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Can anyone stop the Patriots? Ranking all 12 teams heading into the NFL playoffs

New England are looking to lift back-to-back Vince Lombardi trophies.

Image: UPI/PA Images

20 TEAMS ARE already planning for next season but the NFL playoffs begin this weekend with the final dozen franchises trying to plot a way to the Vince Lombardi trophy.

Before we go on, it’s worth noting that form coming into the postseason doesn’t really have an impact on the result of your first playoff game.

For example, teams losing their final two regular season games still have a 44% win rate in their postseason opener, but that compares favourably to teams who come in with two victories in their last two games; those sides secure a win approximately 47% of the time, so not a huge difference.

Teams who finish 1-1 actually have the best record, emerging victorious 53% of the time.

But how will our final 12 teams do? Here’s where we rank them going into Wildcard weekend.

***The Outsiders***

12. Buffalo Bills

Source: Steven Senne/PA Images

Record: 9-7
Seed: 6th in the AFC
Why this position: Two reasons. This was a roster designed for achieving the best possible draft pick, not making the playoffs and their best chance against the Jags — the run game — could be seriously hampered by an ankle injury to LeSean McCoy.

11. Tennessee Titans

Source: TNS/ABACA/PA Images

Record: 9-7
Seed: 5th in the AFC
Why this position: The Titans zone defence will give Alex Smith and the Chiefs trouble, but they won’t score enough to get past Wildcard weekend.

10. Philadelphia Eagles

Source: UPI/PA Images

Record: 13-3
Seed: 1st in the NFC
Why this position: Since Nick Foles took over from Carson Wentz, the Eagles offence has averaged 15.6 points per game and just 6.5 ppg over the final two weeks of the season.

***With A Bit of Luck***

9. Carolina Panthers

Source: David T. Foster Iii/PA Images

Record: 11-5
Seed: 5th in the NFC
Why this position: They haven’t just lost twice to the Saints this season, they’ve been blown out on both occasions, losing by a combined 31 points. It’s tough to see them getting past this weekend.

8. Atlanta Falcons

Source: Curtis Compton/PA Images

Record: 10-6
Seed: 6th in the NFC
Why this position: Last year’s high-flying offence is no more and it’s just tough to see how they live with a Rams team better on both sides of the football.

7. Kansas City Chiefs

Source: David Eulitt/PA Images

Record: 10-6
Seed: 4th in the AFC
Why this position: Just to reach the Super Bowl the Chiefs will likely have to beat the Patriots and the Steelers on the road, that’s a really tough ask.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars

Source: UPI/PA Images

Record: 10-6
Seed: 3rd in the AFC
Why this position: Jacksonville has a defence that could win a Super Bowl. They also have a quarterback that could lose to the Bills this weekend.

5. New Orleans Saints

Source: UPI/PA Images

Record: 11-5
Seed: 4th in the NFC
Why this position: The Saints are a very good football team and much more balanced than anyone would have expected. Their problem is the strength of the NFC.

***Teams To Beat***

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

Source: UPI/PA Images

Record: 13-3
Seed: 2nd in the AFC
Why this position: The Steelers killer Bs — Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown (if fit) — will have had plenty of rest by the time they make their postseason bow. Will that rest result in rust though?

3. LA Rams

Source: Paul Moseley/PA Images

Record: 11-5
Seed: 3rd in the NFC
Why this position: From the worst offence in the NFL to the best in the space of a season, the Rams have had a fairy-tale season. I just don’t see it having a happy ending, however.

2. New England Patriots

Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Record: 13-3
Seed: 1st in the AFC
Why this position: The Patriots won four of their five games in December, but they looked far from their fluid best in doing so. Still, nobody knows how to navigate the postseason like Brady and Belichick.

1. Minnesota Vikings

Source: Jerry Holt/PA Images

Record: 13-3
Seed: 2nd in the NFC
Why this position: The Vikings were 7-1 during the regular season at home and, given the Eagles offensive struggles, there’s a very real chance they could not only become the first team to play a home Super Bowl, but win it.

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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