Arguably the best regular season in recent memory is in the books and we have our playoff bracket set. Philly edged their way in behind another Nick Foles miracle run, the Chiefs and Patriots look poised for a title fight for the ages in the AFC, and upstarts like Chicago, Houston, and Indianapolis all look to spoil the party. But even for those that got knocked at early, at least you can say you were all #1 at something.
Thank you all for reading in 2018. Whether it was for one week or the whole season, from the bottom of our hearts thank you for making 2018 our best year yet.
1. (–) New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Week 17: L 33-14 vs. Panthers. The Saints rested pretty much every starter in their final game, since home field had already been wrapped up. New Orleans was #1 in plenty of things, including Drew Brees breaking his own record for completion percentage, but the most important mark they set was the best record in football. A Super Bowl run awaits.
2. (–) Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
Week 17: W 48-32 vs. 49ers. The Rams locked up the #2 seed and a first round bye with a win over San Francisco. Todd Gurley was held out for the second straight week, but backup running back C.J. Anderson once again was a dominant force. LA has one of the most potent running back combos in the league, and their 13-3 record is do to both that and their league-best 8-0 start. Now the plan is turning 8-0 in the opening months into 3-0 in the final month.
3. (+1) Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
Week 17: W 35-3 vs. Raiders. Patrick Mahomes set several records those season for the Chiefs, but none was more impressive than his overall statline. 5100 yards, 50 touchdowns, the #1 seed in the AFC, and, as to the point of this list, #1 offense in both points and yards in the NFL. Maybe Kansas City can finally win a playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium this year.
4. (-1) Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) Week 17:W23-9 @Broncos.
The Chargers have exploded onto the scene this year with arguably the league’s best roster. Phillip Rivers enjoyed one of the best seasons of his long career, and veteran tight end Antonio Gates will be able to end his career with a Super Bowl run. This team built around a deep core of all-pro players, as shown by a league-leading 7 pro-bowlers, which is also the most by a Chargers team since 2007. The returns of Melvin Gordon and Hunter Henry will provide an additional boost for the best wildcard team in recent memory.
5. (–) Chicago Bears (12-4)
Week 17: W 24-10 @Vikings. Chicago fell just short of a first-round bye despite their win over division rival Minnesota, and just like all season it was thanks to one of the best defenses in football. Pick whatever defensive stat you want, and it’s most likely led by the Bears. One of the more important stats for an NFC playoff run is rushing defense, which Chicago is #1 in. Pair that with allowing the league’s fewest rushing touchdowns and the #1 scoring defense in the NFL and all of a sudden Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara don’t look as scary. What is scary for the Bears? A wildcard matchup with Nick Foles. That should scare anyone.
6. (–) New England Patriots (11-5) Week 17: W 38-3 vs. Jets. In what is meant to be a down year for the Patriots, New England still earned their NINTH straight first-round bye, Tom Brady still threw for 4355 yards and 29 touchdowns, and the Pats are once again a top bet to go to the Super Bowl. The Patriots boast the only 8-0 home record in the NFL, meaning that a Kansas City upset in the divisional round all but writes the Patriots’ tickets to their 4th Super Bowl appearance in 5 years.
7. (+1) Houston Texans (11-5)
Week 17: W 20-3 vs. Jaguars. Houston suffered through an 0-3 start before going on a season-high 9-game winning streak. They ended the season with a 2-2 split, so they aren’t the most obvious pick for a Super Bowl run, but the Texans still allowing the fewest yards per rush in the league. Teams like New England will have a tough time establishing the run against a strong Texans defense, and Deshaun Watson is primed for a big step up at any moment.
8. (+1) Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
Week 17: W 33-17 @Titans. The Colts came out on top in Sunday night’s winner-take-all duel with the Titans. Now winners of 9 of their last 10, Indy gets round 3 with their rivals in Houston, and they might be the upset pick of wildcard weekend. The Colts offensive line is one of the best in all of football, shown by only allowing 18 sacks this season, the fewest in the NFL. Andrew Luck needs to get his linemen some very nice late-Christmas presents when the season is over. They gave his new shoulder more protection than my local bank.
9. (-2) Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
Week 17: W 27-24 vs. Cardinals. A lot of confidence people had in the Seahawks went out the window in the final week, as they needed a last-second field goal to beat the 3-13 Arizona Cardinals. Still, Seattle could be a dark horse Super Bowl pick thanks to the experience of QB Russell Wilson and the #1 rushing attack in the NFL. In the playoffs, having a good quarterback and defense is all you need to go far. A deadly rushing game on top of everything else is a huge cherry on top, and Dallas will need to have a great gameplan to slow down these Seahawks.
10. (–) Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
Week 17: W 26-24 vs. Browns. Lamar Jackson has transformed this offense into the most unstoppable rushing offense in the league. 6-1 as a rookie and without an interception in December, Jackson will be the youngest quarterback to start in a playoff game. He’ll have plenty of help, including a defense that leads the league in completion percentage allowed and yards allowed. A rematch against the Chargers in the wildcard round is step 1 in what will prove to be a brutal AFC playoff run.
11. (+1) Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
Week 17: W 36-35 @Giants. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot have led the Cowboys to their second division title in three years, and now they have a chance to earn their first playoff win against a strong Seahawks team hungry to rekindle their dynasty. Dallas boasts the NFL’s leading rusher, a resurgent Amari Cooper, and one of the best long-ball kickers in the league. In fact, Dallas has made the most 50+ yard field goals in the NFL, something that they know can swing playoff games on a dime. Still not sure how Mason Crosby made those kicks.
12. (+1) Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
Week 17: W 24-0 @Redskins. Nick Foles is back and ready for more. Unbelievably, the backup is 9-2 in his last 11 starts for the Eagles, and it almost seems like fate that it would be Foles to bring Philly back from the brink yet again and lead the underdogs to glory. The Eagles are a fairly middle of the road team in terms of overall stats, since the first half of the season was, let’s say “uninspired,” but they easily have the best storyline going into the playoffs.
13. (-2) Pittsburg Steelers (9-6-1) Week 17: W 16-13 vs. Bengals.
Honestly, the more I think about the Steelers this season, the more angry I get at the waste of talent and potential, and I root for a rival. The Steelers had a Hall of Fame Quarterback who threw the best season of his career, two of the top 5 receivers in the NFL (yeah, I said it), a great running back to replace Le’Veon Bell and a solid backup to boot, a Pro Bowl kicker the year before, and a solid defense. The Steelers also led the league in sacks while Big Ben led the league in passing yards. Mike Tomlin will be lucky to keep his job after coaching arguably the best ever roster to not make the playoffs.
14. (–) Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1)
Week 17: L 24-10 vs. Bears. The Vikings couldn’t get the job done and are out of the playoffs. Like the other 5 highest-paid quarterbacks, Kirk Cousins wasn’t able to lead his team to the postseason, despite having a dominant defense in many key statistics. Key to any great team is 3rd Down defense, which Minnesota was #1 in this season. What really doomed the Vikings playoff chances? Cousins is now 4-25 against teams that finish the season with a winning record. $84 Million well spent.
15. (–) Tennessee Titans (9-7)
Week 17: L 33-17 vs. Colts. Tennessee was the final team to be eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, marking an end to a rollercoaster season that was always hard to predict. The Titans, much like the Dolphins, were able to beat the Patriots but they were never able to consistently beat other good teams. 5 of the Titans’ 7 losses were against playoff teams, so a different schedule most likely would have meant a Tennessee playoff game. A big part of their winning record was due to them giving up the fewest penalties in the league. The Titans made sure teams earned every first down they got, and it made Tennessee very tough to beat with luck alone.
16. (–) Cleveland Browns (7-8-1)
Week 17: L 26-24 @Ravens.
#1 in Forced Fumbles
17. (–) Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
Week 17: W 34-32 @Buccaneers.
#1 in Receiving Yards (Julio Jones)
18. (+2) Carolina Panthers (7-9)
Week 17: W 33-14 @Saints.
#1 in Yards per Rush
19. (–) New York Giants (5-11)
Week 17: L 36-35 vs. Cowboys.
#1 in Yards (Saquon Barkley)
20. (-2) Green Bay Packers (6-9-1)
Week 17: L 31-0 vs. Lions.
#1 in Fewest Interceptions
21. (–) Denver Broncos (6-10)
Week 17: L 23-9 vs. Chargers.
#1 in 4th Down Conversions
22. (+2) Detroit Lions (6-10)
Week 17: W 31-0 @Packers.
#1 in Opponents Field Goal %
23. (-1) Cincinnati Bengals (6-10)
Week 17: L 16-13 @Steelers.
#1 in Best Coach Firing
24. (+3) Buffalo Bills (6-10)
Week 17: W 42-17 vs. Dolphins.
#1 in Passing Defense
25. (-2) Washington Redskins (7-9) Week 17: L 24-0 vs. Eagles.
#1 (tied) in Fewest Lost Fumbles
26. (–) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) Week 17: L34-32 vs. Falcons.
#1 in Passing Yards
27. (-2) Miami Dolphins (7-9)
Week 17: L 42-17 @Bills.
#1 in Longest Kickoff Return
28. (–) Oakland Raiders (4-12)
Week 17: L 35-3 @Chiefs.
#1 in Most First Round Picks
29. (–) Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12) Week 17: L 20-3 @Texans.
#1 in 4th Down Defense
30. (+1) San Francisco 49ers (4-12) Week 17: L 48-32 @Rams.
#1 in Field Goal %
31. (-1) New York Jets (4-12)
Week 17: L 38-3 @Patriots.
#1 in Yards per Punt Return
32. (–) Arizona Cardinals (3-13)
Week 17: L 27-24 @Seahawks.
#1 Draft Pick
For Advertising and Sponsorship opportunities with The Game Changer Sports Network, please contact Jake at Jake.Jollymore@gmail.com.
Photo Credit: cover, USA Today Sports, Kansas City Chiefs, Associated Press, Seattle Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Tennessean,