Do you have time for one last NFL Playoff preview type article? Then look no further. A guide to which teams are in the best position to win Super Bowl LV in Tampa come February 7 has arrived, from the pretenders to the contenders. Let’s get right to it.
Tier 5: Seriously, they made the playoffs?
14. Chicago Bears
13. Washington Football Team
Every AFC playoff team had a winning record, with even the 10–6 Miami Dolphins unable to fit in this expanded format which includes 7 teams from each conference. The NFC was not the same case, with the Bears and Washington Exhibits A and B. You need great play on both sides of the ball to be a Super Bowl contender, and while these teams feature considerable defensive talent in Linebacker Khalil Mack and Defensive End Chase Young respectively. Washington gets the higher rank because Alex Smith is a better quarterback than Mitch Trubisky. They’ll have mountains to climb to overcome the Saints and the Buccaneers.
Tier 4.5: Suffering Bad Luck
12. Cleveland Browns
The stars aligned for the Cleveland Browns to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and then they quickly dispersed after qualification was at hand. If they were at full strength, they would have serious upset potential against a vulnerable Steelers team. While Baker Mayfield is not yet a top tier quarterback, he is more than capable to get the best out of his plethora of talented wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends. Running Back Nick Chubb is a beast and will be tough for even the Steelers defense to contain. But due to their expected absences due to COVID related issues, that might be too much for this inexperienced team to overcome in the playoffs.
Tier 4: Some Limitations
11. Los Angeles Rams
10. Indianapolis Colts
Sometimes the importance of quarterbacks is overstated. If you look at the Rams and Colts rosters, you’ll see talent across the board. The Rams’ defense is led by Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald, popularly considered the best in the league at his position. Running Back Jonathan Taylor has been a revelation for the Colts, giving veteran Quarterback Philip Rivers a safety valve if things go wrong. The inconsistent play of quarterbacks Jared Goff and Rivers along with the injury situation of Goff will hold these teams back from causing other teams too many problems.
Tier 3: Threats Worthy of Consideration
9. Tennessee Titans
8. Baltimore Ravens
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This group of teams can be dangerous when and if they get momentum. Running Back Derrick Henry has invigorated the Titans’ offense with his immense talent and production. Lamar Jackson’s skillset as a Quarterback has been critiqued, but he is learning how to answer those criticisms on a regular basis. The Steelers have a formidable defense which includes Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, an acquisition from the Miami Dolphins that has proved very shrewd. There’s also no ruling out a team with the greatest Quarterback of all time at their stead with Tampa’s Tom Brady. They will most likely be tough outs for whoever ends up making the Conference Championship or further, but it would not be too surprising to see them in the Super Bowl when all is said and done.
Tier 2: Solid Contenders
5 Seattle Seahawks
4 New Orleans Saints
3 Buffalo Bills
These teams represent the best of the non-top seeded teams and genuine threats to the Chiefs and Packers. While the Seahawks have weaknesses defensively, their offense is lethal and Russell Wilson must be overjoyed with the emergence of Wide Receiver DK Metcalf taking another leap this season. A lot of eyes on the Saints are focused toward future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, but their biggest offensive asset is Running Back Alvin Kamara who had a number of big games this season, including a historic one against the Minnesota Vikings. Speaking of the Vikings, they traded Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills. That trade may have yielded a draft pick that saw promising rookie Justin Jefferson join them, the Bills are happy to have Stefon Diggs on their roster as he’s been a Top 3 Wide Receiver this season. They’ll have to take out a juggernaut on the road to reach Tampa, but it’s well within the realm of possibility.
Tier 1: Undisputed Contenders
2 Green Bay Packers
1 Kansas City Chiefs
Being a 1 Seed doesn’t guarantee you’re a favorite to reach or win a Super Bowl, but this year that’s how it’s panned out. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the leading MVP candidate for his outstanding performances this season, and with Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and Robert Tonyan, his offensive options aren’t as limited as in past years in Green Bay. He may have to face some demons like Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on the road to the Super Bowl, but he is poised to make it happen. That being said, to be the best you have to beat the best. The Kansas City Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl Champions and whether they’ve won by landslides or in close encounters this season, they displayed their championship credentials. Tight End Travis Kelce has separated himself from the pack in the current top Tight Ends conversation and he makes life so much easier for a Quarterback in Patrick Mahomes who doesn’t need that much more help. If any team is to be the first since the New England Patriots in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX to repeat as Super Bowl champions, it’s the Chiefs. They better be prepared to receive everyone’s best shot in their attempt to retain the crown.