Mathematically, anyone not on a bye through the first week of the playoffs have a far, far greater chance of hoisting Vince Lombardi in February, but when you break it all down, there’s just better teams playing this weekend than not.
For those of you who have been under a rock, the eight teams competing for a spot in the Divisional Round this coming week are: Houston Texans; Baltimore Ravens; Los Angeles Chargers; Indianapolis Colts; Chicago Bears; Dallas Cowboys; Seattle Seahawks; Philadelphia Eagles.
That leaves the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams with the off-week.
Firstly, let’s get this one out of the way – the New England Patriots are losing to whoever the play next in Foxboro. They’re as poor as they’ve been in the last decade and with Tom Brady coming back next year, they don’t have a storyline to fall back on for momentum.
The Kansas City Chiefs defence is the second-worst in terms of yards per game given up (405.5). Their schedule was quite favourable, and yet they still lost games they really shouldn’t have, simply because Patrick Mahomes is not always dependable to put up 27 points a game.
The NFC is stronger and New Orleans are comfortably the best team with a week off, but the holes in their linebacking and at safety appear when they face top-end tight ends. You just couldn’t be confident that they won’t be exploited in that regard.
As for the Rams, they started the season on fire, but indifferent performances have plagued them and what most seem to forget is that they can’t generate edge pressure, also their contain is quite poor.
That’s not a good look against an NFC bracket that features Nick Foles, Mitch Trubisky, Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson.
Right now, Baltimore look the least complete team in football but also the most dangerous.
Let’s get one thing straight – this Ravens team went all-in on a quarterback, and it wasn’t the one who’s the best-paid player in the league.
Lamar Jackson cannot throw the ball. But, they did this to forge an ancient identity.
Nothing comes easy in Baltimore except pain.
They control the clock – becoming the first team since the 80s to have three different 100-yard rushers in a single match. They are lights out on defence – allowing less than 18 points per game – only second to the Chicago Bears.
Let’s talk about those Bears for a second. Matt Nagy is my Coach of the Year for obvious reasons.
They’re exploiting that new NFL blueprint of building a team around a quarterback on a rookie deal.
With the cap space saved, they can comfortably add franchise pieces like Khalil Mack.
Indianapolis have the best tackler in the NFL in Darius Leonard, as well as an offensive line that keeps one of the best pure passers in the NFL upright.
This is a rarity, but a look at the talent Andrew Luck has in the postseason is what the league has been crying out for.
Philip Rivers has the most weapons in the NFL and top-five defence. If they overcome Baltimore, they’ll torch New England.
The Chargers will find themselves in an AFC Championship game if they can limit Baltimore to 150 rushing yards or less.
Seattle and Philadelphia have postseason experience to burn and Dallas and Houston have enough pass rush and disguise in their offences to create serious defensive issues for more established, run-of-the-mill defensive schemes.
Expect the Wildcard teams to surprise the establishment atop the NFL food chain.