The competition is about to start.
Upon the conclusion of the 2023 NFL Draft, every one of the 32 fan groups thought their team had a chance to win Super Bowl 58. However, since then, things have evolved. At the end of the regular season, there are only 14 NFL teams still standing, and they are all competing to win the Lombardi Trophy.
But certain teams are just more likely to succeed than others.
Here are the rankings that the SB Nation staff came up with before Wild Card Weekend based on their vote of all the remaining teams in the NFL Playoffs. Remember this if you think your favourite team is placed too low: the team decides the ranking, not our votes.
The SB Nation staff evaluated the 14 NFL playoff teams according to their likelihood of winning the Super Bowl.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers
In 2023, will the Steelers still be a top team? They have a lot of heart, but not really. This has been Mike Tomlin’s crowning achievement as head coach of this esteemed organisation, in many ways. That may seem strange coming from a Super Bowl-winning team, but given the strength of the AFC North going into the season and the way his roster was arranged, it was hard to think they would make much of an impact.
They can bring teams down to their level, which is an underappreciated skill, and they are currently 10-7. Teams “playing up” is a term we frequently hear, but the Steelers excel at creating chaos and succeeding in the mud. Pittsburgh has been erratic, but they also thrive in times like these. In 2023, eight of their games were decided by one point or less.
The loss of T.J. Watt could be the deciding factor, as this defence might not be able to withstand his absence in the postseason.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Although it’s simple to make fun of the NFC South winner, the Buccaneers, as a low seed, have the potential to cause havoc. With outstanding receivers to reward his gunslinging tendencies, Baker Mayfield has found renewed energy in an offence under the direction of an extremely skilled coach in Dave Canales.
Although this team is realistically still a few pieces away from becoming a serious contender, ignore them at your own risk. This group is not too unlike from the one that took home the Super Bowl in 2021. Yes, there is unpredictability, but this team is also capable of playing at a high level without warning.
12. Green Bay Packers
For the Packers, who were rebuilding and trying to move past Aaron Rodgers, this was supposed to be a disastrous, humiliating season.
Now that Aaron and the Jets are at home in the playoffs, they are the ones in the playoffs.
Jordan Love proved he can be “the guy” in Green Bay for the foreseeable future by exceeding all expectations. The Packers’ youthful receiving group has shown promise thanks to Love, and second-year offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich has designed an offence that allows these players to flourish, leading the team to a Top 10 scoring offence this season.
Even while the team’s 9-8 regular season record doesn’t now convert into postseason success, it does demonstrate that the Packers’ future is still bright. This is a building block year for the team.
11. The Philadelphia Eagles
In Philadelphia, it seems as though everything is falling apart.
And this rating most definitely represents the way we voted.
Perhaps the growing number of injuries. Perhaps it’s the curse of the losing Super Bowl team. The “Curse of Big Dom,” perhaps. However, following victories against the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs in back-to-back weeks to start the season 10-1, the Eagles faltered in the final six games, dropping five of them to finish 11-6.
On Sunday, things grew considerably worse. If they defeated the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys fell to the Washington Commanders, they would still have a chance to win the division going into the final week of games. However, the Eagles were down 24-0 at the half, with injuries plaguing both A.J. Brown and Jalen Hurts, and the Eagles supporters who had travelled to MetLife Stadium hurling taunts in their direction.
Is there any chance for the Eagles to win? Perhaps. On Wild Card Weekend, they will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a game that on paper still appears to be winnable. However, Philadelphia is undoubtedly not in a good place, and there seem to be more questions than answers.
10. The Houston Texans
The Houston Texans faced a possible elimination scenario at the start of Week 18 after losing to the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night.
The Texans emerged victorious in the AFC South after Week 18.
Few outside of the Houston area thought the Texans would make the playoffs in their debut season, despite the fact that many thought the team had strengthened its roster with the selection of C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr. at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft. However, huge props to DeMeco Ryans and the entire team at Houston, as they accomplished what many believed to be impossible.
On Wild Card Weekend, they’ll face the formidable Cleveland Browns squad and their formidable defence, but at least now, it’s feasible to do what appeared unthinkable in August.
9. Los Angeles Rams
We at SB Nation sincerely apologise to the Los Angeles Rams.
We considered the Rams to have one of the longest odds to win the Super Bowl at the start of the season. For what length of time do you ask? The Rams were ranked 31st out of 32 teams when we assembled our preseason rankings, just ahead of the Arizona Cardinals and just below the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Therefore, it’s possible that these rankings will involve another apology.
However, the Rams exceeded all expectations by winning the playoffs in Week 17, which allowed them to rest starters Matthew Stafford and others for the Week 18 game. Right now? Stafford will get the opportunity to play for his old team, the Detroit Lions, when the Rams visit Ford Field.
In general, the Rams will be difficult to beat in the playoffs given their skill set on both sides of the ball. But in this particular game, the Rams might be done for if Aaron Donald and company can consistently apply pressure to Jared Goff.
8. Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins can be viewed in one of two ways.
Everything is quite well!
The unfortunate news is now available. Miami’s record this season versus winning teams was merely 1-5; they suffered losses to the Chiefs, the Ravens, and the Bills twice. This weekend, they take on the Chiefs. Miami’s point differential this season was +105, enough for fifth place in the NFL, but how much was it different from clubs that made the playoffs? With a score of -91, only the Giants and Commanders scored lower.
It is difficult to have a lot of confidence in Miami going into the playoffs when you consider that they are hurt, especially on the defensive end of the ball.
7. Kansas City Chiefs
After winning the AFC West for eight straight seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs are back in the postseason and have the opportunity to defend their Super Bowl championship.
For the Chiefs, though, things feel quite different this season.
Kansas City must win a playoff game on the road, something they have never done during their current run under Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, if they hope to return to the Super Bowl. Even though Kansas City has returned to the postseason, they are only the third seed, thus even if they defeat the Miami Dolphins this weekend, they will still need to triumph at Buffalo the following week.
Of course, they still have some advantages, including Mahomes, Reid, Travis Kelce, and a defence that has improved this year compared to prior ones. The offence could undoubtedly put up a strong run if they figure out what has been holding them back in the closing minutes.
However, considering what we witnessed from this offence in the closing moments, that seems like a big “if.”
6. The Cleveland Browns
Will the Cleveland Browns compete in the NFL Playoffs in 2023–2024? Depending on your opinion of the Browns before the beginning of the season, you might or might not find it surprising.
Do the Cleveland Browns, starting quarterback Joe Flacco, make it to the NFL Playoffs in 2023–2024? Not even Flacco, who was watching with the rest of us on the couch when the regular season started, had that going into the season.
And yet here they are, in the postseason, with a matchup against the Houston Texans on Wild Card Weekend as favourites. Cleveland’s defence is undoubtedly their strongest suit. They led the league in Expected Points Added Allowed/Play (-0.155) and second in Points Per Drive Allowed (1.43), only behind the Ravens. The Browns might win games over the next three weeks thanks to their unit.
Regarding Flacco, we have witnessed his previous postseason runs. Is it possible for him to repeat it?
5. Detroit Lions
The NFL playoffs featuring the Detroit Lions. It feels… right, somehow.
The Lions, an underdog tale that’s hard to cheer against, have become synonymous with Dan Campbell. This Detroit club proved they could compete with the top NFL teams on any given Sunday by outperforming teams in their weight class for the majority of 2023. They are more than the sum of their parts.
The NFL’s most sought-after young coach, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, deserves a great deal of credit. Johnson has made it possible for everyone in this Lions offence, including quarterback Jared Goff, to play at an absurdly high level based purely on their ability on paper.
This was the NFL’s fifth-best scoring offence going into 2023, led by Amon-Ra St. Brown, who exploded for 1,515 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery combined for nearly 2,000 running yards. There’s no denying that this team is dangerous.
Although they still need to improve their secondary, the Detroit Lions can rush the quarterback and obstruct running lanes. The Lions were among the best NFC teams all season for a reason, and they are now a formidable playoff team.
4. The Buffalo Bills
Putting up a brief summary of the Buffalo Bills as of the last weekend of the season is probably the best method to sum up their 2023–2024 campaign. With a chance to win the AFC East for the fourth time in a row and the No. 2 seed going into the playoffs, Buffalo’s next away game might very well be the Super Bowl. They were regarded as one of the league’s hottest teams at the time, and they soon had the reputation of being the club that “nobody wanted to play.”
They might have also completely missed the playoffs.
Buffalo, of course, qualified for the playoffs and started as the AFC’s second seed. Their next match could very well be Super Bowl 58, away from Highmark Stadium. However, their season finale may have provided a glimpse into the future, as a club like the Ravens might be waiting in the wings, better positioned to take advantage of Buffalo’s mistakes and transform what could have been a tight game into a blowout.
Therefore, we might see their prospects of making the playoffs as we did their hopes going into this past weekend: A story with two polarities.
3. Dallas Cowboys
Will the Cowboys be able to turn things around this year? Okay, perhaps. Dallas appears to be among the top teams in the NFL as we head into the playoffs once more, but we have been duped before.
This is how things differ: Prescott Dak. Prescott, a quarterback of the highest calibre, has consistently performed at the highest level in 2023 and carried the club when it mattered most. In addition to throwing his fewest interceptions since his rookie season, Prescott is having a career-high completion % thanks to his superb decision-making and distributing of the ball across the offence.
On the opposite side of the ball, the Cowboys are formidable. With a strong defensive line behind them and a vicious pass rush spearheaded by Micah Parsons, this might be the year Dallas finally gets the monkey off their back.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Before their game on Christmas Night against the Baltimore Ravens, the San Francisco 49ers appeared to be the most formidable football team.
After that, the Ravens dominated that game and made Brock Purdy throw four interceptions, forcing San Francisco to concede the championship to Baltimore. For the time being.
However, the 49ers are still a highly dangerous club that can beat you in a variety of ways. They have a lot of offensive weapons at their disposal, including quarterback Purdy, who has elevated Kyle Shanahan’s offence to new heights, so they can score points in large quantities. Purdy may have missed out on the MVP award because of that defeat to Baltimore and Lamar Jackson, but he has still produced some incredible numbers this season. In some measures, including as QBR (72.8), Adjusted Yards per Attempt (9.9), Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (9.01), and Expected Points Added per Dropback (0.338), he leads all passers.
But the 49ers can also defeat you with defence, as they have proven this season against teams like Jacksonville and Philadelphia.
Yes, the 49ers’ Christmas Night loss to the Ravens is true. However, they appear to be a club capable of winning enough to get another chance to face them in the Super Bowl.
1. Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens not only secured the top slot in the AFC during the last month of the NFL regular season, but they also created a resume that closely resembles that of the league’s best club. The Ravens defeated the 49ers in San Francisco on Christmas Eve, setting up a possible Super Bowl rematch. The next week, they defeated the Miami Dolphins to lock up the top AFC spot.
With his performance over those two weeks—he threw for seven touchdowns without giving up an interception in the two victories—Lamar Jackson might have secured his second MVP honour. By the time the Divisional Round arrives, the Ravens defence, led by Mike Macdonald, will have recovered from its injuries.
Since this is the NFL Playoffs, anything can happen, of course. The Ravens must be involved. The year Jackson won his first MVP award, the 14-2 Ravens lost to the Tennessee Titans at home and were eliminated from the playoffs. Could it occur once more?
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