We have a new postseason alignment to finish the 2020 NFL season. Seven teams from both the AFC and NFC will play for the right to represent their conferences in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL.
Which teams have the best chance to be playing in that game on Sunday, February 7? The following list has all 14 teams ranked from the best to the rest.
Super Bowl LV Favorites
1. Kansas City Chiefs
If you’re going to be number one you need to knock the current king off of the throne. Kansas City struck for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20.
The Chiefs finished their season 5-0 against teams with a winning record. Also, no lead is safe when you’re playing against Patrick Mahomes and company. You may stop the Kansas City offense for a while but when they strike the Chiefs score in bunches.
Kansas City is the address for the best tight end in the game in Travis Kelce. The Chiefs also boast one of the fastest receivers in the game in Tyreek Hill, who tied for third in the NFL this season with 17 touchdowns.
How do you beat this team? You can run on Kansas City’s defense. The common denominator in both their 2020 losses, Week 5 against the Las Vegas Raiders and Week 17 against the Los Angeles Chargers, is they were outrushed in both games and lost the time of possession battle.
Kansas City followed up by tearing through their 2020 schedule for a 14-2 record and the top seed in the AFC. There are always teams that people say you never want to see in the playoffs. The defending Super Bowl champions are the real deal in that category.
2. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans is arguably the most complete team heading into the playoff season. They finished 2020 fifth in the league in points for and fifth in points against.
Just like all teams that are Super Bowl contenders in any season, New Orleans has the elite quarterback that can lead them to a title. Drew Brees may not be the dynamic quarterback at 41 years old that he was in his prime but while he was out with broken ribs, the Saints ran into their only rough patch of the season.
Running back Alvin Kamara can do it all in Sean Payton’s offense. He rushed 187 times and was targeted 107 times in the passing game. He gained a total of 1,638 all-purpose yards and scored 21 touchdowns.
In the passing game, Brees has plenty of weapons at his disposal with receivers Emmanual Sanders, Michael Thomas and tight end Jared Cook.
On defense, the Saints are strong both against the pass and run. Defensive Ends Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson combined for 21 sacks and anchor a defensive front that only allowed 3.9 yards per carry on the ground, good for fourth in the league.
New Orleans’ secondary has held opposing quarterbacks to a 83.3 passer rating, also fourth in the league.
At his age, Drew Brees isn’t going to get many more chances for one more bite of the apple. This team has an excellent opportunity to get that for him.
3. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay finished their season with eight wins in their final nine games to lock down the top seed in the NFC.
Aaron Rodgers is still at the peak of his powers. He led the NFL with a 121.5 passer rating this year. He has strong weapons at his disposal in both the passing and running game to rely on.
Receiver Davante Adams made the biggest contribution to the success of the Packers passing game. Adams snared 115 of his 149 targets for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns.
On the ground, Green Bay running back Aaron Jones rushed 201 times for 1,104 yards and nine touchdowns. In the passing game Jones added 355 receiving yards and two more touchdowns to his total.
Green Bay isn’t indestructible.The Packers allowed 369 points on defense this season, 13th in the NFL. It’s not fair though to say that Green Bay’s defense isn’t as good as their offense when they can practically score at will.
Drew Brees isn’t the only future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback who is looking for a career-defining second trip to the Super Bowl. Rodgers makes the Packers a tough out in this season’s postseason tournament.
4. Buffalo Bills
You could say that the Buffalo Bills have been the biggest story of the 2020 NFL season. They ended the reign of the New England Patriots in the AFC East in dominating fashion.
Josh Allen has blossomed into the franchise quarterback the Bills expected him to be when they selected him with the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Allen finished the season fourth in the league completions, fifth in passing yards, fifth in touchdown passes, and fourth with a 107.2 passer rating.
He benefitted most by Buffalo’s acquisition of wide receiver Stefon Diggs in an offseason trade with the Minnesota Vikings. Diggs caught 127 passes in 2020 for 1,535 yards and eight touchdowns.
Buffalo doesn’t have the dominating defense that they boasted in previous seasons. The Bills were 16th in the league on defense in points allowed in 2020. What softens that stat is that Buffalo’s defense has improved as the season progressed.
The other weak part of the Bills game is with their rushing attack. Their offense flows through Allen’s arm, which has worked for them in the regular season. The inability to run could come back to bite them in the postseason when they need to run some clock to close a game against a strong opposing offense.
As long as Buffalo’s offense is rolling they can play with anybody. Considering the weakness in their rushing game though, they will probably have to win a shoot-out at some point to make their Super Bowl dreams a reality.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Soft teams don’t open a season 11-0 and finish it with 5-1 over teams that finished with a winning record.
Pittsburgh is the best team in the league by far in generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Steelers led the league with 199 pressures.
On offense, Ben Roethlisberger has lost some arm strength at age 38 but he’s still been able to get the job done with his short game. He’s thrown for 33 touchdowns in 2020 against only 10 interceptions.
Unlike the Los Angeles Rams, the Steelers are capable of generating enough offense to complement their Super Bowl caliber defense. This team is very capable of making the big game.
6. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens were washed out of the postseason in the divisional round last season. Baltimore will attempt to make their run as a Wild Card team this season after finishing third in the AFC North.
The dynamic Ravens running game starts with quarterback Lamar Jackson who carried the ball 159 times for 1,005 yards and seven touchdowns. Jackson also struck through the air for another 26 touchdowns.
The problem with Baltimore’s offense is they’re one of the worst teams in the league in allowing negative pass plays at 14.9 percent (sacks + interceptions/dropbacks).
The Ravens have had trouble beating teams with winning records. In their five game winning streak to conclude the season only one was against a winning team, Week 14 over the Cleveland Browns.
Can the Ravens recover their competitiveness against top teams that they had earlier in the 2020 season? If not there’ll be victim of another early out.
Capable of A Run
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay is in win now mode. There isn’t another quarterback waiting in the wings to take this team over when Tom Brady is finally finished.
The Buccaneers are balanced on offense. They have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and tight end Rob Gronkowski to lead the air attack and running back Ronald Jones II to lead their ground game.
Tampa Bay can also do the job on defense. Their 3.6 rushing yards per attempt allowed tops the league.
The Buccaneers only have a 1-4 record against teams that finished 2020 with a winning record. After they face Washington in the Wild Card round there won’t be any more sub-.500 teams left to play.
8. Seattle Seahawks
Seattle didn’t dominate but still managed to come out on top in the NFC West.
Russell Wilson is still one of the top quarterbacks in the league and has a top corps of receivers to connect with. Wilson ended the season sixth in the NFL in passer rating.
Seattle’s defense has improved over the second half of the season which has allowed the Seahawks to run a more balanced attack on offense.
Don’t count out the Seahawks in this postseason. They’re veterans know what it takes to make a deep playoff run.
9. Tennessee Titans
The Titans made a postseason run to the AFC Championship Game last year. It’s going to be a tougher road for them this time.
The Titans are well coached under Mike Vrabel and his staff. They discovered one team’s trash can be another team’s treasure when they rescued quarterback Ryan Tannehill from the Miami Dolphins roster and he’s repaid them by becoming a franchise quarterback.
Then there’s Derrick Henry, nothing more needs to be said. Henry will need to be the reason the Titans offense can control the ball. Tennessee is very vulnerable on defense, both on the ground and through the air.
The Titans knocked Baltimore out of the playoffs last season but can their run defense stop them this year? They’ll need to generate turnovers to get the job done.
10. Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis slid into the final AFC Wild Card spot after a Wee 17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers had enough arm to compliment Indianapolis’ excellent defense and push the Colts into the playoffs.
Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor has developed into one of the top runners in the league, He finished the season with 1,169 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
If Philip Rivers is hot, the Colts will take an opposing team down to the final possession. If the Indianapolis offense goes missing for an extended period, they don’t have the firepower to catch up.
The Colts play their first postseason game against one of the hottest teams in the league. If they can’t score first and take control of that game Indianapolis will be an early out.
11. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have struggled on offense but rode a dominant defense into the 2020 postseason.
Aaron Donald leads a defense that is the toughest in the league to score on. They’re also second on defense in passer rating against.
Where Los Angeles fails is, Aa offense that was considered revolutionary a couple of seasons ago has crashed and burned. Even when healthy, Jared Goff’s skills have regressed. Now he’s had reconstructive thumb surgery is doubtful to play in the Rams Wild Card game against Seattle.
Backup quarterback John Wolford barely got the Rams past the Arizona Cardinals that lost Kyler Murray early in the game. It’s going to be a tall order for the Rams defense to drag this team into the Super Bowl.
One and Done
12. Washington Football Team
They may have got in by winning the NFC Least but it’s easy to pull for a team that has Ron Rivera as its head coach.
Alex Smith needs the comeback of the year award named after him. After having the tibia and fibula fractured in his right leg Smith endured 17 surgeries, nearly lost the leg and at one time was in danger of losing his life.
Smith played in two games before taking over the starter’s job in Week 10 and was credited with five of The Football Team’s seven 2020 victories.
Still, Washington finished 25th in the NFL in points scored. Four of their seven victories came over teams in their own division, the weakest in the league.
On defense, Washington can bring the pressure with rookie Chase Young and Montez Sweat. This defensive squad will have to carry the team the rest of the way.
This team never quit on Rivera. Heading into the final turn of the season they were 2-7 and ready to be counted out. That’s as far as they get this season though
13. Chicago Bears
Making the playoffs is an accomplishment no matter how you do it and the Bears slipped in after the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Rams in Week 17.
After left guard James Daniels was lost for the season with a torn bicep, Chicago struggled to find consistency with their offensive line in both pass and run blocking. Once they stabilized the interior of their line, running back David Montgomery had a strong final month to his season.
The problem is, the Bears looked like they were finding a rhythm on offense with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback until they crashed and burned against Green Bay in Week 17.
Chicago’s defense has also struggled at times this season. Even with Pro Bowler Kahlil Mack at defensive end, the Bears have been unable to generate any consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
They will also likely be missing two key players for the Wild Card game against the Saints on Sunday. Rookie wide receiver standout Darnell Mooney and linebacker Roquan Smith haven’t practiced all week and will likely miss the game.
In Week 8, The Bears took New Orleans to overtime before losing 26-23. This is the playoffs though and the Saints won’t be looking past Chicago to a divisional showdown with Tampa Bay. For the second time in three seasons the Bears will be one and done.
14. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland has made it to the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season.
Cleveland has one of the best running back tandems in the NFL in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb and Hunt are also the most underutilized running back tandem in the league.
The Browns will also be playing their first playoff game in 18 seasons without head coach Kevin Stefanski on the sidelines due to his testing positive for Covid-19.
Cleveland barely scraped by the Pittsburgh Steelers B-squad last week to win their way into the playoffs. Pittsburgh will have everyone, including their ferocious defensive front facing them this weekend.