Chris Simms' Post-Wildcard Playoff Power Rankings
What did we learn from the most lopsided NFL Wild Card Round since 1981?
The same lesson I learned growing up around my dad's Giants teams or playing alongside some all-time veterans—the Ronde Barbers, Mike Alstotts and Derrick Brookses of the league. And that is, there is simply no substitute for through-the-fire playoff experience.
Look at the first game of the weekend for any and all proof. The Raiders were the more talented team, even without Derek Carr and the Black Hole advantage. Pit them against a team making its fourth postseason appearance in six years and it's a different story, though. Especially when you consider the Raiders' last postseason run took place the same year the Texans were created (2002).
Same goes for the Steelers, Seahawks and Packers. Each roster boasted more players who knew what it takes to win this time of year. Their counterparts didn't and won't be featured in my next round of postseason power rankings because of it.
8. Houston Texans
Current record: 10-7
Meet Brock Osweiler, game manager.
It’s a good title for Houston’s on-again, off-again QB1 to own. When he hits his open receivers across the middle at a respectable rate and avoids the ridiculous turnover, his offense looks dangerous. It looks even scarier when No. 17 heats up and drops balls into DeAndre Hopkins’ breadbasket. Talent was never the concern with Brock, just consistency.
The same cannot be said for his defensive teammates, who are both talented and dangerously consistent. Jadeveon Clowney led a mad defensive march that made Oakland’s once-explosive offense look like amateur hour. And where was the Raiders’ dangerous receiving duo? A.J. Bouye and the Texans’ back seven took care of them.
Looking forward: This isn’t the same Texans team that got whipped in New England in Week 3. It's a team committed to volume in the running game (Lamar Miller had 31 carries Saturday) and a better run-defending team. But New England is New England.
7. Seattle Seahawks
Current record: 11-5-1
The playoffs are just a line of one-game scenarios, strung together by increasing pressure.
So no team is scarier this time of year than Seattle, the club that was a few points shy of attempting back-to-back-to-back title shots. Its experience is plain to see.
Detroit is partially to blame for waking up the monster in the Pacific Northwest. Lions receivers dropped enough passes to make Richard Sherman and Co.’s swagger double in size (that seems to happen a lot with Kam Chancellor closing in, doesn’t it?). And an early fourth-down decision gone wrong played right into Seattle’s hands.
Russell Wilson deserves a game ball, though. He might not’ve been 100 percent healthy, as he suggested to the News Tribune's Gregg Bell. But the Seahawks quarterback made his opponent respect the read-option keeper just enough to spring Thomas Rawls (161 yards, touchdown).
Marshawn Lynch ain't coming through that Seahawks locker room door. But if Rawls and Wilson can piece together that level of production on the ground, Seattle will be one tough playoff out.
Looking forward: You know how the Lions acted in all that CenturyLink Field noise? Seattle’s about to enter that same scenario in the divisional round. And bad offensive lines rarely travel well—especially against a defense as fast as Atlanta’s.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
Current record: 12-5
Pittsburgh finally had its triplets on the field for a playoff game.
And you saw what they could do. Big Ben was efficient enough, Antonio Brown caught two early touchdown passes, and Le’Veon Bell was…I can’t even describe it. How do you find words for a running back who has the foresight to stop completely, start back up again and dip through a newly formed opening? His two-touchdown, 167-yard day was so damn dominant.
Also, did you know Pittsburgh’s defense leads the NFL in sacks since Week 11? Miami found that out in a hurry. The ‘Phins didn’t have enough blocking answers for the waves of Steelers—Bud Dupree, James Harrison, Ryan Shazier, Javon Hargrave—coming into the backfield. Jay Ajayi (33 yards on 16 carries) was not permitted to post another career day on this unit.
Looking forward: We learned just how much regular-season meetings mean to this Steelers team. It should apply that lesson to its divisional-round opponent—a team Pittsburgh blew out by 29 points. Kansas City’s a different team and should be handled with extreme care, even by a team as good as coach Mike Tomlin’s.
5. Green Bay Packers
Current record: 11-6
You can only fend off the best quarterback in football history for so long.
Just ask the Giants, who confounded Aaron Rodgers for one-and-a-half quarters and then…allowed one of his Hail Mary throws. The man is unstoppable, people.
The rest of Green Bay’s offense? Not so much. New York knocked Green Bay down a few slots by knocking out Jordy Nelson and hobbling Ty Montgomery. And even when those two weapons were a healthy part of the Packers’ attack, Rodgers still had to razzle-dazzle his way around defenders just to get a pass off.
Want some good news, cheeseheads? Clay Matthews (sack, forced fumble) is back to his old quarterback-hunting form. All Super Bowl-caliber teams have a presence at edge-rusher, and Matthews is that and then some.
Looking forward: It’ll be a keep-away battle in Jerry’s World. Green Bay needs to possess the football; Dallas is too talented and physical not to go up and down the field on the Packers. That could be tough if it all falls on No. 12’s shoulders again.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Current record: 11-5
Atlanta will return from a first-round bye to host Seattle this weekend.
Looking forward: Atlanta is no stranger to the Seahawks style of defense. After all, Falcons coach Dan Quinn helped craft it for both of Seattle’s recent Super Bowl trips. I expect Quinn to get with coordinator Kyle Shanahan again and scheme up ways to counter their divisional-round opponent. Finally, Julio Jones will be a healthy option in that attack.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Current record: 12-4
Kansas City will host Pittsburgh in a divisional-round game this weekend.
Looking forward: The quarterback Pittsburgh will see under center is totally different than the one it blew out in early October. Alex Smith is no longer Captain Checkdown; he has a host of dynamic receiving options that’ll present far more problems for the Steelers than Miami ever did. Can K.C. stop Le’Veon Bell enough times to get Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce their touches?
2. Dallas Cowboys
Current record: 13-3
After a first-round bye, Dallas will host Green Bay in a classic NFC playoff pairing.
Looking forward: How ‘bout them Cowboys? Them Cowboys are a tough draw for the Packers—particularly for a defense like Green Bay’s that’s prone to big pass plays. When Dez Bryant is a downfield problem for defenses, it makes Ezekiel Elliott that much more of a problem. And when those two are a problem, the Cowboys usually win.
1. New England Patriots
Current record: 13-3
New England will battle against Houston in the divisional round this weekend. It was on a first-round bye.
Looking forward: New England is about to be tested by the best defense it's seen all season. Houston can match whatever Josh McDaniels tries to do—run LeGarrette Blount and the Patriots will see Jadeveon Clowney, throw the ball and they’ll see the Texans’ strong cornerback stable. But here’s the thing: This Patriots defense isn’t far behind whatsoever. Bill Belichick will enter this game with a group that keeps points off the board and knows former coordinator Bill O’Brien’s next move. Heavy advantage: New England.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!