The 2019 NFL regular season is over after 256 games. We now have our 12 playoff teams, but not before we got some unexpected action in the early window. The Dolphins upset the Patriots as almost 17-point underdogs, tied for the biggest upset in the last 30 years. The Packers beat the Lions at the wire, and the Browns lost to the previously one-win Bengals. That last part has nothing to do with the playoffs, but it’s hilarious nonetheless.
In the late afternoon, the Eagles and Titans both made it into the playoffs with relatively easy wins. It wasn’t as easy for the Seahawks and 49ers, who were competing for the NFC West title. Their Sunday Night Football matchup went down to the final seconds, and the final inches. What a way to end the last game!
Now the playoff picture is set. Below, I ranked all 12 playoff teams by how much I trust them as we head into the Wild Card Round.
The Ravens did not need to win Sunday. They already had the top seed in the AFC, so they rested a good chuck of their starters. And yet, they dominated a Steelers team that was still hanging on to hope for a wild card spot.
The Ravens are a scary team that can do it all. I keep saying the same thing: They don’t make mistakes. They don’t beat themselves. They don’t commit many turnovers. They control the line of scrimmage and bring the heat on defense. They should have no issue with the winner of Texans/Bills, but the Chiefs showing up in the AFC title game would be great for football fans.
It’s too bad the Saints don’t have a bye in these playoffs. They are the most complete team in the NFC and have been there before. They don’t have much of a hole on their roster and while several teams spurted in Week 17, the Saints kicked the crap out of the lowly Panthers.
Even though they looked primed for the Super Bowl, running through the Packers and 49ers will be so tough. We know Drew Brees has not been as good on the road in the playoffs. However, with their offensive line and run game, they have a shot to end those road playoff demons.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
I think the Chiefs have closed the gap on the Ravens. Their defense is playing better than expected, even though they showed some warts again. I did not buy how much people were talking them up the last month because they played some bum quarterbacks, but they are much improved from this time last season.
Tyrann Mathieu should get some votes for Defensive Player of the Year. He’s been outstanding and an underrated free agent signing. Promising rookie Juan Thornhill being out for the season is a concern for the defense, though.
I have to worry about the offense, too. The Chiefs just have large portions of the game where they don’t do much on offense, but they always know they have the home run opportunities. In the playoffs, having a few off drives might cost them. But, they now have a week off, and Andy Reid is fantastic after a bye.
4. San Francisco 49ers
They have earned the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. They are an offense that’s diverse and can beat you many ways. People questioned whether Jimmy Garoppolo was able to carry the team, and he’s had his moments. The defense can rush the passer and disrupt the pass game.
The reason they are ranked a little lower is they have almost no experience in this postseason. While Kyle Shanahan has as an offensive playcaller, almost none of their players have been here before. The playoffs are a different beast.
5. New England Patriots
My, word Patriots. WTH! The Patriots just needed to beat the Dolphins at home to get the No. 2 seed and a bye. They did not. And again, the issues with the Patriots on offense showed up: WR drops, and mistakes that take away yards and points. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick no trust in anyone on offense.
Defensively, they shockingly allowed three 75+yard scoring drives from the Dolphins. Stephon Gilmore chose the wrong weekend to have his worst game of the season. Nonetheless, this is the Patriots and we can never overlook them.
Still, I dislike the Titans matchup. There’s almost no chance the Patriots can get through a Titans, Chiefs, and Ravens gauntlet. This might be the end.
6. Green Bay Packers
I guess I have to put them here. I don’t remember a more unimpressive 13-3 team, though. They win ugly and do barely enough to get the win. The Packers are just boring.
Maybe that’s a good trait. A buddy of mine reminded me that boring = good in the NFL and he’s right.
One thing that worries me is what we saw from Aaron Rodgers this week. It appeared he started to call more plays that usual at the line of scrimmage, and the offense and his play at quarterback were both a wreck. He has got to stick to the script if they plan on winning multiple playoff games.
7. Philadelphia Eagles
Bravo, Eagles. While a bunch of fans and franchises whine about injuries, the Eagles just keep winning with players we have never heard from. I thought this tweet from Chris Brown sums it up well:
Every completed Eagles pass:— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) December 29, 2019
“Amazing catch by Hawkins McGallicutty! Last week he was making smoothies at a Jamba Juice.”
“What a grab by Billy Ray Sturgess! Philly signed him before kickoff out of a racquetball game at the local YMCA”
“Great catch by...wait that’s my uncle!”
Credit their culture, mental toughness, and leaders in the locker room for making this happen. Carson Wentz has played maybe his best ball of his career considering his weapons over the last month. Now they host the Seahawks in the playoffs.
8. Seattle Seahawks
I’d never count out Russell Wilson, but their offense is so beat up, especially at running back and left tackle. I don’t trust their playcalling at all, as we saw once again Sunday night. They seem to call the obvious play and often don’t let Wilson be the offense. They have improved throughout the season on defense, but I’m not sure they can rush the passer well enough to get after Wentz in the first round.
9. Tennessee Titans
Does anyone want to tackle Derrick Henry? No, they don’t. Can anyone seem to stop their play-action pass? It appears not.
Granted, they beat a Texans team not playing their best players, but the Titans looked impressive in their wild card-clinching victory. Next, they have a trip to New England, and I think the Titans match up well with their physical play on offense. Do I trust this unexperienced Tennessee team in New England? Not terribly, but I’m excited to watch.
Kirk Cousins — end of story.
I get it, QB wins aren’t a thing. But eventually you become how your team plays in big games, and the Vikings don’t win them often with Cousins. Now they are heading to New Orleans? Heck no.
11. Buffalo Bills
The Bills are here because I think they’ll beat the Texans even though Buffalo is limited at the quarterback position. The Bills are better than the Texans in the coaching department, on defense, special teams, and in the trenches. I predict they head into Houston and pull the upset. Then the Ravens beat them to open up the Divisional Round.
12. Houston Texans
Bill O’Brien is 1-3 in the playoffs, with the lone winning at home against Connor Cook, who was filling in for the injured Derek Carr. I don’t have much faith in the Texans. They’ve been very up and down all season, and the Bills are a stout team. I don’t think they will win this game, and if they do, they won’t beat the Ravens.
As a reminder, here’s a look at the upcoming playoff schedule:
Wild Card Round
All times are ET.
Saturday, Jan. 4:
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans, 4:35 p.m.
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots, 8:15 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 5:
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints, 1:05 p.m.
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles, 4:40 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 11:
Eagles/Seahawks/Vikings at San Francisco 49ers, 4:35 p.m.
Texans/Bills/Titans at Baltimore Ravens, 8:15 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 12:
Patriots/Texans/Bills at Kansas City Chiefs, 3:05 p.m.
Saints/Eagles/Seahawks at Green Bay Packers, 6:40 p.m.