The Sideline Observer

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Power Ranking the Eight Remaining Playoff Teams

Following a decade-low in scoring during 2017, NFL offenses have bounced back in a huge way this season. In fact, this season has the second highest points per game with 23.3 since the 1948 NFL season. So it’s no surprise that the best offenses are making so much noise and have gotten the top seeds in their respective divisions.

With the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs just around the corner, there have been some surprises about who is still playing. But none of these teams are here because of any flukes. So without further ado, let’s get into the rankings.

1. New Orleans Saints

The Saints have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL this year. With two stud running backs in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, a future All-Pro receiver in Michael Thomas, and a Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees, the Saints offense can tear apart any defense in the league.

People know that Drew Brees is great, but in my opinion, Drew Brees is one of the most historically underrated QB’s in the NFL. Brees ranks second among career passing touchdowns, first in career yards, and is the only quarterback to record more than one 5,000 yard passing season with five. This year he remained elite, throwing for 4,000 yards and leading the Saints to a 13-3 regular season finish.

Earlier this week Sean Payton walked into the Saints locker room with the Lombardi Trophy and $225k (the players’ bonus for a Super Bowl win), and told his players to, “win three fucking games.” The Saints are fired up, and so am I about their chances this year.

2. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have the other most explosive offense in the NFL with MVP Patrick Mahomes at the helm. Add in top talent options with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, and it is easy to see why the offense averages a league leading 35.3 points per game.

However, there are a couple of major concerns with the Chiefs team and organization as a whole. Head coach Andy Reid has done a great job as a regular season coach, but the Chiefs have only won one playoff game since 1994. Their defense is also arguably the worst in the league and is carried hard by the offense.

But this is the first year that they have had a QB the caliber of Patrick Mahomes which makes all the difference. The Chiefs have a tough matchup with the Colts, but I expect Patty Mahomes to put up big numbers once again on Saturday.

3. Los Angeles Rams

Going into the season, the Los Angeles Rams were pegged as a favorite to escape the stacked NFC as the new super team of the NFL. The Rams have star talent on both sides of the ball in Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, and Aaron Donald.

While the Rams lack some depth on defense, especially on the defensive line, their stars always come to play and draw enough attention from the opposition that makes life easier for their teammates. For example, Aaron Donald who leads the league in sacks this season with 20.5 is practically double teamed the whole game, creating a positive mismatch for all other Rams defenders.

With all the studs on this team, you would think that they would be first in the power rankings. Personally, I am not a huge Jared Goff fan and think he is an overrated QB that benefits from the high octane players on the offense that he is the quarterback for.

The offense truly goes through Gurley, who totaled 1831 yards from scrimmage and 21 touchdowns this year. So if defenses stack the box against this Rams team, I expect the other QB’s left to outplay Goff and beat the Rams. Easier said than done, but the Rams have been exploited this way before and will again in this years playoffs by one of the other top teams.

4. Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts have low-key been one of the best teams in the NFL during the back half of the season. Coming into the playoffs they were red hot, winning nine of their last ten, and they crushed a talented Texans team in the first round.

Rookie standouts Darius Leonard, and Quenton Nelson have given the Colts a huge spark on both sides of the ball, and are the second rookie duo on the same team to both make first team all pro in the history of the NFL. The return of Andrew Luck who threw for over 4,500 yards and 39 touchdowns has been huge, as he is another underrated QB that plays the game smarter than almost anyone else at his position.

The Colts roster simply is not as stacked as the Saints, Chiefs, or Rams quite yet. But this is a young team with a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Over the next few seasons, they will make it to the Super Bowl, and expect them to still make some noise in their matchup against the Chiefs this weekend.

5. Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers are one of the most complete teams left in the playoffs. They have a Hall of Fame QB in Phillip “Phil the Pill” Rivers, an absolute workhorse RB in Melvin Gordon, and a generational talent at safety in Derwin James.

I’m having trouble putting the Chargers this low on my power rankings list because they truly are one of the most complete teams on both sides of the ball in terms of star talent and depth. They showed off  last week against the Ravens, making Lamar Jackson look awful in the process.

The Chargers have done nothing but win since head coach Anthony Lynn came to the team last year, and have a record of 18-5 since Week 11 of 2017. Making them a dark horse Super Bowl candidate that has the potential to continue their dominance for years to come.

6. New England Patriots

Putting the Patriots at number six in the power rankings is a tough thing to do. But this season it just feels as though something is not the same in New England. The Patriots still have the best combination in NFL history with Belichick and Brady… but I’m not convinced in these playoffs that they will win again.

Tom Brady has just looked slower than ever before, and he is not the only one. Gronkowski, Edelman, and Hogan have all suffered from Brady’s lost step, and after the loss of Josh Gordon, the receiving core around Brady is just not as good as it has been in the past. One of the bright spots on the offense has been James White, who had 751 yards and 7 touchdowns through the air.

Don’t get me wrong though. The Patriots still have the GOAT QB and if he turns up, nobody can stop him. The Patriots have been so good for so long, It just feels like their hot streak is finally starting to sour.

7. Philadelphia Eagles

The defending Super Bowl champions looked good against a Bears team that many, including myself, expected to go far in this year’s playoffs. While Nick Foles and the Eagles offense struggled against Chicago’s top-ranked defense, the Eagles defense looked even better, holding the Bears to a measly 15 points.

The Eagles really squeaked this one out with Cody Parkey missing a field goal to start the game, but the Eagles will not face a kicker who is as bad as Parkey again in the playoffs.

The legend of Nick Foles in Philly is going to have to give the city of brotherly love another miracle run as this team has simply not brought the same intensity as it did last season. I would be very surprised to see the Eagles beat the Saints fresh off of their bye week… but Nick Foles and Philly never fail to surprise me.

8. Dallas Cowboys

Rounding out the remaining playoff teams are the Dallas Cowboys who still boast one of the best offensive lines as well as some stud defenders in rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, and defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. Zeke has done nothing but eat behind the Cowboys stacked line with an average of 4.7 yards per attempt, and will continue to do so against any remaining team in the playoffs.

However, the Cowboys are limited by Dak Prescott and Jason Garrett, neither of who I believe to be smart or talented enough to push this Cowboys team past the next round. Jason Garrett is a certified loser and Dak Prescott is arguably the least talented QB left in the playoffs.

If the Cowboys run game gets going early they could pull out a surprise win against a Rams defense who has struggled against the run. But with Jason Garrett and Dak Prescott running the show I don’t have faith in these Cowboys.

-Greg King

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