and healing before he has to hit it hard in the Divisional Round. Is this good fortune for the Titans? The best-case scenario is that Henry is only needed for three more games. Guess we will find out next week.
4th – Dallas Cowboys (12-5) – NFC 3rd Seed
The Cowboys have been good for a great portion of this season. This might actually be the year that “We dem boys” are actually “dem boys.” The Cowboys just have to continue proving themselves this week as they host the 49ers, who just knocked off the Rams in overtime. I’m not picturing this as a difficult matchup, but anytime you count the 49ers out, they will surprise you.
3rd – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4) – NFC 2nd Seed
The defending champions got into the playoffs by winning their division, not that it was hard this year. The NFC South was not great, so the Buccaneers should have won it by default. Heading into the playoffs, injuries could be an issue. The receiver corp is hurting, but Tom Brady is really getting it done with grocery bag clerks, again. If there was someone that could turn anyone into a Super Bowl wide receiver, it’s Brady. Don’t let injuries count them out.
2nd – Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) – AFC 2nd Seed
The Super Bowl losers are back in it as one of the top teams in the NFL. Did that surprise you, though? In Patrick Mahomes‘ four seasons as a starter, he’s been to two Super Bowls already and never has played a game on the road in the playoffs. That could change this year, but it’s going to require the Chiefs and Titans to go the distance. With a matchup against the Steelers, I’m not sure there will be many difficulties getting through this weekend.
1st – Green Bay Packers (13-4) – NFC 1st Seed
Even after a devastating loss to the Detriot Lions, the Green Bay Packers remain on the top as the best team in the NFL. Will this finally be the season that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers get over the NFC Championship hump and get into the Super Bowl? Will we see Mahomes vs Rodgers in the Super Bowl presented by State Farm? Maybe. But until we get there, let’s focus on one week at a time. We all know any team can make a historic run. Let’s not forget Rodgers’ only title was when he was the 6th seed. Anything can happen in the playoffs. But for now, we have to wait another week to see what the Packers do.