Dan Favale | Tue 09/01/2018 - 13:27 EST

NFL Playoff Power Rankings: Which Survivor is Most Likely to Win the Super Bowl?

NFL Playoff Power Rankings: Which Survivor is Most Likely to Win the Super Bowl?
Super Bowl betting is nearing fever pitch now that the NFL has only eight teams remaining in the championship hunt. And if you're looking where to direct your money, be it on the favorite or dark-horse front, we've got you covered with this comprehensive power ranking of every surviving squad. Though regular-season success matters, this is strictly a Super Bowl exercise: Teams are presented in order of how likely the are to emerge as this year's champion.

Super Bowl odds come via TopBet and are accurate as of Tuesday, Jan. 9. Be sure to quadruple-check these lines before deciding on your wager, as they will shape-shift in the coming days—most notably, and most starkly, after the Divisional Playoff matchups unfold this weekend.

8. Tennessee Titans (+6000)


Those who have been paying attention won't be the least bit surprised by the Tennessee Titans' placement. The real surprise is that they're here, alive entering Divisional Weekend, at all.

If not for Marcus Mariota recovering a deflected pass that he threw and turning it into a touchdown, the Titans would be goners. In essence, they should be goners. They have no on-field identity. They don't rank in the top half of the league in either points allowed or points scored per game. The only standout aspect of their performance to date is a solid run-prevention. 

That won't matter much, if at all, against the New England Patriots, who figure to dismantle the Titans through the air. Their +6600 return will give way to super-hopeful long-shot bettors, but the idea that anyone should waste their money on a team that epitomizes mediocrity and must get through the Patriots in Foxborough is absolutely laughable.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (+1500)


The Philadelphia Eagles would be much higher, perhaps around No. 2, if quarterback Carson Wentz was healthy. But he's not. They will instead roll with his backup, an over-the-hill Nick Foles, which is beyond problematic for obvious reasons.

Sure, the Eagles' defense might be able to carry them for a bit. They ranked fourth in points allowed per game and will match up with an Atlanta Falcons offense that has been disappointing to say the least. 

But that can only get them so far in a playoff setting. Even if the defense plays to perfection, they'll need to win the possession-time battle. And that's difficult to do when Atlanta can plan for the run without worrying about the consequence of rolling out safe coverages against the pass.

Consider this: In their final two regular-season games, the Eagles totaled 19 points. Yes, that's combined. And now they square off with a Falcons defense that's been the team's bread and butter all year. It would be irresponsible to view the Eagles as anything more than the No. 7 survivor—especially when their odds don't accurately reflect the gravity of their quarterback situation.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars (+1800)


Maybe the Jacksonville Jaguars would rate more favorably if quarterback Blake Bortles was a sure thing. But he's the furthest thing from it.

Despite finishing the regular season on something of a hot stretch, through which he elevated the profile of the league's fifth-best offense, Bortles turned in a dud over Wild Card Weekend. He completed just 12 of his 23 passes for one touchdown while racking up more yards on the ground (88) than through the air (87).

Jacksonville's defense needs to be taken seriously—as does its rushing game. And the Pittsburgh Steelers have flashed cracks in their own rushing attack of late. But Bortles is too much of a question mark to place anything more than long-long-long-shot faith in the Jaguars from this point forward. 

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (+450)


This requires an explanation. Sportsbooks would have you believe the Steelers should land higher—probably no lower than third. That's what their odds imply anyway.

Except, we have to view this ranking through the scope of the Steelers' path to the Super Bowl itself. Reaching the game is more than half the battle. And where teams in the NFC are operating on more even-keeled ground, the Steelers, like every other remaining contender in the AFC, must go through the Patriots...on the road.

Knowing this, and after factoring in the questionable health bill of star wideout Antonio Brown, the Steelers don't actually rank as an alluring Super Bowl dice roll. They're the second-most appealing squad in the AFC, to be sure, but that doesn't mean much in the context of a Patriots-centric competitive landscape. 

4. Atlanta Falcons (+650)


This also requires an explanation. These are not last season's Falcons. They do not wield an historic offense. They're a piddling 15th in points scored per game and 20th in total passing touchdowns, having suddenly devolved into a squad that leans almost exclusively on its ground game when in the red zone.

Matt Ryan has been a seesaw at best behind center, even as he pilots an offense that still ranks third in net yards per passing attempt. Given his struggles, the Falcons don't profile as your typical top-four squad—not even in a field of eight.

Once again, though, we must consider the path to the Super Bowl. The Falcons get to face off versus the Carson Wentz-less Eagles during Divisional Weekend, exponentially increasing their chances of reaching the Conference Championship game.

Predict a win this week, and they're already one victory away from a Super Bowl appearance. No other team in the NFC can say that. Heck, the Patriots are the only other contingent, bar none, who can ostensibly claim the same.

3. Minnesota Vikings (+350)


Though the Minnesota Vikings almost fell behind the Falcons, the third-place verdict ultimately goes to them. Their top-ranked defense is that good.

Is it good enough to slow down the New Orleans Saints? That much is certainly questionable. But the Vikings have the tools on the ground and via Case Keenum's economical passing game to control the clock. Should they force the Saints into one or two empty-handed sets early on, they'll hold the fate of the contest in their hands. 

And from there, beyond New Orleans, there isn't a real threat to their Super Bowl path. The Eagles aren't getting past the Falcons and won't beat the Vikings even if they do. The Falcons' offense, meanwhile, would be swallowed whole in a potential matchup.

There is value in getting the toughest obstacle out of the way early on. And while the Saints are the more balanced squad, Minnesota is, perhaps, one dominant quarter or half away from establishing itself as the NFC favorite.

2. New Orleans Saints (+600)


Oddsmakers already view the Vikings as the NFC's statistical favorite, and it's not hard to see why. Again: Their defense is that good.

But the Saints' offense is also that darn good. They are fourth in points scored per game and capable of coming at defenses of all kinds from all different angles: on the ground or in the air, through big plays and small-time gains.

Equally imperative: The Saints pair their dynamic offense with a top-10 defense. That matters. Balance is incumbent of almost every Super Bowl champion of the modern era. The Saints sport more of it than any remaining squad in the NFC—and, arguably, more than any surviving playoff team, period.

1. New England Patriots (+190)


That the Patriots are still laying a +190 is almost a surprise. You'd think they would be closer to +100 or maybe even a -100 by now. This line says a lot about oddsmakers' faith in the Steelers—and perhaps more about their lack of faith in a fifth-ranked Patriots defense that has never really been tested.

Indeed, based off Pro-Football-Reference's Simple Rating System (SRS), which ranks teams according to point differential and strength of schedule, the Patriots grade out as the fifth-best squad in the league overall. While impressive, this mark does cede status to both the Saints and Vikings (not to mention the Eagles, prior to Wentz's injury).

Still, we know better than to predict an upset. The Patriots have the easiest path to the Super Bowl, even with a potential date against the Steelers in the AFC Championship on tap, and their championship pedigree on the offensive side of the ball is second to none. 

Ditto for sideline leadership. Love them or hate them, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick remain a match made in Super Bowl-winning heaven.

Results / FixturesNFL

*All statistics come courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference and are accurate leading into games being played during Divisional Playoff Weekend.

Category : Sports Betting News

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