NFL Playoffs 2014: Ranking Every Team Already Qualified for Postseason

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 24, 2013

Dec 22, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) passes against the Arizona Cardinals during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

We know for sure that eight teams are in. Seven of those squads have won their division, with just the NFC North and East up for grabs in the final week of the season.

So while much of the focus in the next week will be which teams secure the final four playoff spots—and where every team will be seeded—below you'll find those eight teams that have guaranteed a playoff spot.

Will home-field advantage play a factor? How about key injuries? What about head-to-head matchups? A lot was considered when ranking the teams that have already guaranteed postseason berths. Below, you'll find out just where they rank.

1. Seattle Seahawks

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 22:  Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks runs against the Arizona Cardinals on December 22, 2013 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The Seahawks have arguably the best home-field advantage in all of football, even if the Arizona Cardinals managed to squeak out a victory there in Week 16, and Seattle is just a win away from having home field throughout the playoffs.

They don't have a discernible weakness. They pound the rock, have excellent quarterback play from Russell Wilson and have one of the league's best defense. Oh, and if they meet the No. 2 team on this list, the outdoor conditions of a New Jersey Super Bowl will favor their style of play.

For now, the Seahawks are the favorite to win the Super Bowl, and thus they are No. 1 on this list.

2. Denver Broncos

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 22:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after throwing a touchdown during the game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Peyton Manning is 266 yards away from setting the record for most passing yards in a season after already setting the record for touchdown passes. In other words, he's very close to having the best statistical season at the quarterback position ever, and maybe at any position, period.

This team has a number of offensive weapons, won't have to travel until the Super Bowl should they win in Week 17 and will look to erase last year's disappointing ouster from the playoffs in the divisional round.

Quite simply, the Broncos simply have the most dangerous offense—and fewest questions—of any other team in the AFC.

3. Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 22:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers drops back to pass during their game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

There are two reasons the Panthers are No. 3 and not the San Francisco 49ers, and they are as follows:

  1. If these two teams play in the playoffs, it will likely be in Carolina.
  2. The Panthers already beat the Niners this year in Week 10—in San Francisco, mind you—and did so by holding them to just three field goals.

People will point to the fact that the Niners have won five in a row and 10 of their last 12—or that they reached the Super Bowl a season ago—but keep in mind that the Panthers have won 10 of 11. And it's not as though Cam Newton doesn't have big-game experience; he won a national championship with Auburn.

With their ability to pound the ball on the ground and play elite defense, the Panthers are a very real threat to reach the Super Bowl. 

4. San Francisco 49ers

December 8, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive back Eric Wright (30) is congratulated by free safety Eric Reid (second from left), inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (second from right), and inside linebacker Patrick Willis (52) for
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody wants to face this Niners team right now. Nobody. Should they go to Arizona and beat the Cardinals in Week 17—clinging to their own slight playoff chances, keep in mind—the Niners will be even more unappealing for potential opponents.

While Colin Kaepernick has regressed this season—the Niners are 31st in passing yards—San Francisco beats teams by running the ball (third in run offense) and playing stifling defense (fourth in passing yards allowed, fifth in rushing yards allowed). 

They'll likely have to make a playoff run on the road, but this team has the talent to pull it off. 

5. Cincinnati Bengals 

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 22:  Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals waves to the crowd after the NFL game against the Minnesota Vikings at Paul Brown Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

How's this for balance—the Bengals are 10th in pass offense, 21st in run offense (though they have the horses to end games by pounding the rock late), sixth in pass defense and sixth in run defense. Andy Dalton has taken a step in the right direction this year. A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard are dynamic, young playmakers.

And at home the Bengals are deadly, going 7-0 in Cincy on the year. 

They are No. 5 because, to reach the Super Bowl, they'll eventually have to go on the road, which will likely be their undoing. But make no mistake about it—this Bengals team is the real deal.

6. New England Patriots

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 22: Running back LeGarrette Blount #29 and quarterback quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrate after Blount rushed for a second half touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens during the Patriots 41-7 win at M&
Rob Carr/Getty Images

This one is pretty simple.

With Rob Gronkowski in the lineup, the Patriots would be as high as No. 2 on this list. Without him, they drop to No. 6. 

Yes, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have the pedigree to get them to the Super Bowl. Yes, they still have weapons in Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. But Gronk is a game changer, and he's the difference between the Patriots being a very good team and a great one.

7. Indianapolis Colts

Dec 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) speaks to media after the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Colts won 23-7. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts have arguably the game's best young quarterback in Andrew Luck, the most impressive resume of big wins this season (Seahawks, Niners, Broncos, Chiefs) and have even gotten big production from a revitalized Donald Brown. 

Does this team have the talent to make a run to the Super Bowl? Probably not. Will they beat the Chiefs for the second time in three weeks in their likely Wild Card matchup in Indianapolis?

You betcha.

8. Kansas City Chiefs

Dec 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) celebrates after scoring during the first half of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 seed, meaning they'll likely rest some starters against the San Diego Chargers. Should that lead to a loss in Week 17, the Chiefs will have limped into the playoffs going 2-5 down the stretch. 

While the extra rest will be nice, the holes in this team's roster have started to show in the past six weeks. They really only have one dynamic playmaker on offense. Alex Smith can manage games effectively in Andy Reid's system, but can he go out and win a game on his own?

And can a defense that thrived on forcing turnovers earlier in the season regain those habits, or will they continue to give up yards in droves? 

There are more questions than reassuring answers in Kansas City. For that reason, they seem like the weakest team that has already clinched a playoff berth.

Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets are almost as exciting as Week 17 of the NFL season, in which 13 of the 16 games could have playoff implications. Whoa nelly.

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