2016 NFL Playoff Power Rankings: Super Bowl Rematch in the Making?
It seems like just yesterday the pre-season was upon us, and now 21 weeks or so later, the playoffs are set to begin. It’s been quite a ride and virtually every team in the playoffs has had to deal with some type of injury.
How impressive have the Chiefs been, winning 10 straight without Jamaal Charles? How about Denver getting the #1 seed without Peyton Manning for nearly seven games? The Texans have been without Arian Foster nearly the entire season, and everyone forgets the Panthers (who went 15-1 by the way) played every single game without their huge playmaker, Kelvin Benjamin. The Steelers are now without their top two running backs, the Bengals may not have their starting quarterback, and we all know what has happened to Green Bay with the absence of Jordy Nelson. Then there are the Patriots, who may have missed the most games due to injury of any team in the league. Then you have the 2-time defending NFC Champion Seahawks who have been without beast mode for half a season, and arguably the second best tight end in football for even longer (to be fair, their offense has improved drastically since both guys were injured). Who does this leave? The Vikings and Redskins, who have had very solid years but really don’t have the talent needed to win a Super Bowl. That leaves just one team, the Arizona Cardinals, who have probably been luckier than any team when it comes to injuries. Their only major loss is the honey badger, but as good as he is, he isn’t really a vital piece when it comes to winning games. What do you notice about all those injuries? Every major injury that a team has dealt with, has been on the offensive side of the ball, with the exception of the Cardinals. To win a Super Bowl, you have to be both lucky and good, and this year the Cardinals appear to be both.
Moving on, we will look at some playoff matchups, but first we update the season standings. The last two weeks of the regular season were awfully kind to me. I went 3-1 in Week 17 which brought my overall season record to 31-26. Since this is the final rankings until after the Super Bowl, I’ll go ahead and give you a quick prediction of the playoffs.
In the AFC I like the Steelers over the Bengals and the Chiefs over the Texans. Then I like the Steelers to take down the Broncos in what I imagine will be Manning’s final game as a Bronco starter. In the other matchup I like the Chiefs to beat the Patriots, but I’ve learned I can’t bet against Brady and Belicheck, so I will go with the Pats to get it done. However, I believe the magic stops there, because I like the Steelers to reach the Super Bowl.
Over in the NFC, I like (actually I really don’t) the Packers over the Redskins and the Seahawks over the Vikings. Then I like the Seahawks to get past the Panthers and in my upset of the post season pick, I like the Packers to get revenge on the Cardinals. However I think the run ends there for Green Bay, even though they would have home field over the Seahawks, I think Seattle is just too hot right now. So yes, you read that correctly, I have two #6 seeds in the Super Bowl. I think this could be a heck of a matchup and as much as it pains me to say it, I like the Seahawks to win their second Super Bowl in three years.
And with that, here are the 2016 NFL playoff power rankings as we head towards Super Bowl 50.
- Carolina Panthers (2): After a one week hiatus, the Panthers return to the top spot as they look to make it three straight years in which the #1 seed has reached the Super Bowl in the NFC.
- Kansas City Chiefs (3): At one point this season Kansas City fell as low as #25 but they finish on a 10 game winning streak and that’s without Jamaal Charles.
- Seattle Seahawks (5): Seattle is #3 in the rankings but #6 as far as seeds go in the NFC. They are undoubtedly the most dangerous #6 seed we’ve seen in recent memory.
- Denver Broncos (4): Last week Denver faced the possibility of missing the playoffs altogether, this week they wrapped up the #1 overall seed in the AFC. Regardless of who plays quarterback, they have to be considered a heavy favorite.
- Arizona Cardinals (1): They picked a decent time to have their worst game of the year, but how will it affect their confidence moving forward?
- Pittsburgh Steelers (8): Antonio Brown came within about 10 catches and about 100 yards of breaking the all-time single records for both categories, and he played nearly 25% of the season without Big Ben.
- New England Patriots (6): Of the four teams that will sit out the first round of the playoffs, no team needed it more than the Patriots.
- Minnesota Vikings (9): Going on the road with the division on the line against a more experienced team is an awfully impressive accomplishment. I don’t think they have enough to take down Seattle this week but the Vikings have a very young, talented team that could be good for years to come.
- Cincinnati Bengals (11): The only question on the minds of Bengals fans is whether or not Andy Dalton will be healthy enough to go.
- New York Jets (7): The Jets didn’t make the playoffs but still cracked the top 10. I didn’t believe in this team all year but the showed they were capable of playing with anyone.
- Green Bay Packers (10): The Packers went 6-0 and then 4-6 and there was really no defining event that can be pointed to as to the reason for their struggles.
- Houston Texans (12): Don’t sleep on this team. They are quietly playing extremely good football, and that’s without Arian Foster.
- Washington Redskins (13): They may be the worst of the division winners but don’t sleep on this team. They could potentially win multiple playoff games.
- Buffalo Bills (14): Was there any doubt Rex Ryan was going to have his team ready to play with a chance to knock out his former team?
- Indianapolis Colts (15): Perhaps the most disappointing team this year was the Colts, as they were a popular pre-season pick as a Super Bowl favorite.
- Philadelphia Eagles (20): I know it’s only one game but the Eagles’ offense looked pretty impressive without Chip Kelly on the sideline.
- Atlanta Falcons (16): I don’t know how many teams have ever started 5-0 and missed the playoffs but I have to imagine I could count it on one hand.
- St. Louis Rams (17): The Rams finally started to utilize Tavon Austin a little more, and they found what might be the next best running back for the next five years, but they’ve got to find themselves a talented quarterback.
- Oakland Raiders (18): The Raiders feel like they are one very good player away from becoming a very serious threat in the AFC.
- New York Giants (19): It will be very strange to see someone other than Tom Coughlin roaming the sidelines next year.
- Detroit Lions (22): The Lions have to improve the defense in the off-season. It’s no coincidence that they made the playoffs last year with the #1 ranked defense.
- New Orleans Saints (24): Speaking of defense, if the Saints draft anything other than a defensive player in the first four rounds, somebody should be fired.
- Chicago Bears (21): The Bears are a very interesting team to keep an eye on next season. I believe if they can get one more good year out of Matt Forte, they could have a top 10 offense next season.
- Miami Dolphins (26): Beating the Patriots in Week 17 is the next best thing when the playoffs are out of the discussion.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (23): Jameis Winston threw for over 4,000 yards in his rookie season and Doug Martin finished #2 in rushing. Let’s see how Winston progresses during his second season.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (25): For a brief time, the Jags were thinking playoffs. But when the dust settled, they are once again looking at a top 5 pick.
- Baltimore Ravens (27): The Ravens will be drafting #6 overall but I sure wouldn’t want to be their GM. What do you draft first? Receiver? Running back? Defensive back? Too many question marks on this team.
- San Francisco 49ers (29): They definitely cost themselves a top 5 pick with their overtime victory in Week 17. But hey, at least they sent Jim Tomsula out a winner in his one and only season as head coach.
- San Diego Chargers (28): Philip Rivers has to be hoping the Chargers go wide receiver with the third overall pick but something tells me they might actually trade down.
- Dallas Cowboys (30): The Cowboys will draft fourth but it seems almost laughable to think Darren McFadden could make it through another year injury free. I think they have to go running back. Unless of course the Demarco Murray rumors are true and he wants to come back. How interesting would that make things?
- Cleveland Browns (31): The Browns are over Manziel. Manziel wants to be a Cowboy. What are the odds the Browns can find a way to trade Manziel to Dallas for the fourth overall pick, which would give Cleveland two of the top four picks? Okay so it’s unlikely but awfully fun to think about for Cleveland fans.
- Tennessee Titans (32): The Titans had the #2 overall pick last year and even though they were able to take Marcus Mariota, that just wasn’t good enough for them. This time they get the #1 pick. If they can hit on a high pick again, they have the potential to be very, very good in a few years.
Image via Facebook