The 14-team NFL playoff field is established. Looking at the seven NFC teams and the seven AFC teams as a whole, it appears that the race to make and win Super Bowl 56 is wide open.
The playoffs are often not based on the top seeds winning all the games they are supposed to win, so the number attached to all championship contenders means little at this time of year. There’s a reason a dozen teams now compete in wild card weekend. That increases the pressure on the favorites and makes the action leading up to the divisional round more compelling.
Last season, defending champion Buccaneers made a successful Super Bowl 55-winning run as the NFC’s No. 5 seed. Last year, the Chiefs lifted the Lombardi Trophy as the No. 2 seed. The only thing to expect in the playoffs is the unexpected.
Taking into account the seeds, the odds, the overall potential, and how the teams are playing before the playoffs, here is a special power ranking of the latest postseason teams in the league, from No. 1 to No. 14, in relationship with your Super Bowl opening odds on FanDuel Sportsbook:
2021 NFL Playoff Power Rankings
1. Green Bay Packers (NFC No. 1 Seed)
The Packers (+380) deserve to be favorites with their offensive efficiency led by likely repeater MVP Aaron Rodgers and improved overall defense. They are behind for a breakthrough in three excellent seasons with Matt LaFleur. The decision to have a Week 18 set-up can help at home in the playoffs to restore the mystique of Lambeau Field.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (No. 2 seed in the AFC)
The Chiefs (+450) seem much more vulnerable with Patrick Mahomes and his defense than in their consecutive Super Bowl runs in the past two playoffs. But Andy Reid’s experience and training cannot be ruled out. They also won it all at No. 2 behind the Ravens two years ago. The Patriots are back in the playoffs, but Mahomes and Reid are what the Patriots used to be with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick the constant team to beat in the AFC until decided otherwise.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFC No. 2 seed)
The Buccaneers (+750) are dealing with a ton of offensive and defensive injuries, but they’re also led by GOAT, Tom Brady. He can hold things together and even without Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski are a dangerous 1-2 hit. They should also regain key bodies for the running game and defense, two things that fueled their Super Bowl 55-winning run as a wild card. Brady has a great opportunity to return to No. 2. Although the Packers are better equipped to solve them this time, the Buccaneers will still be a difficult exit if there is a rematch for the NFC championship in Lambeau.
4. Tennessee Titans (No. 1 seed in the AFC)
The Titans (+850) have seen Ryan Tannehill come off his passing slump tied to having legitimate wide receivers in AJ Brown and Julio Jones healthy and making key plays. Now there could be some big help on the way in the form of Derrick Henry hammering once more into the mighty running game to further facilitate what can be an explosive offense again. Tennessee also likes to get very physical with Mike Vrabel and plays some excellent situational football. The key early wins over the Chiefs and the Bills can’t be forgotten either, or the sneaky playing field the Titans can have with their rowdy crowd.
5. Buffalo Bills (No. 3 seed in the AFC)
The Bills (+750) felt they were ready to displace the Chiefs when they resolved them in Kansas City at the start of the season. But they went through their own happy passing offensive slump with Josh Allen and had their share of shocking defensive failures as well. Like Mahomes, Allen appears to be back to normal, relying more on the traditional running game as the defense continues to tighten the nuts, especially against the pass. If they get another shot at the Chiefs in the divisional playoffs, nothing will be easy the second time around.
6. Dallas Cowboys (NFC No. 3 Seed)
The Cowboys (+1100) decided to play Dak Prescott and his healthy starters in Week 18 against the Eagles and that landslide victory should inspire confidence that they can come as a complete team in the tournament for Kellen Moore, Dan Quinn and Mike McCarthy. Jerry Jones hired McCarthy because he had experience winning the Super Bowl with Rodgers in Green Bay. Quinn also just brought a team to the Super Bowl four years ago. Watch out for Dallas to arrive in Los Angeles with a more ideal offensive-defensive harmony.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (AFC No. 4 seed)
The Bengals (+1700) got a break in the draft by taking on the tired Raiders first rather than the crafty Patriots. They have a young, mature quarterback in Joe Burrow who can warm up quickly with top-tier weapons, including Ja’Marr Chase, Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. They’ve also seen their key defensive improvements pay off, and Trey Hendrickson and passer pressure may be a bigger factor in the playoffs. The only thing Zac Taylor’s team could win back is a lack of experience. But they have the offense to beat anyone on the AFC field and have already proven themselves against the Chiefs since Week 17.
8. Los Angeles Rams (NFC No. 4 seed)
The Rams (+950) will try to follow the example of the Buccaneers and win it all at their home stadium in Los Angeles. Sean McVay, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey and Cooper Kupp are four good reasons they might like to run a Super Bowl 53-like run. Then there’s Matthew Stafford. Everyone can see that the passing talent is there, but here’s a reminder that you never won a playoff game and you tend to make critical mistakes against winning opponents in the biggest games.
9. Arizona Cardinals (NFC No. 5 seed)
The Cardinals (+2100) haven’t looked too good fading behind the Rams and staying just ahead of the 49ers in the NFC West. They lost four of their last six games coming off a break. But one of those wins came against the Cowboys in Week 17 and they have experience playing with five of the other 13 playoff teams. There’s also the wild card of Kyler Murray, who can carry them for a while or burn in a third meeting with the Rams, who defeated them 30-23 in Week 14.
10. San Francisco 49ers (NFC # 6 Seed)
The 49ers (+2400) are back in the playoffs after their injury-plagued 2020 Super Bowl hangover season. Kyle Shanahan has done a great job turning them around and they have some positives that resemble his NFC championship run, including a dependable running game, versatile passing game, and an active front of seven. But the passing defense can be overwhelmed, and the immediate draw against the Cowboys doesn’t help.
11. New England Patriots (AFC No. 6 Seed)
The Patriots (+2100) limped to the playoffs after losing three of their last four games after a break. One of those losses was being ripped apart by the Bills 33-21 at home. The rubber match comes on the way. The Patriots mostly beat the bad teams and the win over the Titans seems ancient. There is also little belief here that Mac Jones will be a transcendent rookie passer in the postseason. Belichick’s effort to lead his team back to the playoffs thanks to the strength of the defense and the running game is remarkable, but it takes more than waiting for attrition to make any kind of run.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 7 seed in the AFC)
The Steelers (+7000) cannot be completely ignored because Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin have the experience of winning the Super Bowl, even with parts of their passing game and defense that are nowhere near the championship standards of the past. Pittsburgh will do whatever it takes to get past Kansas City, playing there for the second time in four games after falling 36-10 in Week 16. But in the end, unless Roethlisberger delves into his firepower, his career will end against Mahomes. at Arrowhead. .
13. Philadelphia Eagles (NFC No. 7 seed)
The Eagles (+5500) didn’t get a great draw by having to face the Buccaneers first, a team with a lot of running and a running quarterback who faces strong defense against the run that should have his seven forwards mostly together. They played tough against the Bucs at home on a Thursday night in Week 6, losing 28-22. But the Eagles’ struggles against the run and tight end coverage don’t bode well for an extended stay.
14. Las Vegas Raiders (No. 5 seed in the AFC)
The Raiders (+4100) were the last AFC team to qualify with their four-game winning streak at the end of the season, including two insane victories against the Colts and Chargers in the past two weeks. It’s a good story how Derek Carr and his defense rallied around interim coach Rich Bisaccia in a tumultuous second season in Las Vegas. But that ends in Cincinnati against Burrow rested and Mixon leading an offense they can’t handle. It doesn’t help that the Raiders played late Sunday night and they need to play on the road next Saturday afternoon.