Place the top candidates in the split – The Denver Post

With the NFL’s first “Super Wild Card Weekend” in the books, there are only eight teams left in the hunt for the Super Bowl title.

After ranked all 32 teams during the 18 weeks regular season, the Baltimore Sun considers the top contenders to advance to the division round:

1. Green Bay Packers

Thanks to their first game, the Packers (13-4) were able to give David Bakhtiari, left-back Jare Alexander and wide-fielder Za’Darius Smith an extra week of rest as they return to training from injury. love. Bakhtiari shed some rust in Week 18 against the Lions, while Alexander and Smith returned to training in recent weeks. Those are the three Pro Bowl-caliber players that NFC’s No. 1 seed could put on its roster during the most important period of the season.

Of course, the Packers also have a combination of the best midfield receiver in the league with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, one of the two strong backers Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon and one of the most successful young coaches. in NFL history is Matt La Fleur. But if there’s an Achilles heel in this team, it’s the special, seasoned end Final ranking in DVOA by Football Outsiders.

Despite having the best odds of winning the Super Bowl, the Packers face a tough game Saturday night with the San Francisco 49ers that have dominated them in recent postseasons. The Packers’ defense was still weak against runs, which left coach Kyle Shanahan in the crosshairs with massive attacks. However, Green Bay is getting fit at the right time and is likely to be the brightest Player in the center. This is the team to beat.

2. Mayor of Kansas City

Since losing 27-3 to the Titans and dropping to 3-4, the Captains (13-5) have won 10 of their past 11 games to once again establish themselves as the strongest team in the league. Full-back Patrick Mahomes has been exceptional as usual, but the change of captains has coincided with a significant improvement in defence. After allowing 32.6 points per game in Weeks 1-5, Kansas City dropped just 16.7 points per game from Weeks 6-18.

All the Chiefs need is a league-average defense to get back into the Super Bowl. Instead, it became one of the best leagues in the NFL ever, thanks to some key tweaks by moderator Steve Spagnuolo and some key staffing changes. The arrival of safety Juan Thornhill and rookie defender Nick Bolton, the purchase of rejuvenated winger Melvin Ingram and the return of defensive midfielder Chris Jones on the inside have helped cement a single You risk sinking Kansas City during the season.

It also helps to get the best quarterback in the league. With 404 yards and five touchdowns in Sunday night’s 42-21 win over the Steelers, Mahomes averaged 309.8 yards and 2.8 touchdowns over the past six weeks. With leader Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce finishing tight and a breakthrough running back to Jerick McKinnon in the lead, the Chiefs have more than enough offensive talent to beat any team in the league.

3. Buffalo Bills

If there’s one team that can unbelievably keep up with Kansas City, it’s the Bills (12-6). That was evident in a record 47-17 win over the Patriots on Saturday night, in which the Buffalo became the first team in league history to not kick a goal, kick a ball or foul, scoring across seven divisions. first before time runs out. . Full-back Josh Allen showcased his elite ability with a commanding display: 21 for 25 of 308 yards and five touches in the air, six for 66 yards on the ground. Allen became the fifth quarterback in NFL history with more touches (5) than not completed (4) and set the record for the highest Total QBR (98.5) since the stat was introduced in 2006.

If Allen’s superstardom wasn’t enough, the Bills’ defense became one of the best all season. The unit entered the postseason ranked #1 in DVOA before intercepting Patriots rookie Mac Jones twice, scoring three covers, and limiting New England’s backruns to 3.6 yards per take. Even without star corner kick Tre’Davious White, this defense is still very elite.

There aren’t many holes on this list, which is why Buffalo was able to make it all the way to his first Super Bowl title.

4. Tennessee Titans

As good as the Chiefs and Bills all season, the Titans (12-5) were the team that won the No. 1 seed and said goodbye to the first round. With its powerful dash and over-the-top action gameplay, Tennessee is an attractive shield for the spreading offenses of Kansas City and Buffalo. To make things more interesting, star runner-up Derrick Henry is on his way back for the divisional round after missing most of the season with a foot injury.

You don’t have to squint to see how the Titans can win the AFC. In a four-game mid-season run, Tennessee beat three high-performance playoff teams and a strong contender in the Chiefs, Bills, Colts and Rams. Full-back Ryan Tannehill isn’t often considered when discussing the top quarterbacks in the league, but he’s still one of the most effective. He’s also gotten hot at the right time, hitting seven touchdown passes and failing to intercept in the past three games while completing more than 73% of his attempts.

If Henry can return to his usual dominant selves, recognizable players AJ Brown and Julio Jones impose their will on the smaller defensive backs and well-played defence. Yes, in most regular seasons, there is a path for the Titans to create a surprise run to the Super Bowl.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ranking a team with the greatest quarterback of all time in fifth place in this exercise might seem silly, but injuries have plagued this talented Bucs roster. Tampa Bay (14-4) lost to All-Pro when facing Tristan Wirfs with an ankle injury in Sunday’s 31-15 win over the Eagles, robbing another top player from Tom’s quartet Brady and this scary offense.

Mike Evans is still a brilliant player, but the loss of Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown erased some big play potential in Brady’s bot lane attack. Evans and Rob Gronkowski finished tight enough against the Eagles, but how will this offense go against some of the best defense in the league? It puts a lot on the plate of a 44-year-old midfielder.

At least the Bucs can take their hat off to their defence, which has been stabilized by the return of veteran full-back Lavonte David. The sub-squad is led by safety star Antoine Winfield Jr. and full-backs Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean were capable of stopping some of the best passing attacks of the league, while the defense was led by Vita Vea, Shaq Barrett and sports rookie Joe Tryon- Shoyinka can both. effectively stop running and lunge passers-by.

With more playoff wins than the rest of the post-season quarterbacks combined, Brady knows better than anyone how to pull off an ugly win. Tampa Bay will need him to lead a few more players to defend the Super Bowl title.

6. Los Angeles Rams

13 seasons and 323 touchdowns later, Matthew Stafford finally has a playoff win. The veteran midfielder has been the source of much frustration over unfortunate achievements throughout his career, but he showed in Monday night’s 34-11 win over the Cardinals that he can be patient. The former Lions star finished 13-17 for 202 yards and two touchdowns by simply taking what the defense gave him and not forcing throws into narrow windows. That version of Stafford could be the difference for a Rams (13-5) team thinking Super Bowl or bankrupt.

What was more encouraging on Monday night was the play of the Rams defense, which saw midfielder Kyler Murray make some costly mistakes. Pressure from Aaron Donald and Co. led to two interceptions, including the shortest pick-six in post-season history, while Los Angeles held Arizona for just 183 yards. The Rams will miss defensive signal caller Jordan Fuller after the safety player started off with a season-ending ankle injury in Week 18, but young substitutes Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess played well in his absence. . Killing Brady and the Bucs will be a bigger challenge, but this defensive front for the Rams will be able to take advantage of an already weakened Tampa Bay offensive line.

If Stafford and defense can play as well as they did on Monday night, the Rams could be Green Bay’s biggest threat in the NFC.

7. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals (11-7) exorcised a number of things on Saturday, securing their first playoff win since the 1990 season with a 26-19 win over the Raiders. All it took was a reunion for perhaps the most productive midfield duo in college football history.

After delivering record-setting numbers at LSU, Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have restarted where they left off in the NFL. Upon his return from a season-ending knee injury, Burrow quickly established himself as one of the best defenders in the NFL, topping the Pro Football Focus rankings and second in the EPA/CPOE composite, according to RBSDM.com. Chase, meanwhile, is fourth in the NFL with 1,455 yards received, including a rookie single-game record of 266 in a Week 17 win over the Chiefs. Their chemistry has resulted in big play after big play, often deep in the yard. According to Next Gen Stats, Chase leads the NFL with 923 ball receptions and 11 touchdowns beyond the regular-season numbers.

However, the Bengals’ defense needs a healthy Trey Hendrickson to stick with the Bills and Chiefs. After the star’s overpass went down with a tremor on Saturday, Cincinnati’s dash has completely disappeared. During the season, the pressure ratio of the Bengals was twice as high when Hendrickson was on the field (35.8%) than when he was not (17.6%), according to Next Gen Stats. Fortunately for the Bengals, their defense was much better for running than for passing, which is reason for optimism heading into Saturday’s game against the Titans.

8. San Francisco 49ers

Could we see another Super Bowl play out from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers like we did three years ago? Sunday’s impressive finish to the Cowboys obscured the fact that San Francisco (11-7) dominated much of the game with a team entering the post-season phase ranked #1 on DVOA. Had it not been for a Garoppolo interception late in the game, the 23-17 win would have been a more devastating defeat.

Of course, that Garoppolo pick illustrates exactly why it’s so hard to trust these Niners. San Francisco certainly made no trade-offs in the draft for winger Trey Lance because they trust their veteran starter, who is likely to leave after this season. But with a star cast of Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk and a strong offensive line paving the way for rookie sensation Elijah Mitchell, this foul by Kyle Shanahan is just a bluff as it clicks all the way. cylinder.

The big question for the 49ers is the health of star winger Nick Bosa (concussion) and full-back Fred Warner (knee), both of whom left Sunday’s game with injuries. The 49ers may need both full strength to take out Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, especially since the second team couldn’t hold out for 60 minutes against Adams and Co. Packers are a fear in Lambeau.

https://www.denverpost.com/2022/01/18/nfl-playoff-power-rankings-stacking-the-top-contenders-heading-into-the-divisional-round/ Place the top candidates in the split – The Denver Post

Subhankar Mondal

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