Ideal Playoff Paths

Winning in the playoffs, especially in a season like this one where there is so much parity among the teams in the playoff field, may depend on who and where you play as much as how you play.  Below is my rankings of teams ranked in order of chance to win the Super Bowl, and I analyze the most ideal path of least resistance that has the greatest chance of happening for a team to win their conference Championship.

  1. Arizona Cardinals:
    • Divisional Round: vs. Washington
    • NFC Championship: vs. Seattle
  2. Cincinnati Bengals:
    • Wildcard: vs. Pittsburgh (in progress)
    • Divisional Round: at New England
    • AFC Championship: vs Kansas City
  3. Carolina Panthers
    • Divisional Round: vs. Washington
    • NFC Championship: vs. Minnesota
  4. Seattle Seahawks
    • Wildcard: at Minnesota
    • Divisional Round: at Carolina
    • NFC Championship: at Washington
  5. New England Patriots
    • Divisional round: vs Kansas City
    • AFC Championship: vs Pittsburgh
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Wildcard: at Cincinnati (in progress)
    • Divisional Round: at Denver
    • AFC Championship: at Kansas City
  7. Denver Broncos
    • Division Round: vs. Kansas City
    • AFC Championship: vs Cincinnati
  8. Kansas City Chiefs
    • Divisional Round: at New England
    • AFC Championship: vs Pittsburgh
  9. Minnesota Vikings
    • Wildcard: vs Seattle
    • Divisional Round: at Arizona
    • NFC Championship: vs Washington
  10. Washington Redskins
    • Wildcard: vs Green Bay
    • Divisional Round: at Arizona
    • NFC Championship: vs Seattle
  11. Green Bay Packers
    • Wildcard: at Washington
    • Divisional Round: at Arizona
    • NFC Championship: vs Seattle
  12. Houston Texans  ELIMINATED by Kansas City

The ideal path may not be easy, as for some teams, there just isn’t the ideal path.  Washington and Green Bay, for instance, are going to have a difficult path no matter who they play since they are the weakest teams in the playoff field.  However, any path that ensures them a home game in subsequent rounds of the playoffs is “ideal.”  Arizona would probably prefer not to see the Seahawks again in the playoffs, however they would certainly prefer that home game in the NFC Championship than a trip to Charlotte to play the Panthers.

Kansas City, even with their win today, slips slightly in the rankings due to the loss of Jeremy Maclin.  That loss is going to make it difficult for the Chiefs to stretch the field offensively and will inhibit what they can do offensively.  This will make it more difficult for them to win at Denver or New England in the divisional round.

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