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NFL confidence rankings for the 12 teams in the playoff picture after Week 16

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The postseason field is almost set with one week to go. Geoff Schwartz weighs in on which teams are most, and least, trustworthy right now.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we are almost at the finish line. All that’s left is the entire slate of Week 17 games before the end of the regular season is here. The playoff picture is nearly complete, with almost every team accounted for heading into this final week.

How confident should we be in the playoff teams? I’ll let you know. Here are my rankings, by conference, updated after the Packers’ win over the Vikings on Monday Night Football.

AFC playoff teams, from most to least confident

1. Baltimore Ravens

They wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win at the Cleveland Browns. It wasn’t pretty, as the Ravens were down 6-0 for almost the entire first half. But, as the Ravens have done this season, when they started to score, it happened quickly. Paired with their defense, the Ravens will be an extremely hard out in the AFC.

If you want to worry about the Ravens, only two things come to mind. First is injuries. We saw Mark Ingram and others limp off the field Sunday. However, the Ravens won’t have anything to play for next week and they have a bye week in the playoffs, so everyone should be healthy by the Divisional Round.

Secondly, the players just don’t have a lot of experience in this moment. Currently, there are only a handful of players who’ve been on teams that’ve made long runs into the postseason. Earl Thomas, Marshal Yanda, and Ingram come to mind. While I’m not sure this will matter, it’s something to note. Otherwise, the Ravens should be the favorites to win the conference

2. Kansas City Chiefs

It’s not because of their offense, either. Their defense is crushing it lately. Since the bye week, here’s how many points they’ve allowed each game (all wins):

Their defense has been attacking, physical, and multiple. The Chiefs send pressures from everywhere, and Tyrann Mathieu has been a huge boost to this unit throughout the season. Now add in Terrell Suggs, and this defense is just getting right.

Their offense is steady, and Patrick Mahomes has looked more like the Mahomes we have come to know and love. He’s stepping into throws again and not bailing out of the pocket. The Chiefs will be a contender in the playoffs.

3. New England Patriots

The best offensive output the Patriots have had in almost two months came Saturday against an extremely stout Bills defense. The Patriots’ offense was a blueprint of what they did in their playoff run last year: control the line of scrimmage, and mix in screen passes and some clever backfield action. Hit open WRs and move the chains. Stay out of third-and-long.

That formula can win in the playoffs, and with a likely home game in the Divisional Round, how can you bet against them? The issue with this formula is things need to go as planned. The defense has to play extremely well. New England needs to force a turnover or two, and have a good special teams play. Can the Patriots go up and down the field with the Chiefs or Ravens? I’m not sure. But I’m not sure I’d bet against them, either.

4. Tennessee Titans

I know they need a win against the Texans, or have the Steelers lose next week, to even get into the playoffs. But once they get in, the Titans are a team you don’t want to face. They are just dangerous enough to sneak up on someone, especially the Chiefs. They run the football, which has been the Chiefs’ Achilles’ heel for years now.

Ryan Tannehill is not afraid of making the big play. The Titans’ defense would get eaten alive by the Chiefs, but something worries me just a tad about this team. Andy Reid is also 1-8 against the Titans in his career, and the last three games have been just weird as can be. There was their loss this season, plus the playoff loss when Marcus Mariota threw a TD pass to himself, and then the time the Tennessee kicker hammered a game-winning field goal with near-frozen temps in Arrowhead. So there’s some voodoo going on there.

5. Buffalo Bills

Their coaching is outstanding. Their defense is outstanding. Their special teams is outstanding. Their quarterback is limited. In his last three games against good defenses — like the ones he will see in the playoffs — Josh Allen has gone 43 of 90 for fewer than 500 yards. That’s not winning games.

However, because Allen will hit a home run twice a game, along with the reasons listed above, I like them better than the division-winning Texans.

6. Houston Texans

The Texans feel like the Cowboys of the AFC. They do just enough to be competitive, but they also pose no threat in the playoffs. They aren’t well coached, and they’ve won eight games by a touchdown or less. If they aren’t careful, the Bills will head into Houston in the Wild Card Round, in what is surely the early Saturday game, and beat them.

I just don’t have any faith in the Texans.

NFC, playoff teams, from most to least confident

1. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers head to Seattle next weekend with the NFC West and the No. 1 seed on the line. The Seahawks will be without several running backs and their left tackle. They are also coached by Pete Carroll, who I trust zero percent to make the right in-game decision.

The Niners’ offense has been fine lately, but their defense (with injuries) has not been close to the same unit that started the season. Part of that, of course, is playing a much tougher schedule.

I expect the 49ers to win and lock up homefield, which means they can avoid playing in New Orleans or Seattle in the playoffs.

2. New Orleans Saints

If the Saints had homefield advantage, they’d be clearly my No. 1 team in the NFC. However, while the Saints have played well on the road this season, they are 1-5 on the road in the playoffs with Drew Brees under center.

Otherwise, I love the Saints. They are deadly on offense and have plenty of ways to beat you. Injuries are concerning me just a tad on defense, but I like that unit. They are balanced, ranking 10th against the run and ninth against the pass, per Football Outsiders.

Also, the Saints have ended the last two seasons in terrible fashion: the Minneapolis Miracle and the no-call PI against the Rams. It feels like they are due for some luck.

3. Green Bay Packers

I do not buy the Packers at all, even after their win over the Vikings on Monday Night Football. But they are in the playoffs. What do the Packers do well? Not much, right? Their offense has spurts where it’s fantastic, but then it disappears for long stretches. The defense is just OK.

The ONLY reason they’d be able to win multiple playoff games is Aaron Rodgers going on some freaky run.

4. Seattle Seahawks

They are injured. They have horrendous offensive gameplans and game management. If Pete Carroll hadn’t won a Super Bowl and almost won another, the criticism for how he manages a game could get him fired. Why they don’t put the offense in Russell Wilson’s hands more is beyond me. It’s criminal. This is why I don’t trust them.

When they officially get the No. 5 seed, I’ll trust them even less.

5. Minnesota Vikings

I assumed the Vikings would beat the Packers and that Kirk Cousins would finally win a Monday Night Football game. I was wrong, and I understand it was a tough ask. But that’s why they pay him $84 million.

The reason I like the Vikings is they are a complete team — usually, anyway. Coming into Week 16, they were ranked seventh in offense and sixth on defense. I thought if they got over the hurdle Monday night, it would open them up mentally, and they would feel confident heading into the playoffs. Instead, they looked lifeless and dropped from No. 3 to No. 5 in my rankings.

6. Philadelphia Eagles

Well, someone had to win the NFC East and the Eagles are standing — well, barely. The Eagles are so banged up there’s no chance they can compete for a Super Bowl at the moment.

Nonetheless, they’ve won the games needed, including their win over the Cowboys Sunday. They should wrap up the division with a win against the Giants in Week 17. They deserve credit for that.

As a refresher, here’s what the playoff standings look like after Week 16:


  1. Baltimore Ravens (13-2)**
  2. New England Patriots (12-3)**
  3. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)**
  4. Houston Texans (10-5)**
  5. Buffalo Bills (10-5)*
  6. Tennessee Titans (8-7)


  1. San Francisco 49ers (12-3)*
  2. Green Bay Packers (12-3)**
  3. New Orleans Saints (12-3)**
  4. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (11-4)*
  6. Minnesota Vikings (10-5)*

*clinched a playoff spot
**clinched division