It’s that time of year again football fans. The best weekend in football has graced us with its presence: the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. And this year, there are eight stellar teams remaining with enticing matchups across the board. Here’s how the bottom four rank going into the weekend and the strengths and weaknesses that can push them to the big stage or send them packing. Check out the follow-up article 2021 Divisional Playoffs Ranks: Top Four Teams for analysis on the remaining divisional playoff teams.
Bottom Four Teams – 2021 Divisional Playoffs Rankings
8. Cleveland Browns
Not much of a surprise here considering their upcoming matchup versus the defending Super Bowl champs. Although the Cleveland Browns deserve all the credit in the world after the amazing feat they accomplished this past Sunday night, it’s tough to put them in the same light as some of the other juggernauts left in the AFC. That being said, Cleveland showed up to play after an 18 year playoff drought leaving Pittsburgh Steelers fans speechless as their season came to an end. And how did the Browns do it? With smart defense early on, and sticking to their true form as they have all season: pounding the ball on the ground with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, along with outstanding offensive line play.
The Browns, being an enormous underdog overall in the playoffs, come in at number eight on the list as they will be forced to move away from their dominant rushing attack to attempt to keep up with the high-flying remaining offenses in the AFC. And with a middle of the road defense (17th overall), who looked very vulnerable in the second half of their bout with the Steelers, it’s tough to see them moving past Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend in the divisional playoffs.
Nick Chubb: Kareem Hunt has been talking all year like Chiefs matchup would happen https://t.co/Wu7FI7mulK
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 13, 2021
7. Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams are another nice story from Super Wild Card weekend. After losing their novice quarterback early on in the game, emergency quarterback Jared Goff took over the reigns and did what it took to lead his team to a victory, just 12 days removed from undergoing thumb surgery on his throwing hand. But the true story behind this win (as it has been all year) was the league’s number one-ranked defense having another magnificent outing, registering five sacks and an interception return for a touchdown against Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. Rookie running back Cam Akers also continued to impress giving their offense an added spark in their playoff victory.
Ranked at number seven though, the Rams inconsistencies at the quarterback position is an issue; quite frankly, whether Goff has been healthy or not. While they are a good enough team to put up a fight against any of the veteran quarterbacks left in the NFC race (Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady), they’ll have to get past at least two of them (and on the road no less) to secure a spot in the title game. And this weekend, they’ll have to leave the comforts of their indoor stadium in sunny California to play against Rodgers and the league’s top-ranked scoring Green Bay Packers offense at frigid Lambeau Field.
The Rams have 196 yards.
Cam Akers has 122 😤
— Overtime (@overtime) January 9, 2021
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Everyone has been talking about the narrative surrounding Tom Brady and all of his explosive offensive weapons since he took his services down to Florida this offseason; as they should be. After leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their first playoff victory since winning the Super Bowl back in 2003, Brady continuously produced this season, finishing at third in the league in passing yards and tied for second in total passing touchdowns. Also, with Antonio Brown truly stepping into form as a top receiver in an already stacked pass-catching group, their offense has looked spectacular as of late.
On the other side of the ball, Tampa Bay finished the season with the number one-ranked rushing defense in the league, but just a mere 21st against the pass; and this has been an issue. After allowing Taylor Heinicke to throw for over 300 yards in just his second start of his career last week, they face a much more seasoned veteran in Drew Brees this weekend. Along with that, they have the potential to face the favorite-for-MVP Aaron Rodgers the week after, should both the Buccaneers and Packers advance in the playoffs. Tampa Bay is ranked at number six because of their lack of defensive presence against the quarterback competition that remains.
Tom Brady Vs Drew Brees is the battle of oldest living humans.. as narrated by Morgan Freeman Impersonator pic.twitter.com/9T2dzMDmiS
— Main Team (@MainTeamSports) January 13, 2021
5. Buffalo Bills
A few weeks ago many had the Buffalo Bills dethroning Kansas City as the AFC representative in the Super Bowl; and for good reason. After winning eight of their last nine games (their only loss coming via the now-infamous ‘Hail Murray’ in Week 10), Josh Allen has been leading the Bills to an unforgettable season helping them clinch their first home playoff game since 1995. With the chemistry he has found with Stefon Diggs and his massive improvement with his accuracy overall, Allen has carried the Bills atop the AFC East and to a convincing victory over the Indianapolis Colts last weekend.
So why are they ranked at the fifth spot? Two reasons: running the ball and stopping the run. Both aspects are going to hurt them as the playoffs begin winding down. Their running back play is non-existent, but what Allen can do with his legs is special and very effective, so Buffalo tends to cover up that positional weakness for the most part. But one thing that has been exposed as of late is their inability to stop the run. Last week the Colts were able to put up 163 yards against the Bills in a game that still saw Philip Rivers throw 46 passes. With their upcoming matchup with the Baltimore Ravens in what looks to be some rough weather (although Lamar Jackson isn’t excited about it), Buffalo will have to overcome their biggest weakness against the Ravens league-dominating rushing attack.
Josh Allen in the red zone = 💰 pic.twitter.com/PvcWX0Ch1X
— PFF (@PFF) January 13, 2021
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