One runaway effort and three thrillers have narrowed the NFL postseason field to four.
1. Baltimore Ravens (14-4) | Last week: 1
The top-seeded Ravens were in a first-half battle at home, but they turned it on in the second half with dominant efforts on both sides of the ball. Lamar Jackson scored four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) and ran for 100 yards in the victory, and the emphatic 12-play 93-yard drive capped by a Jackson to Isaiah Likely touchdown early in the fourth quarter showed that the offense is feeling it. The group might get All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews (ankle) back in the mix for the AFC title game.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (13-6) | Last week: 5 (+3)
The Chiefs rise to the No. 2 spot in this week’s power rankings after again looking like the usual Andy Reid team we’re used to seeing every year—on both sides of the ball. Patrick Mahomes has had success versus the Ravens throughout his career and now has a road playoff win under his belt. With the way Kansas City has found a rhythm, they might be the biggest challenge Baltimore has faced this season.
3. San Francisco 49ers (13-5) | Last week: 2 (-1)
The 49ers offense was slightly off for much of last Saturday night’s win over the Packers, but they lost Deebo Samuel (shoulder, 50/50 for NFC title game) early and dealt with unideal weather conditions. Still, Brock Purdy came through to help lead a game-winning drive for the first-ever win for a Kyle Shanahan club down five-plus points in the fourth quarter (previously 0-30).
4. Detroit Lions (14-5) | Last week: 4
If the Lions can protect Jared Goff, they can beat anyone—including the juggernaut 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Goff has shown he can win big games, and look for Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson to again have some unique plays to catch San Francisco off balance defensively. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson or someone else on the Detroit defense again forcing a turnover could be key in an upset to get the Lions to Super Bowl LVIII.
5. Buffalo Bills (12-7) | Last week: 3 (-2)
The discourse around Josh Allen is utterly absurd, as he’s proven to be one of the best postseason performers in NFL history despite a lack of deep team success in the postseason. A missed field goal—and perhaps even worse, Stefon Diggs not being able to come up with a play he’s typically made throughout his career on a bomb of a dime from his quarterback—paired with disappointing defensive play led to another early playoff exit for Buffalo. But the Allen haters that apparently think it’s easy to win a Super Bowl when just one team does each year should ponder what the dual threat might be doing team-wise if surrounded more favorably. And ultimately, the injuries probably caught up to the Bills.
6. Green Bay Packers (10-9) | Last week: 7 (+1)
I don’t think Jordan Love played well with a few costly inaccurate throws—including the obviously ill-advised throw to seal the game for San Francisco. However, despite some inconsistency, getting to the NFC Divisional Round with the way Love played for the most part down the stretch is a very promising sign for Year 1 of the new starting quarterback in Green Bay. Given the youth on the roster, particularly at receiver, the Packers can grow together and become a force.
7. Houston Texans (11-8) | Last week: 6 (-1)
It didn’t end the way they would have liked, but C.J. Stroud, DeMeco Ryans, and the Texans are certainly holding their heads high after surpassing almost all expectations in 2023. Also, we’ll see what happens, but there appears to be a decent shot that impressive offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik returns to Houston next season, which would be massive for Stroud and the offense.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-9) | Last week: 8
The Bucs are another team that should be proud of where they got in Year 2 under Todd Bowles, catching fire in the second half of the regular season and showing flashes on both sides of the ball. It was a year to build on, and a strong 2024 draft to inject more talent into the roster could help Tampa be in a similar position next year.