Ranking all 14 NFL playoff teams by Super Bowl viability: Who can win it all?
After a wild Week 18, the NFL’s playoff field is set.
Now the intensity ramps up even further as the 14 remaining teams continue their pursuit of the Super Bowl, which takes place five weeks from now in Los Angeles.
It’s a new season as all of these teams start over at 0-0. However, all playoff teams are not created equal.
Of the 14 teams left standing, a select few have legitimate chances to win it all. But there are quite a few flawed squads in this field, and many seemingly face long odds.
We’re ranking all 14 playoff teams in terms of Super Bowl viability – from those favorites to the long shots – and breaking down why they may or may not emerge from the pack.
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1. Green Bay Packers
Led by the reigning MVP and odds-on favorite to repeat in Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are the most well-rounded unit in the postseason with a prolific, versatile offense and an improved defense full of playmakers. Rodgers also just got his top blindside protector David Bakhtiari back from injury to further bolster the team’s chances of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. After falling short in each of the last two NFC championship games, this feels like their year.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
After a troubling 3-4 start to the season, the Chiefs gradually worked their way back into top form, going 9-1 the rest of the way. Their offense again ranks among the NFL's most prolific. Their defense ranks tied for fifth in takeaways with 29. And they boast ample postseason experience, having appeared in the last two Super Bowls.
3. Buffalo Bills
Back-to-back winners of the AFC East for the first time in 30 years, Buffalo checks a lot of boxes: talented young QB, top-10 offense, top-ranked defense, gradual improvement each year. It all rides on Josh Allen. Unlike Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, however, he remains unproven under the brightest lights.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady. Enough said. They’re thin at receiver, but the GOAT gives them a chance., and they’re getting some reinforcements back on both sides of the ball. Experience also should serve them well. Health and depth questions will hang over them throughout the postseason.
5. Los Angeles Rams
A star-studded cast of playmakers. Top-10 rankings on offense and defense. One of the best coaching staffs in football. There’s a lot to like about this Rams team that has gone all-in, repeatedly shipping off first-round picks to acquire the best veteran talent. Matthew Stafford is the biggest question mark. He was supposed to be the championship difference-maker. But he tends to force things at times, and his turnovers often keep foes alive. The veteran passer closed out the season with three consecutive multiple-interception games.
6. Dallas Cowboys
They boast the most prolific offense on the season both in yards (407 per game) and points (31.2 per game). And their defense has big-play potential. If all goes their way, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t contend. But, inconsistencies at times plague them on both offense and defense, which could prove costly against veteran squads.
7. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are a peculiar team. They certainly have the roster to contend with most any team in the postseason, and they were preseason picks to challenge for a Super Bowl. However, waves of injuries hampered their efforts, and they had to fight tooth and nail to the finish. They secured a postseason spot by pulling off an authoritative comeback victory over the Rams. The Niners do have a tough defense and rushing attack, and Jimmy Garoppolo can make some big-time throws. If they get some momentum, experience from their Super Bowl run two seasons ago could prove valuable, making San Francisco could be a tough out.
8. Tennessee Titans
They own the No. 1 seed in the AFC, so the road to the Super Bowl goes through Nashville. They’re a physical bunch on offense and defense, and even without Derrick Henry, they’ve maintained their run-first identity. The 2020 rushing leader could be making a comeback after missing much of the season with foot surgery. However, Ryan Tannehill remains inconsistent when asked to assume a heavier throwing load. And, truthfully, this team just isn’t convincing as a Super Bowl contender.
9. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals at 11-6 are in the postseason for the first time since 2015. But having closed out the season with a 4-6 record, momentum isn't exactly on their side. Kyler Murray has game-changing abilities. But their success hinges on whether Kliff Kingsburry can make the necessary in-game adjustments.
10. New England Patriots
They own one of the stingiest defenses in the league, as well as a punishing rushing attack – both key ingredients for playoff football. They could find themselves able to compete in games against a lot of teams. But if they have to play from behind, their chances aren’t great, as rookie Mac Jones isn’t at the point where he can put a team on his back just yet.
11. Cincinnati Bengals
They’ve got one of the best ascending duos in Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase, an effective rushing attack led by Joe Mixon and can go toe-to-toe with just about any offense in the league. But the Bengals are very pedestrian on defense in yards (350.8 per game) and points (22.1 per game) allowed and takeaways (21).
12. Las Vegas Raiders
The picture of resilience, the Raiders have endured all kinds of drama – the split with Jon Gruden, the loss of Henry Ruggs III following his fatal alleged drunken driving incident, the dismissal of several under-performing high draft picks – and on Sunday punched their ticket with a dramatic overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers. During the tumultuous early stretch of the season, the leadership of quarterback Derek Carr kept this unit afloat. And then Rich Bisaccia grew into his role as interim head coach and has pushed the right buttons during a 5-2 finish to the season that has now put the Raiders into the playoffs for the first time since 2016. However, taking it a step further and getting their first postseason win since 2002 could prove too daunting a task.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
In what has been Ben Roethlisberger's farewell tour, the Steelers scratched and clawed their way into the playoffs while receiving the help they needed from the Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars. T.J. Watt leads a tough defense, but the Steelers have an anemic offense with a virtually nonexistent downfield passing attack, which doesn’t bode well for their chances of putting together a playoff run.
14. Philadelphia Eagles
After a shaky start, the rebuilding Eagles and first-year head coach Nick Sirianni found their identity and put together a league-leading rushing attack to eke out a Wild Card berth. However, the Eagles aren't ready for prime time. They were 1-7 against winning teams, and eight of their nine wins came against teams with shaky quarterback situations.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.