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Monday, January 21, 2019

10 most dangerous teams entering the NFL playoffs

Lamar Jackson

While there are still a handful of teams in contention for the final spots, we have a pretty good idea of who will be participating in the NFL playoffs. We also know who’s entering them hot and cold. Momentum can be overrated, but you’d rather be playing well and growing in confidence heading into the playoffs than the other way around.

So which teams are going to prove the most dangerous and who will be the toughest out? Here are ten teams that will be very dangerous in the postseason.

10. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys can be a very hit-or-miss team, but when they’re on, they’re as dangerous as any team in the NFL. Ezekiel Elliott is a leading talent at running back and they are a very sound defensive team that hold opponents to roughly 19 points per game. Much depends on the performance of Dak Prescott at quarterback, and they have a clear split between their home form and their road form. They’re going to get a home game first, though, and that’s not great news for their opponent.

9. Indianapolis Colts

To be clear, the Colts have to make it to the playoffs first, as they face the Tennessee Titans in what will essentially be a Sunday night play-in game. If they do win that game, they’ll be dangerous. Andrew Luck is an outstanding quarterback, and he’s protected by an offensive line that has rapidly improved. It’s all augmented by a defense that has evolved into one of the NFL’s better units this season. This is a potential six seed that nobody wants to face.

8. New England Patriots

There are definitely a lot of concerns about the Patriots as they enter the playoffs; the offense doesn’t look like itself and they appear to be as vulnerable as they have been in years. That said, anybody who tells you that they actually want to face off against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady on the road in the playoffs is lying to you. This is a team that generally finds a way to get it done in the playoffs even when they’re not quite where they want to be in terms of talent or production. This year will be a challenge for them, but the Patriots are still the Patriots.

7. Seattle Seahawks

The bad news for the Seahawks is that they won’t be getting a home game, which is where they’ve done their best work this season — just look at their victory over Kansas City and their thorough dismantling of the Minnesota Vikings. On the road, they lost to the Rams by five and the Bears by seven, and that was earlier in the season. Russell Wilson is a threat every time he has the ball. Their young defense has matured quickly this season and will play a big role in their playoff run. Home field will help whoever faces them, but nobody really wants to deal with this Seahawks team.

6. Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes looks capable of doing just about anything he wants on a football field, and that alone makes them a formidable foe in any playoff game. Their offense is very difficult to stop — just ask the Baltimore Ravens, as the Chiefs are essentially the only team to get the better of that defense down the stretch. The Chiefs’ problem is their 2-4 record against likely playoff teams. They’ve been defeated by the Patriots, Rams, Chargers, and Seahawks, mostly because the best teams can take advantage against their suspect defense. That’s their biggest hindrance.

5. Los Angeles Rams

The loss of Cooper Kupp seems to have had a major negative impact on the Rams’ offense, but Robert Woods is not to be discounted and they seem to be getting back on track. The Rams have a high-powered offense and have seen off the likes of the Chargers and Chiefs while beating the Seahawks twice, including on the road. They’ve proven they can win home and away. It will just be a matter of whether their defense can hold up against elite opposition, but with Aaron Donald lining up opposite the opposing quarterback, they always have a chance.

4. Los Angeles Chargers

Before their loss to Baltimore, the Chargers looked like the class of the AFC. They’re still very much a factor, with MVP candidate Philip Rivers leading the charge on offense and a defense that has steadily improved throughout the season. Their win on the road against the Chiefs is good evidence of what they can actually do. Notably, they won’t be bothered by their lack of home field advantage: they’ve lost just once on the road, and seem to be more comfortable there than they are at home.

3. Chicago Bears

The Bears have what is likely the best defense in the NFC, led by star Khalil Mack. If you need proof of it, just look at what they did at home to the Los Angeles Rams. The offense has been good enough, ranking in the top ten for points scored. That’s plenty when you’ve given up fewer than 20 points in four of the last five games. With an 8-1 record in their last nine games, no team will enter the postseason hotter than Chicago.

2. New Orleans Saints

Perhaps the most well-rounded team in football, the Saints boast a dynamic offense and a defense that can hold its own against even the toughest of rivals. Drew Brees may well be the league MVP, and despite a brief swoon offensively in recent weeks, a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers had them looking back to normal, albeit with a bit of good fortune. The Saints would have played in the NFC Championship last year if not for a crushing defensive breakdown in Minnesota. They may well take that next step this season.

1. Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are 5-1 in their last six, and it’s not just that they’re winning, it’s whom they’re beating. They gave the Kansas City Chiefs all they could handle on the road, losing by just three, and they completely shut down one of the league’s scarier offenses in the Los Angeles Chargers, holding them to a miserable ten points. This is all about the defense, but quarterback Lamar Jackson is clearly coming into his own, a dual-threat quarterback that defenses are struggling with. Nobody wants to play the Ravens right now, and they have the potential to really upend the AFC.



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