What an incredible weekend of football. Eight teams entered, four teams remain, but let’s be honest, all eight teams had a chance to win last weekend. As such, ranking the […]
What an incredible weekend of football. Eight teams entered, four teams remain, but let’s be honest, all eight teams had a chance to win last weekend. As such, ranking the eight teams that participated in the Divisional Round doesn’t necessarily mean the four winners all rank higher than the four losers.
In the AFC, Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals outlasted Ryan Tannehill and the top-seeded Tennessee Titans 19-16 despite the return of running back Derrick Henry. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs eliminated Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills 42-36 in overtime, in what may have been one of the best NFL games of all-time. It’s only a shame the NFL’s current rules didn’t allow for Allen and the Bills to get one more shot to match the Chiefs in overtime.
The NFC’s top seed, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, were defeated by a gritty San Francisco 49ers team that benefited immensely from a blocked punt returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. And in another instant classic, Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams downed Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-27 despite blowing a 24-point lead to advance to the NFC Championship Game.
How do the eight teams that played last weekend stack up against each other? Would the Bills or Buccaneers still be alive if they played a different opponent? Is the second-best team in the NFL already eliminated? And who has the best chance to win Super Bowl 56?
Read on for my Post-Divisional Round Power Rankings, and if you’d like to debate or discuss any rankings, join the conversation with @SakSports on Twitter.
After outdueling Josh Allen and the Bills all the way in to an overtime period, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs have rightfully reclaimed the top spot in my Power Rankings, and have the best chance of the four remaining teams to win Super Bowl 56. The Chiefs are now 11-1 in their last 12 games dating back to the regular season, and frankly, Kansas City looks unstoppable once again after briefly raising doubts earlier this season.
Buffalo Bills (12-7) [Last Week: 4]
I don’t care if they came out on the losing end against the Chiefs, almost no one has played better football over the past month or so than Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. After dispatching Bill Belichick and the Patriots last week with the NFL’s first ever perfect offensive game, the Bills offense was great again in the Divisional Round, putting up 36 points and with wide receiver Gabriel Davis hauling in an NFL playoff record four touchdown catches, including a fourth quarter, fourth down touchdown reception to take the lead inside the final minute of play. But the Chiefs ultimately tied the game and scored a quick touchdown in overtime, and Allen never got to touch the ball again. Obviously, Buffalo’s defense could have played better, but this Bills team might just be the second-best overall team despite not making it to the Conference Championship round.
Los Angeles Rams (14-5) [Last Week: 3]
Even after doing seemingly everything possible to blow their 27-3 lead against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and the Los Angeles Rams narrowly escaped with a 30-27 win to advance to the NFC Championship Game. Blowing a 24-point lead is definite cause for alarm, but the majority of the Rams misfortune came via some untimely fumbles. The Rams are immensely talented on both sides of the ball, and have the second-best chance to win Super Bowl 56 behind the Chiefs.
Green Bay Packers (13-5) [Last Week: 1]
The Green Bay Packers squandered an elite season, with a 13-4 record and 13-2 record in games where Aaron Rodgers played both halves, with a 13-10 to the 49ers in the Divisional Round. It spoiled a perfect regular season record at Lambeau Field, eliminating Green Bay early after back-to-back NFC Championship Game appearances. Were the Packers a fraud this season? No, but their offense only mustering 10 points couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-5) [Last Week: 5]
For more than just a moment, the NFL world was convinced Tom Brady was going to do it again. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell behind 27-3, but miraculously tied the game at 27 before ultimately losing 30-27, falling to the Rams for the second time this season. The Buccaneers Super Bowl defense run is over, and while Tampa Bay has consistently been a Top 5 team this season, it’s been a while since they’ve felt like the best team in the NFL.
Cincinnati Bengals(12-7) [Last Week: 6]
Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals defied the odds again over the weekend, downing the top-seeded Titans 19-16 despite the return of Derrick Henry. But I already had the Titans ranked as the eighth-strongest team of the eight remaining in the playoffs, and before that, they defeated the 13th-ranked Raiders. Winning in the playoffs is never easy, but Cincinnati has a had a moderately forgiving playoff schedule so far. The Bengals will need to score more than 19 points to beat Mahomes and the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.
San Francisco 49ers (12-7) [Last Week: 7]
The San Francisco 49ers upset the NFC’s top seed, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, 13-10 on a cold Saturday night, handing Green Bay their first home loss of the season. It was a huge underdog win for the 49ers, but their play on the field still didn’t move them up in these rankings. San Francisco’s blocked punt returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter was amazing, but if they had ten more ties to do the same thing, I’m not sure they would have. Jimmy Garoppolo was just 11-of-19 for 131 yards and an interception in the matchup, with the 49ers putting up just six points from the offensive side of the ball. Still, the 49ers came out on top, and are now just one game away from Super Bowl 56.
Tennessee Titans (12-6) [Last Week: 8]
I had the Tennessee Titans as the eighth-strongest team remaining last week, and after a 19-16 loss to the Bengals, that ranking feels justified. The Titans are a good team, and for a time looked like they could be great. But Tennessee’s offense stalled in the Divisional Round loss, in large part due to three interceptions thrown by Ryan Tannehill. The return of Derrick Henry (20 carries, 62 yards, 1 TD) wasn’t enough, nor was an NFL playoff record nine sacks from the Titans defense.
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