Where do teams stand ahead of the always-exciting NFL Divisional Round?
1. Baltimore Ravens (13-4) | Last week: 1
While the Texans have been playing playoff football the past two games, the Ravens rested some players in Week 18 and had off last week—so a big concern is the potential rust factor following the first-round bye. Considering the narrative that he struggles in the postseason, I’m anxious to see how Lamar Jackson fares in Todd Monken’s more open offensive attack while having Super Bowl aspirations.
2. San Francisco 49ers (12-5) | Last week: 2
Unanimous All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey (calf) was a full practice participant yesterday, so he’s ready to go after missing the regular season finale. The 49ers had been a bit banged up on offense, so I expect them to be recharged and fresh for Saturday night at home. However, like Jackson, Brock Purdy rested in Week 18—so hopefully he can come out sharp.
3. Buffalo Bills (12-6) | Last week: 3
Josh Allen totaled four touchdowns with no turnovers in Buffalo’s Wild Card win over Pittsburgh, and he’s been one of the top playoff performers in NFL history despite the Bills not quite going all the way as a team. It would be a massive blow if linebacker Terrel Bernard (ankle) isn’t ready to go after getting carted off last week, but thankfully the injury is not quite as bad as it initially appeared. The status of receiver Gabe Davis and cornerback Rasul Douglas with ankle injuries is also huge.
4. Detroit Lions (13-5) | Last week: 5 (+1)
I never liked the way the Rams treated him at the end of his tenure there and then got rid of Jared Goff (Sean McVay basically admitted they could have done a better job with it), so I was personally thrilled to see him at least beat the franchise that won a Super Bowl without him. People that criticized general manager Brad Holmes are awfully silent about his great personnel moves now (including acquiring Goff), and Detroit is a home win away from the NFC title game.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (12-6) | Last week: 6 (+1)
Certainly, the Dolphins were beat up on defense and couldn’t generate much of an edge rush—and continued with a ton of soft coverage while sending heavy blitzes and getting burned on quick throws—but the Chiefs still looked more like the Chiefs we are used to seeing in the Wild Card Round. Anyone that pays attention knows the defense plays at a high level under Steve Spagnuolo, and offensively Kansas City might just need better red-zone efficiency to get more fully on track.
6. Houston Texans (11-7) | Last week: 11 (+5)
The Houston defense was flying around with two pick-sixes in a dominant second half, and the offense was cooking with offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik helping rookie C.J. Stroud light it up in his first playoff appearance. The Texans played the Ravens a bit tougher than the score of their Week 1 matchup might indicate, and DeMeco Ryans has had his club in playoff mode in recent weeks.
7. Green Bay Packers (10-8) | Last week: 13 (+6)
Jordan Love had nearly identical numbers to C.J. Stroud in his first playoff start, and Matt LaFleur was also dialing it up to help the Packers front run versus the Cowboys. Over his past nine games, Love had thrown 21 touchdowns and just one interception, so he—and granted, the phenomenal scheme has a lot to do with it—is playing about as well as anyone right now.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-8) | Last week: 12 (+4)
The Buccaneers rank last among the remaining teams, but that’s partly due to the team they beat playing so poorly. That said, Baker Mayfield is confident at quarterback and would have had an even bigger game if not for some drops against Philly. Also, Todd Bowles’ defense has shown it can play at a high level in January with a stout front and underrated secondary.
9. Dallas Cowboys (12-6) | Last week: 4 (-5)
The Cowboys had an off day at about the worst time possible, and things just didn’t feel in sync from the jump—particularly for quarterback Dak Prescott on offense and for the defense overall. Dallas is built to play from ahead, but Green Bay possessed the ball early and controlled the game. The attention now turns to the job status of head coach Mike McCarthy, which I don’t think should be a question if not for Bill Belichick being available.
10. Los Angeles Rams (10-8) | Last week: 9 (-1)
The Rams showed toughness in battling at a raucous Detroit environment, and head coach Sean McVay was at least rejuvenated by this new group of players coming up. Strong draft classes the past couple of years should help LA continue to compete in 2024.
11. Miami Dolphins (11-7) | Last week: 7 (-4)
In two consecutive seasons, the Dolphins have basically collapsed late and lost road playoff games as wild cards. Miami has interesting decisions to make with veteran players and the salary cap, and it even sounds like there might be questions about Tua Tagovailoa (entering a contract year via the fifth-year option) moving forward.
12. Cleveland Browns (11-7) | Last week: 8 (-4)
While the two pick-sixes obviously didn’t help, the Cleveland defense had a very bad day in trying to defend Houston on the road—which maybe shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise considering the Browns were much more dominant at home this season. Changes were made to the offensive staff this morning, so that’s something to watch this offseason.
13. Philadelphia Eagles (11-7) | Last week: 10 (-3)
It was probably unwise to expect the Eagles to be able to flip the switch even a little bit against a 9-8 Buccaneers squad, as they’ve just played so poorly for several weeks. The vibes have felt off in Philadelphia, and we’re now tracking the status of head coach Nick Sirianni, who led the team to the playoffs all three seasons but is now under fire for the collapse. Also, it appears the franchise is losing future Hall of Fame center Jason Kelce to retirement, but I’m waiting to hear it from him directly.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-8) | Last week: 14
The Steelers put up a fight against the Bills, but they ultimately probably don’t have the firepower to keep up with Josh Allen and company. It’s fantastic news that Mike Tomlin will be back next season, but I’m curious to see how the offensive coordinator and quarterback situations pan out. Mason Rudolph did a nice job down the stretch and should get more serious looks as at least a great backup quarterback option this offseason.