The 2019 regular season was wrapped up, but Sportsnet’s NFL Power Rankings haven’t gone anywhere.
Ahead of every round of the playoffs, we’ll rank each of the remaining teams from best to worst and, like during the regular season, have a theme for each edition.
This week: Why each of the remaining four teams have a chance to lift the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 2 in Miami.
1) San Francisco 49ers
Why they can win Super Bowl LIV: They’re depth is unrivalled and they’re finally healthy.
San Francisco surprised a lot of people with their hot start to the season and an undefeated run through the first two months of the season, but perhaps the biggest surprise about these 49ers was just how deep a roster they boast.
And it’s a good thing John Lynch built the post-season’s deepest remaining roster, because their depth has been tested all season long by injuries.
San Francisco suffered injuries all over the defence, from star defensive linemen (Dee Ford) to linebackers (Kwon Alexander) to defensive backs (Jaquiski Tartt).
On offence, running backs Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida both missed games, All-Pro tight end George Kittle sat out a pair of contests, and at one point the team was without both of its starting offensive tackles.
But the Niners passed that injury test. Despite being bitten by the bug all season long, the 49ers lost just three games, clinched the top NFC seed and now host the conference championship as healthy as they’ve been all season.
With one of the game’s best offensive play-callers in Kyle Shanahan, a “fast, aggressive, communicative” top-10 defence and both units at full strength, the 49ers have their best chance in seven years to bring the Lombardi back to The Bay.
2) Kansas City Chiefs
Why they can win Super Bowl LIV: They scored 51 points in 32 minutes.
The most striking part of the Chiefs’ dramatic divisional round rally from a disastrous first 15 minutes against the Texans was that the game never felt out of reach for Patrick Mahomes and the offence.
Even down 24-0 less than five minutes into the second quarter, the Chiefs offence had the type of swagger and urgency that Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens completely lacked the night before.
And we saw exactly why K.C. felt down but not out, as the Chiefs roared back to outscore Houston 51-10 over the final three quarters of the game.
Andy Reid and Mahomes lead the post-season’s most deadly offence, one that never looked completely in sync during the regular season after an injury to the star quarterback.
But now the offence is running at full steam, making the Chiefs the most dangerous team left in the tournament.
3) Tennessee Titans
Why they can win Super Bowl LIV: Derrick Henry and that vaunted run game.
It was a mid-season change at quarterback that turned around what was looking to be another disappointing season in Nashville. But while Ryan Tannehill has played well in a greatly reduced role in these playoffs so far, it’s undoubtedly been Derrick Henry who is the star of the post-season to this point.
King Henry is on his way to a historic playoff showing, having broken multiple records already in just a pair of games. But it’s not just No. 22 who deserves all the credit here (that’s never how it works in football), as Henry’s connection with Tennessee’s offensive line is as clear as day when you watch this Titans offence go to work.
It’s this type of groove that has and will continue to make the Titans so hard to stop in these playoffs. Not only does this offence wear down defences with the type of physical running the NFL was built on, a fitting tribute to the league’s 100th season, but it can keep the opposing offences on the sideline and limit opponents to fewer drives and fewer opportunities to score points.
It’s why the Titans’ bruising run game will be vital in K.C. on Sunday and could prove the difference, especially if Chiefs star defensive tackle Chris Jones is forced to miss another game.
4) Green Bay Packers
Why they can win Super Bowl LIV: Aaron Rodgers and The Smiths.
These aren’t your typical Aaron Rodgers-led Packers, it’s true, but as long as No. 12 is under centre for Green Bay, this team will have a chance.
Rodgers’ numbers in last week’s tight win over Seattle were far from mind-blowing, but the future Hall of Famer made big throws all game long, didn’t take any unnecessary risks and hit a couple of third-down dimes late in the game to seal the victory.
If Rodgers’ offensive line can keep him upright against the 49ers, something Green Bay has excelled at this season in general but struggled with in that Week 12 blowout, he’ll be able to keep the Packers in it on Sunday… and beyond.
And speaking of keeping quarterbacks upright, Green Bay’s two biggest off-season additions, Za’Darius and Preston Smith (no relation), will unquestionably make that a challenge for San Francisco’s offensive line in the NFC title game.
The Smiths combined for 25.5 sacks in the regular season, four more against the Seahawks last weekend, and are the type of havoc-wreaking pass-rushing duo that makes an OK defence championship-calibre.