And then there were two, with the Chiefs and 49ers again facing off in the Super Bowl.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-6) | Last week: 2 (+1)
I’ve talked up Kansas City’s underappreciated defense enough, and they came through again in the AFC title game. I moved the Chiefs up to No. 2 in the power rankings last week behind only the Ravens, so they’re naturally up to No. 1 after knocking off Baltimore—and I’m quite surprised that the defending champions are underdogs versus the 49ers. Obviously, KC has gotten things going in the postseason, and I think the Niners defense is a great matchup for them as they look to repeat.
2. San Francisco 49ers (14-5) | Last week: 3 (+1)
They’ll probably keep talking and just say he was carried by a stacked team even if he wins the Big Game, but the Brock Purdy haters didn’t have much to say after he led another comeback victory in the NFC Championship versus the Lions. Following a concerning slow start, the San Francisco defense—aided by some drops on the other side—were able to make stops and help the offense get back into the game. The offense must take care of the ball, and Nick Bosa and the pass rush must totally take over in Super Bowl LVIII.
3. Baltimore Ravens (14-5) | Last week: 1 (-2)
The frustration for Lamar Jackson was evident in the AFC title game loss to the Chiefs, and I think the superstar quarterback is simply pressing and trying to prove too much during the playoffs—he didn’t seem to play as freely as he did for most of the season. Still, the Ravens are in good shape with that talented defense and Jackson on the other side of the ball moving forward. They’ll hope to not lose defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald to a head coaching gig.
4. Detroit Lions (14-6) | Last week: 4
Again, the drops killed the Lions against the 49ers, and I feel for Jared Goff coming just short of another Super Bowl appearance. But Detroit should hold their heads extremely high, and they received phenomenal news yesterday with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson returning for another season despite heavy head coaching interest for a second straight year. With general manager Brad Holmes looking like a top-tier decision-maker, the Lions might get even stronger in 2024.