NFL Power Rankings: Where Do Playoff Teams Stack Up After Wild Card?

Eric MackFantasy Football Lead WriterJanuary 5, 2015

NFL Power Rankings: Where Do Playoff Teams Stack Up After Wild Card?

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The first week of the NFL postseason has come and gone, and you likely have the same empty feeling we do right now. There was just something missing from this weekend's action.

    Actually, four things...the best teams.

    Bleacher Report takes a look at the NFL power rankings of the Elite Eight field after Wild Card Weekend, comparing and contrasting the teams still holding onto Super Bowl aspirations. We won't give anything away, but you shouldn't have to be reminded that the Seattle Seahawks are still the reigning champs. They go Beast Mode.

    Each team is broken down by its record, team offensive- and defensive-stat rankings, big victories, bad losses and record against the remaining teams in the field. When you comb through all that stuff, the ordering of the teams becomes pretty academic and sensible.

    Still, not everyone will be satisfied with their team's position, so feel free to throw eggs and barbs at this scribe in the comments section below.

8. Carolina Panthers

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Record: 8-8-1

    Seed: NFC No. 4

    Current Streak: won five consecutive

     

    Offensive Rankings

    Total: 16th

    Rush: 7th

    Pass: 19th

    The Panthers can run the football well, especially with Jonathan Stewart's second-half resurgence, but they lack the downfield weapons to be considered a threatening offense. Cam Newton is a big-time playmaker, but he needs help from a more diverse set of receivers.

     

    Defensive Rankings

    Total: 10th

    Rush: 16th

    Pass: 11th

    The Panthers were able to hold the Arizona Cardinals to a playoff-record-low yardage total, but it might be as much of a function of the Cardinals' season-ending losses to injury (Carson Palmer and Andre Ellington) as the Panthers' own prowess. 

     

    Best Victories

    • at New Orleans 41-10
    • vs. Atlanta 34-3
    • vs. Detroit 24-7
    • vs. Arizona 27-16

     

    Worst Losses

    • at Minnesota 31-13
    • vs. New Orleans 28-10
    • at Philadelphia 45-21

     

    Against the Field: 0-3 (losses at Green Bay Packers, at Baltimore Ravens and vs. Seattle Seahawks) 

     

    Quote to Note

    "We are loving each other right now, and we are rolling," cornerback Josh Norman told Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer.

     

    Summation

    The Panthers finished with a losing record in the regular season (7-8-1) and had just two significant victories over playoff teams (Detroit and Arizona). They haven't beaten anyone in the remaining field. They are the easy pick for last, despite having come together nicely of late.

7. Baltimore Ravens

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Record: 11-6

    Seed: AFC No. 6

    Current Streak: won two consecutive

     

    Offensive Rankings

    Total: 12th

    Rush: 8th 

    Pass: 13th

    The Ravens don't profess to be an offensive juggernaut, but they can do some things and have a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in his prime at the helm. They're capable, if short of spectacular.

     

    Defensive Rankings

    Total: 8th

    Rush: 4th

    Pass: 23rd

    The Ravens win by beating people up with their front seven. They take away the opponent's running game, and while they get beat with the pass, they have become more bend but don't break.

     

    Best Victories 

    • at Pittsburgh 30-17
    • vs. Carolina 38-10
    • vs. Pittsburgh 26-6

     

    Worst Losses 

    • at Houston 25-13
    • vs. San Diego 34-33
    • vs. and at Cincinnati (23-16, 27-24) 

     

    Against the field: 1-1 (beat Carolina and lost to Indianapolis)

     

    Quote to Note 

    Head coach John Harbaugh told SI.com's Don Banks:

    We played our best football game of the year right here, and I think it's because of what we've been through all year (and) the way we've stuck together all year. We had each other's backs and maintained our faith. That's what has made the difference for us.

     

    Summation

    The Ravens run and stop the run, formulas for championship success, but they haven't played that challenging of a schedule, avoiding most of the elite teams thus far. The only remaining team they've beat is the Panthers, which is the only one we can rank the Ravens ahead of here. We will find out just how much juice they have against the New England Patriots on Saturday.

6. Indianapolis Colts

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 12-5

    Seed: AFC No. 4

    Current Streak: won two consecutive

     

    Offensive Rankings

    Total: 3rd

    Rush: 22nd

    Pass: 1st

    Andrew Luck makes the Colts a dangerous team. It is easy to forget he is just in his third season, because he has played well beyond his years from the get-go. He is decidedly the least experienced of the remaining signal-callers, but you can make a case for him perhaps being the best of them.

     

    Defensive Rankings

    Total: 11th

    Rush: 18th

    Pass: 12th

    It is tough to post great defensive numbers when your offense creates a lot of blowouts and garbage time for your opponents. The Colts are suspect against the run, though, a flaw that generally can eliminate teams deep into the postseason. That is a bad weakness when you consider the remaining AFC field.

     

    Best victories 

    • vs. Cincinnati 27-0
    • vs. Baltimore 20-13
    • vs. Cincinnati 26-10

     

    Worst losses 

    • at Pittsburgh 51-34
    • at Dallas 42-7

     

    Against the field: 1-3 (beat Baltimore and lost to New England, Denver and Dallas)

     

    Quote to Note

    Guard Jack Mewhort told The Indianapolis Star's Gregg Doyel:

    It's a quarterback-driven league. It's proven stuff, and for a guy to do what he does and make the plays he makes on a regular basis, you can't take that for granted. There are guys all over the league sitting home right now, and plays like that (touchdown to Donte Moncrief), that's why we get to keep playing.

     

    Summation

    Two games conspire to place Luck and the Colts right here: the victory over the Baltimore Ravens and the huge loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Even if the Colts weren't playing that game to win, you cannot discredit the outcome. Luck gives the Colts a shot in any game, but you could say the same for Peyton Manning

5. Dallas Cowboys

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 13-4

    Seed: NFC No. 3

    Current Streak: won five consecutive

     

    Offensive Rankings

    Total: 7th

    Rush: 2nd

    Pass: 16th

    The Cowboys have arguably the most important non-quarterback in the league this year, DeMarco Murray. He has played like a warrior, and they survived the challenge from the league's No. 1 run defense in the first round of the playoffs. They don't have gaudy passing numbers, but it is more of a function of leaning so much on Murray than any real deficiency. They can sling it with anyone if they have to.

     

    Defensive Rankings

    Total: 19th

    Rush: 8th

    Pass: 26th

    This was supposed to be the worst defense in NFL history coming into the season because of a bad 2013 and the losses it sustained. Instead, Dallas has held it together defensively. It helps that a great running game takes the pressure off and plays keep away from opposing offenses, though. Defense wins championships, but the Cowboys are clearly short in this department.

     

    Best Victories

    • at Seattle 30-23
    • vs. Indianapolis 42-7
    • vs. Detroit 24-20 

     

    Worst Losses 

    • vs. Washington 20-17 in OT
    • vs. San Francisco 28-17
    • vs. Philadelphia 33-10 

     

    Against the field: 2-0 (beat Seattle and Indianapolis)

      

    Quote to Note 

    Head coach Jason Garrett told The Dallas Morning News' Tim Cowlishaw:

    In critical moments, sometimes you just gotta do it. I think Tony (Romo) just did a fantastic job. You've heard me say this a lot: He's about the most physically and mentally tough guy I've been around, and he demonstrated that today.

     

    Summation

    Everyone seemed to be waiting for Romo to choke and give another postseason game away. Those people were left disappointed.

    The Cowboys have arguably the most impressive victory in the NFL this season, beating the Seahawks in Seattle, but they also have the worst loss of any team in the playoff field and have played a fairly weak schedule. Also, can you really put your Super Bowl hopes on Romo versus the other elite quarterbacks in the ensuing slides?

    Still, that Seattle victory gives them the nod over the Indianapolis Colts here.

4. Green Bay Packers

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Record: 12-4

    Seed: NFC No. 2

    Current Streak: won two consecutive

     

    Offensive Rankings

    Total: 6th

    Rush: 11th

    Pass: 8th

    The Packers are a lot more elite than the data suggests. Aaron Rodgers is mostly the reason, but Eddie Lacy should not be discounted for his importance either. The running game in January games at Lambeau Field can be a difference-maker.

     

    Defensive Rankings

    Total: 15th

    Rush: 23rd

    Pass: 10th

    There are some big names on this unit, but this is not a great defense. This fact alone is what keeps the Pack out of the top three in these power rankings.

     

    Best Victories

    • vs. New England 26-21
    • vs. Carolina 38-17
    • vs. Detroit 30-20 

     

    Worst Losses 

    • at Buffalo 21-13
    • at New Orleans 44-23
    • at Detroit 19-7

     

    Against the field: 2-1 (beat New England and Carolina, and lost to Seattle)

     

    Quote to Note

    Safety Barry Church told Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel:

    It's going to be tough going against (the Green Bay Packers). They have one of the best quarterbacks in the game in Aaron Rodgers and his supporting cast, with Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy and those guys, they're one of the best offenses we've played against, if not the best offense we've played against. We have to have a great game plan going into this week.

     

    Summation

    The Packers have a case for No. 1 because of Rodgers and the victory over the New England Patriots, but they are not a great defensive team. That is the biggest thing that holds them back here. The teams ahead of Green Bay have higher-ranked defenses to go with an elite quarterback.

3. Denver Broncos

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Record: 12-4

    Seed: AFC No. 2

    Current Streak: won one

     

    Offensive Rankings

    Total: 4th

    Rush: 15th

    Pass: 4th

    Peyton Manning's offense couldn't quite repeat its record-breaking 2013, but you couldn't expect it to, especially after so many injuries to key personnel this season. Still, the running game has gotten hot, and Manning is still one tough out for anyone. You can bet he is going to be motivated to prove to the Indianapolis Colts that there is still plenty left in his right arm.

     

    Defensive Rankings

    Total: 3rd

    Rush: 2nd

    Pass: 9th

    Because this is a Manning team, it is easy to overlook just how good the Broncos are defensively. You can make a case that this is why they'll surprise people in the playoffs. They can run and stop the run with the best of them.

     

    Best Victories

    • vs. Indianapolis 31-24
    • vs. Arizona 41-20
    • vs. San Francisco 42-17 

     

    Worst Losses 

    • at St. Louis 22-7
    • at Cincinnati 37-28
    • at New England 43-21

     

    Against the field: 1-2 (beat Indianapolis and lost to New England and Seattle)

     

    Quote to Note

    Tight end Jacob Tamme told Lauren Giudice of the Broncos' official website:

    Yeah, I think we had a lot of guys that could use a little bit of rest, could use a couple days off; a lot of guys getting treatment for little nicks and knacks and little things like that, that after a long season of football, everyone's got.

    So I think it was really good for us. I felt great. (Sunday) we had a good lift, a good workout. It felt good to get back into it. It was a good break.

     

    Summation

    You could make a case for the Cowboys to be ranked over the Broncos because they beat the Seattle Seahawks and the Broncos couldn't, but we rank the teams going forward here. A rested and healthy Broncos team belongs in the top three, if not in the discussion for No. 1 overall.

    After all, they are in that elite company in both team offense and defense, the only team you can say that for in this field. This a well-rounded Super Bowl contender.

2. New England Patriots

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    Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

    Record: 12-4

    Seed: AFC No. 1

    Current Streak: lost one

     

    Offensive Rankings

    Total: 11th

    Rush: 18th

    Pass: 9th

    The Pats don't post any pretty stats. They don't have explosive offensive playmakers, but Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady are both elite Hall of Famer types. Their health is vital to the Pats' success, and they are both as close to 100 percent as they can be this time of year, especially coming off a bye week.

     

    Defensive Rankings

    Total: 13th

    Rush: 9th

    Pass: 17th

    You likely have to do a double take after seeing how low the Pats rank defensively. They are much better than these numbers suggest. Again, this is a team that isn't pretty statistically, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

     

    Best Victories

    • vs. Denver 43-21
    • vs. Detroit 34-9
    • at Indianapolis 42-20

     

    Worst Losses 

    • at Kansas City 41-14
    • at Miami 33-20
    • vs. Buffalo 17-9

     

    Against the field: 2-1 (beat Denver and Indianapolis, and lost to Green Bay)

     

    Quote to Note 

    "These are the most arrogant (expletives) in the world," Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs told reporters after beating the Patriots in the 2013 AFC Championship Game, "starting with (Bill) Belichick on down...(It's) funny, ever since Spygate, they haven't been able to win."

     

    Summation

    The victories over Denver and Indianapolis trump the close road loss at Green Bay. The Pats are not elite on paper, perhaps, but they have a better defense than the Packers and Cowboys. Also, Belichick and Brady give them the edge over everyone in intangibles.

1. Seattle Seahawks

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Record: 12-4

    Seed: NFC No. 1

    Current Streak: won six consecutive

     

    Offensive Rankings

    Total: 9th

    Rush: 1st

    Pass: 27th

    The Seahawks cannot get the ball downfield very well, as they have a dearth of receiving talent, but Russell Wilson is a master helmsman and Marshawn Lynch goes Beast Mode for the NFL's No. 1 rushing offense. As we've said often, you have to run and stop the run. Seattle does it better than anyone.

     

    Defensive Rankings

    Total: 1st

    Rush: 3rd

    Pass: 1st

    The Legion of Boom might not be as good as it was a year ago, but this version isn't too much worse, if at all. The Seahawks also have the best home-field advantage in football with their 12th Man.

     

    Best Victories

    • vs. Green Bay 36-16
    • vs. Denver 26-20 in OT
    • vs. and at Arizona (19-3 and 35-6) 

     

    Worst Losses 

    • at St. Louis 28-26
    • at San Diego 30-21
    • at Kansas City 24-20

     

    Against the field: 3-1 (beat Denver, Green Bay and Carolina, and lost to Dallas)

     

    Quote to Note 

    Panthers coach Ron Rivera told Jonathan Jones of The Charlotte Observer on Sunday night:

    They are the Super Bowl champions and have been playing their best football late in the season. They have a great home field advantage, but nothing comes easy at this stage of the playoffs. We will not be able to make some of the mistakes we made last week.

     

    Summation

    These are the defending champions. They are the only team to not get blown out this season. They have played the most games against the remaining playoff field and are the only ones to have three victories against those teams. They are also the only team to rank first in multiple statistical categories. There is only one right choice for the No. 1 spot, and it is decidedly the Seattle Seahawks. 

     

    Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.