The 2021 NFL playoffs are finally here. With the Raiders edging the Chargers in an overtime thriller to close Week 18, the entire 14-team postseason picture is officially complete. Now, it’s off to the races, with a Lombardi Trophy at the finish line.
But how do the playoff teams stack up? The postseason is as good a time as any for improbable upsets, and underdogs are never to be counted out. (Just ask the Colts about the Jaguars.) But in celebration of the postseason’s arrival, here’s how we’d judge the 14 finalists according to championship prospects:
Wild Card opponent: Chiefs
This is right where they wanna be: overlooked. And they deserve credit for fighting — and winning — ugly. T.J. Watt and the defense will keep them swinging. But Ben Roethlisberger, for all his grit, just isn’t captaining a steady, let alone explosive, offense.
Wild Card opponent: Bengals
Give it to Derek Carr and Rich Bisaccia and the whole gang for never quitting. Their ugly but steady resiliency is reminiscent of the Steelers, except they can move the ball. The problem is, can they hold up on defense? And win another shootout or two?
Wild Card opponent: Buccaneers
Who knows how Jalen Hurts will fare if asked to step up as a passer against an elite team? But he’s shown real improvement down the stretch, and Nick Sirianni has deployed him wisely as the cog of their ground game. If the “D” can make plays, they’ll be feisty.
Wild Card opponent: Rams
Their talent — and the way they started 2021 — suggests they belong a lot higher. But Kyler Murray has had some clunkers, and Kliff Kingsbury’s track record is chock-full of late-year crumbles. They’re 1-4 with an erratic approach over their last five.
Wild Card opponent: Cowboys
They have a ceiling with Jimmy Garoppolo, but the veteran QB…