There are a dozen clubs looking to play in Minneapolis on the first Sunday of February. How do the NFL playoff participants rank from bottom to top?
It started with 32 teams and it’s now down to 12 when it comes to capturing the NFL’s 98th championship and the 52nd in the Super Bowl Era. Which brings us to the wild card edition of our NFL Power Rankings.
This year’s postseason field includes the defending champion New England Patriots and the reigning NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. There are also three clubs that haven’t been to the postseason in at least a decade and another in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
So how does this not-so-dirty dozen rank from No. 12 to numero uno? Included here the teams’ final win-loss records and their current seeding in their respective conferences. In terms of the rankings, postseason experience is one factor, as well as how each of these contenders are performing these days.
12. Tennessee Titans
9-7 (Wild Card)
No. 5 Seed in AFC
With an 8-4 record, a share of the AFC South lead and with a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on their resume, the Tennessee Titans appeared to be on their way to the franchise’s first division title and playoff appearance since 2008. Then came a three-game slide and suddenly Mike Mularkey’s team found themselves in a win-and-in spot this past Sunday. The club came away with 15-10 win and completed a sweep of the division-champion Jacksonville Jaguars.
So what about this team’s chances in the playoffs, starting with Saturday’s Wild Card clash with the Kanas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium? They’ll need a better performance from quarterback Marcus Mariota, who finished the season with more turnovers (16) than touchdown passes (13). But he also ran for 312 yards and five scores. Tennessee slipped from third in the league in rushing to 15th this past season.
Defensively, the liability remained stopping teams through the air. The Titans finished 25th in the NFL against the pass and gave up 27 aerial scores (compared to only 5 on the ground). Dick LeBeau’s defenders came up with 43 sacks but for the second straight year, this was an erratic unit at best. This despite a big year from safety Kevin Byard, who tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions.
As for this weekend, it is worth noting that the Titans strolled into Kansas City last season (Week 15) and emerged with a 19-17 win. Just a little food for thought as Mularkey’s club looks for a little momentum.