Where does each playoff team stand?
1. Carolina Panthers
Other than the hiccup in Atlanta, the Panthers have made it look easy this season. They are only the seventh team in NFL history to win 15 games in a season, and the lack of offensive weapons with which they have found success with makes it even more incredible. This offensive success all goes through soon-to-be MVP Cam Newton, as he has racked up 45 total touchdowns. At this point, it is safe to say that the Panthers players have enough playoff experience, as this will be their third consecutive appearance. This time around, they are looking to go much further than the Divisional round. Expect them to do so.
2. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are still the team that absolutely no one wants to play. That part was made clear after their 30 point beatdown of the Arizona Cardinals, who many considered at the time to be the best team in football. For the second year in a row, the Seahawks started off slow and turned up the jets in the second half of the season into the playoffs. Russell Wilson has almost played his way into the the MVP conversation, and this is easily the most dangerous team entering the playoffs. The Seahawks are the sixth seed in the NFC, barely squeaked out a win and yet are second in the elite 8 power rankings. Why? Experience, the hot streak and the eye test. Its a shame the top two teams in the playoffs are playing each other in the Divisional round.
3. Arizona Cardinals
Head Coach Bruce Arians has had this team on the rise for the last few years, and with a healthy star Quarterback still searching for his first ring, the Cardinals are one of the co-favorites to win the Super Bowl (along with the Patriots and Panthers). Larry Fitzgerald has certainly risen to the occasion this year, having his best year since 2011. This team was considered the best in the league before their beatdown at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks, but they are still a loaded team on both sides of the ball with tons of Championship potential.
4. New England Patriots
The Patriots do not look themselves as of right now, going 2-4 in the final 6 games of the regular season. But one knows better than to drop them any further in these playoff rankings. The Patriots are still the Patriots, and Tom Brady is still Tom Brady. These two “facts” make a turnaround in the playoffs very, very possible. However, they are playing a red-hot Chiefs team, and will have their hands full.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have the longest active win streak in the League, and they just pulled off the first playoff shutout since the Panthers blanked the Giants 11 years ago. An injury to Jeremy Maclin is what is keeping the Chiefs just out of the top half of this list. If this team finds a way to beat the Patriots in Foxborough this weekend, it would be a safe bet to expect them in the Super Bowl.
6. Denver Broncos
The Broncos defense gives them the edge over the Packers in these rankings. They haven’t been able to settle on a Quarterback until now, so we will see how that goes. They have gone 5-4 in the last 9 games of the season, but they are still dangerous. If Peyton Manning finds his playoff self, the weaker AFC is in for a world of trouble. They have the easiest opponent out of any team in the Divisional Round due to Big Ben’s injury, so it is very possible the Broncos at least sneak into the final four.
7. Green Bay Packers
The Packers gave their fans some hope in the Divisional round, with a convincing wins against the Skins. Sports writers and NFL fans nationwide were given a friendly reminder to never count out Aaron Rodgers. Unfortunately for them, the other three remaining NFC teams are absolutely loaded, so the Packers have to find a way to turn up the Jets another notch.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
After a thrilling, shocking victory in Cincinnati, the Steelers really look like they are in trouble. Big Ben is hurt but expected to play, and he will be no where close to 100% if he does. Antonio Brown is also a question mark, due to a vicious hit from Vontaze Burfict. When Ben is healthy, they have one of the most exciting, productive offenses in the League. If he can’t play the majority of this game, put the Steelers chances at slim to none.