NFL Playoff Power Rankings: Key to success for every team

Follow The Money's Mitch Moss and Pauly Howard take an early look at the opening moneylines for the NFL Divisional Playoffs Round, where the Chiefs open up 10-point favourites vs. the Browns, and the sharp money will be all over the Ravens vs. Bills.

The 2020 regular season has 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. With the divisional round upon us, we’re checking in on the key to success for each team.

This week, the panel includes editors Geoff Lowe and Craig Battle, and staff writers Mike Johnston and Emily Sadler.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

Last week: 1
Key to success: A better start than the Steelers had

The Chiefs have the offensive talent to punish the Browns’ so-so defensive secondary this coming weekend and build a lead at home. But Cleveland took an early lead Sunday through capitalizing on Pittsburgh miscues, and showed they could maintain it — unlike Kansas City’s AFC opponents in last year’s playoffs. Coming out on fire will be paramount for the Chiefs. (CB)

2. Green Bay Packers

Last week: 2
Key to success: Protect Rodgers at all costs

The Rams put on a defensive showcase against Seattle, sacking Russell Wilson a whopping five times. Aside from just straight up hoping Aaron Donald won't be in the lineup (see Rams write-up below), the Packers will need to see their elite offensive line at its best (like it has been all season) to give Aaron Rodgers time to work his MVP magic. (ES)

3. Buffalo Bills

Last week: 3
Key to success: More MVP-like play from Josh Allen

We could point to improvements on defence or a more balanced rushing attack as areas of potential growth that could help the Bills find playoff success as the rounds progress, but who are we kidding? As long as Josh Allen is carrying the offence through the air and on the ground like he did against the Colts, these Bills will have a chance to beat any of the other remaining playoff teams. (GL)

4. New Orleans Saints

Last week: 4
Key to success: Play bend-don’t-break defence

Tom Brady threw 12 interceptions in the regular season, and five were in his two games against the Saints. Based on historical evidence, there’s a strong probability Brady will be more dialled in against the Saints in the playoffs than he was in 34-23 and 38-3 losses. As long as the D doesn’t let Brady take the top off them and are steadfast in the red zone, they’re built to give the Bucs headaches. (MJ)

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last week: 5
Key to success: Don’t fall behind in the second quarter

The Bucs were 0-2 against the Saints this season, and in both games they allowed 17 second-quarter points and trailed by double digits at halftime. That’s not a path to success in the playoffs on the road in the Superdome. (MJ)

6. Baltimore Ravens

Last week: 8
Key to success: Let Lamar loose

Without the weight of the “Can he win in the post-season?” monkey on his back, Lamar Jackson might just be the most dangerous weapon in these playoffs. He was at his best cheat-code self against the Titans, and should he find himself in a pinch in the red zone, he’s better off just taking it in himself against a Bills squad that allowed the sixth-most run TDs this season. (ES)

7. Cleveland Browns

Last week: 11
Key to success: Angry runs!

This is a team that runs on spite — echoes of Juju Smith-Schuster’s "Browns is the Browns" can still be heard at Heinz Field this morning, and Baker Mayfield’s playoff-clinching run one week earlier was called “Maserati” in response to an old dig at the QB by Colin Cowherd. But it also runs on the power of, yes, the run game. Between Kareem Hunt’s punishing first-half touchdown runs and Nick Chubb’s late-game power — he gets stronger as the game goes on — the Browns must lean on this dynamic duo if they’re to grind down the Chiefs (and the play clock) in Kansas City. (ES)

8. Los Angeles Rams

Last week: 12
Key to success: A healthy enough Aaron Donald

The Rams’ defence was absolutely dominant against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks on the road in the wild-card round, but team leader Donald tore rib cartilage during the game. He’s expected to play this week, and his team will need him to achieve a similar level against likely NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the sizzling Packers offence. (CB)

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