This has been a crazy year so far with many teams we expected to be juggernaut's struggling against supposedly lesser competition. The great defensive schemes and play have been the story all season long. I’m ranking where each team is at the end of Week 18 and diving into where and why I put every team still standing where they are. I’m personally glad to never have to watch some of these units again and some I’ll miss dearly. Let's start with the easiest decision of the year and a team who is happy the season is over.
32. Carolina Panthers
Bryce Young. Yikes.
31. Washington Commanders
Let’s move onto something else.
30. New England Patriots
29. Los Angeles Chargers
Let's hope they get a good coach and reverse the injury curse that clearly must’ve been put on them.
28. New York Giants
Please move on from Daniel Jones and get some playmakers everywhere. Daniel Jones is really the dark cloud of reality over this team. TOMMYYYY CUTLETS was fun.
27. Arizona Cardinals
Build in the trenches and get some size in the draft, but I like what they’re doing.
26. Tennessee Titans
Moving on from Vrabel was a bad decision, but they need help everywhere and he doesn’t want to stay around for a rebuild. I think they can trade some veterans for more draft picks and turn this around, eventually.
25. Denver Broncos
Will Sean Payton ruin this team or can he help bring this team to former glory?
24. New York Jets
This team was looking forward to next year as soon as Rodgers went down in the first game. TIM BOYLE???
23. Atlanta Falcons
Finally free from the prison that is Arthur Smith
22. Minnesota Vikings
That Josh Dobbs story was fun for a week. Nick Mullens is the Office without Michael Scott. Sure there are moments, but are we trying to get excited over mediocrity? Come back, Kirk.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars
Who actually knows what this team is?
20. Chicago Bears
Justin Fields is the guy right? Right? Guys?
19. New Orleans Saints
Derek Carr was the perfect quarterback for this team. Were they good? Were they bad? Are they scared? Are they tough? Who are you? Who am I?
18. Las Vegas Raiders
Shed Josh McDaniels like some sort of horrible, cancerous growth. Life was restored to the body. Antonio Pierce should stay on as head coach.
17. Indianapolis Colts
I would hate to be Tyler Goodson right now!
16. Cincinnati Bengals
What this team could've been if Burrow stayed healthy? Jake Browning made himself a lot of money though.
15. Seattle Seahawks
Chewing gum in football team heaven, probably
14. Steelers (7th seed in AFC)
Pittsburgh was a longshot to make the playoffs this year, especially after losing their starting Quarterback. Though the best QB on the team might be starting now. Mason Rudolph didn’t retire? The Jaguars' collapse and a win by the Steelers in Week 18 pushed them in this year and they are playing the Bills as big underdogs this week. Mike Tomlin has everyone exactly where he wants them. I don't expect much out of this team after losing TJ Watt, but they will make this game ugly and could keep it close.
13. Packers (7th seed in NFC)
The Packers won last week against the Bears (what’s new?) and secured a spot in the playoffs. Jordan Love has made a strong case for himself as the long-term answer in Green Bay at quarterback. He was PFF’s Breakout Player of the Year and this team is loaded with first and second year standouts at wide receiver and tight end. I don't think the Packers are beating the Cowboys and this year may not be their chance to lift the Lombardi Trophy, but this team is young and growing together. With a good coach in Matt LaFleur this team will be a playoff team for years to come.
12. Texans (4th seed in AFC)
Speaking of good, young teams with a head coach. The Texans have already exceeded expectations and should be a division favorite going forward. CJ Stroud looks like the best player in his draft class and potentially a top 5 quarterback in the entire NFL. The rest of the team is young, coached well, feisty and opportunistic. They hit big on the second and third picks in last year's draft, in free agency and on Demeco Ryans. This team won six games the two previous seasons combined and won their division, so the rest is gravy at this point. They’re dangerous and could surprise people, but the youth might catch up to them at some point. They are facing a tough Cleveland team this week with a scary defense and a veteran quarterback, but expect a great game.
11. Eagles (5th seed in NFC)
Probably the most surprising team at this point is the Eagles. They limped into the playoffs after starting a league-high 10-1 and looking like the best team. Since that start the Eagles have lost multiple games that they shouldn't have and they look nothing like the team that went to the Super Bowl last year. They’re heading to Tampa to face a lukewarm Bucs team, but they’re banged up on offense and defense and Hurts hideously dislocated his finger last Sunday. If they can fix all of the problems right now, they may have a chance.
10. Rams (6th seed in NFC)
Before the season, we had very little belief in the Rams as a podcast. After having to part with several superstars and a seemingly bad draft, we thought they would struggle to be a shell of their former selves. They’ve completely rebuilt the Machine. The Rams proved that staying competitive throughout the year with great play calling and everyone doing their part. This offense is fun to watch and this team is going to have an awesome game against Detroit. Matt Stafford going home. You can’t write this.
9. Dolphins (6th in the AFC)
The Dolphins have had an up and down year. They look phenomenal at times (70!! Points), but have lost some key games to forfeit the 1 seed and then their division in Week 18. They have shown they can score, sometimes, and have playmakers on both sides of the ball. It just feels like they’ve had too many injuries to key contributors. When you pair that with not being able to beat good teams all year, I don’t know where they stand. Unfortunately, they are also heading to Kansas City for a game in extremely cold weather. The Dolphins historically have not traveled well, especially in the cold. Dolphins are 0-10 in games below 40 degrees since 2017. It's projected to be -5 degrees with a -30 degrees windchill in Arrowhead on Saturday night.
8. Buccaneers (4th seed in NFC)
Tampa Bay has had an interesting year. They started strong and then we all thought they were dead by Week 9, but Baker Mayfield has been dicing up defenses and Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rachaad White have all played key parts in leading them to checks notes 9 wins and a division title. Their offensive line has been stronger lately and their top 10 defense in the league (in name and championship pedigree) has helped this team stay competitive for the most part. The Bucs have home field advantage in round one against an Eagles team that has struggled to say the least and I expect the Bucs to make it to the Divisional round.
7. Browns (5th seed in AFC)
The Browns have one of the best teams in the NFL. They tout the scariest defense, a veteran, SUPER BOWL WINNING, Quarterback in Joe Flacco and a strong supporting cast. Losing Nick Chubb and Deshaun Watson was a big blow for hope on this team. Then Joe Flacco showed up. Joe Flacco. 38-year-old Joe Flacco. They have shown they don't need those guys to be successful and they might be better without them. They play the Texans who can be great, but are on the younger side compared to other teams that made it to the playoffs.
6. Chiefs (3rd in the AFC)
I know how this team has been playing all season. They’ve looked out of sync and at times nothing like they did last year when they won the Super Bowl. Tyreek Hill’s absence felt so unimportant then. Previous years have taught us to never bet against the Chiefs and they have Tyreek and the Dolphins coming to town in frigid temperatures. If we see championship grit Chiefs, they possibly have the easiest matchup in the entire playoffs against the bad Dolphins?? Tell Tua to bring his mittens. If they lose and can’t catch a pass, I might’ve ranked them too high. Their experience should help carry them through this game at least.
5. Bills (2nd in the AFC)
The Bills got “hot” at the exact right time for the playoffs. After looking like they might finish below .500, Buffalo beat Miami for a second time and stole the 2 seed. They won 5 straight games!!! Josh Allen and the Bills have an easy matchup with the Steelers this week and the Bills have a shot at making a run. They are the likeliest, unlikeliest Cinderella story if they do.
4. Lions (3rd in the NFC)
Detroit has looked like a better team all year than the logo might have you believe. They beat the Chiefs Week 1 and have played well for most of this season. Their defense leaves something to be desired and the team is sometimes too aggressive for their own good, however, this offense is talented and stacked and the defense plays fast and loose. They should be able to beat the Rams especially if the crowd gets involved.
3. Cowboys (2nd in the NFC)
The Cowboys are ranked this high for a reason, Ceedee Lamb and Dak Prescott. When they have stumbled a bit this year, I believe that's been due to poor coaching and questionable offensive line play. The Cowboys have one of the best combos in the league and an opportunistic defense. Can they overcome the past and change their future? Is Jerry Jones going to fire Mike McCarthy?
2. Ravens (1st in the AFC)
I know the game on Christmas played out differently, but that was then. It was a great showing by the Ravens as their defense forced five turnovers and Lamar completely dominated on offense. In fairness to the Ravens, that’s what the rest of the season looked like, but they were able to blow the 49ers and many others out early. I don't expect this game to go the same way a second time around. Lamar Jackson has a lot to prove in the postseason and he may never have this dominant of a defense and this cache on weapons again.
1. 49ers (1st in the NFC)
San Francisco is simply put, a juggernaut. When this team is on, they’re unstoppable. With maybe the greatest offensive mind in the game in Kyle Shanahan and so many top players at their position, the 49ers should be able to beat any team they face. They should even win the entire thing this year, if Brock Purdy doesn’t stop them.