in

NFL Playoff Rankings: Unbeaten Doesn’t Mean Highly Ranked

Videos by OutKick

This week marks the premiere of OutKick’s weekly NFL playoff team rankings.

This ranking includes the top seven teams in each conference because this year marks the first one in NFL history where seven teams from the AFC and NFC will qualify for the playoffs.

The rankings do not represent the actual conference standings but are rather a snapshot of what teams hold the most promise so far in the season and why.

And why did we wait until after Week 3 of the NFL season to begin these rankings? Because preseason rankings are dumb. And because somebody just came up with the idea today.

AFC

7. Denver Broncos. Comment: They have one of the NFL’s best defensive coaches in Vic Fangio and, not shockingly, they have the league’s stingiest defense. Teddy Bridgewater is not elite but he’s not hurting his team. They’re unbeaten which suggests a higher ranking but did you see who they beat?

6. Tennessee Titans. Comment: Curious management of Julio Jones last week and poor coaching the first game aside, they are a tough, hard-nosed team with the NFL’s best running back and league’s third-best running game. The defense must be better.

5. Kansas City Chiefs. Comment: They’re making too many mistakes, they need a No. 2 outside receiver, and their pass rush needs help. But they’ve got Andy Reid and he’ll absolutely figure stuff out.

4. Los Angeles Chargers. Comment: They’ve got a rookie coach and a second-year quarterback, but that coach made wise gambles at Kansas City last weekend, and the QB has so far passed every test in his quest to be considered elite. Mike Williams becoming a factor is bad news — for the other teams.

3. Las Vegas Raiders. Comment: Derek Carr is making his case as an elite quarterback. He knows Jon Gruden’s system, he has talent around him and he’s dealin’, to be Las Vegasy about it. But that and an unbeaten record aside, this team lacks discipline so this ranking is merely a snapshot — one that might be changing unless they stop trying to beat themselves, because eventually they’ll succeed.

2. Cleveland Browns. Comment: They’re very deep, which is important in a 17-game season. Baker Mayfield is mostly managing games, which beats him mismanaging games, and they have the NFL’s second-best rushing attack.

1. Buffalo Bills. Comment: That season-opening loss to Pittsburgh was a wakeup and, sure enough, they’re awake now, having outscored their last two opponents, 78-21. Josh Allen is playing well, the deep secondary is excellent. The culture is outstanding, the plan is sound. What’s not to love?

Who’s missing: The Ravens are absent despite having perhaps the NFL’s best head coach because they’re an improbable 66-yard field goal from being 1-2 and their one-dimensional offense is not sustainable. The Bengals are missing despite a 2-1 record because we need to see more.

NFC

7. San Francisco 49ers. Comment: They just got Rodgerized on Sunday night football but this is a sound football team that will factor in the playoffs if they can avoid further injuries.

6. Carolina Panthers. Comment: They’re undefeated and that win against New Orleans was impressive. But no one should be crowning them yet because Sam Darnold’s start to this season is promising but not yet something we trust will last.

5. Dallas Cowboys: Comment: Dan Quinn has the defense playing faster and Dak Prescott is earning every bit of his new contract. As an extra added bonus, this team plays in the NFC East and nobody there is going to keep Dallas from winning the division.

4. Arizona Cardinals. Comment: Their season-opening win at Tennessee was impressive as are the weapons around Kyler Murray, who is playing better than he ever has despite his four interceptions. Why are they not ahead of Green Bay? Because, um, Murray good but Aaron Rodgers better.

3. Green Bay. Comment: No idea how long they can continue to piece together a viable offensive line or survive with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams playing pitch and catch without other significant offensive options, but it’s all working pretty well so far.

2. Tampa Bay. Comment: Yes, they lost to the Rams after making a cross-country trip and having significant injury issues and making early mistakes in the game. Hard to imagine all those factors conspiring too many more times this season.

1. Los Angeles Rams: Comment: They’re the NFL’s best team right now. The coach is dynamic, the defense whose job it is to matchup with offense presents matchup problems for those offenses in a number of areas, and Matthew Stafford, playing behind a solid offensive line, is showing that the Detroit Lions wasted him for so many years.

Who’s missing: The New Orleans Saints beat the Packers and Patriots on the road — well, the first game was designated a home game but it was played in Jacksonville. So what’s the problem? Jamies Winston needs to keep proving he’s not the guy we recall from 2019.

Twitter: @armandosalguero

FanDuel deal: New users win $125 (on a max $5 bet) if either the Bucs or Patriots score a touchdown on Sunday night. The odds of this happening are incredibly high as FanDuel Sportsbook is currently expecting over 5 touchdowns to be scored during the entire game. As such, a wager of only $5 is almost guaranteed to win $125. You can click here to sign up with FanDuel Sportsbook and claim this offer.

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

to comment on this post. Not a VIP? Signup Here