In many ways, the start of the NFL playoffs is similar to the first week of the regular season. There’s a feeling of newness in the air, along with the optimism from fan bases that this might be the year when something special takes place.
With that in mind, we decided to list one reason why each team in the 2024 postseason can win the Super Bowl. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers may be the front-runners in their respective conferences, but each team in the playoffs has something that makes them a legitimate threat (you can watch Super Bowl LVIII on CBS and stream on Paramount+).
Baltimore Ravens: No. 1 ranked defense
Once again, a team from Baltimore enters the playoffs with the NFL’s top-ranked scoring defense. This was the case back in 2000, and we all know how that wound up. With Lamar Jackson healthy and complementing them, Baltimore’s defense is certainly good enough to lead the Ravens back to the promised land. In recent weeks, the unit — led by linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike — held both the 49ers and Dolphins to 19 points.
Cleveland Browns: No. 1 ranked third-down defense
There’s a lot to like about the Browns, including the fact they have a former Super Bowl MVP at quarterback in Joe Flacco. But one of the team’s biggest strengths entering the postseason is their defense’s ability to get off the field on third down. Cleveland allowed opponents to convert on just 29.1 percent of their third-down situations.
Continuing to do that in the playoffs is going to be critical for a Browns defense that finished last in the NFL in red zone efficiency during the regular season.
Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud
Stroud’s sparkling rookie campaign was temporarily halted when he suffered a concussion that sidelined him for two weeks. Stroud returned in Week 17 and was just as good as he was prior to the injury. In leading the Texans to wins over the Titans and Colts, Stroud completed 75.9 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and no picks. Stroud will need to continue to play at that level in the postseason.
Miami Dolphins: Tyreek Hill
Hill came up short this season in his quest to be the NFL’s first 2,000-yard wideout. But he can more than make up for that by helping lead the Dolphins to their first Super Bowl since January of 1985. When healthy, Hill is the NFL’s most electric player. His skill set will be leaned on this weekend as the Dolphins face Hill’s former team in Kansas City.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes
Yes, the Chiefs’ second-ranked scoring defense is a huge reason why Kansas City is hosting a playoff game. But the Chiefs’ postseason success will ultimately fall on the shoulders of Mahomes, who is still the NFL’s best player. Like John Elway before him, Mahomes has the ability to elevate the play of those around him. That skill will be leaned upon this postseason.
It’s one thing to take a talented team to the Super Bowl. It’s an entirely other thing when you lead a team there that may not have had the talent to otherwise get there. That’s what Mahomes can accomplish this postseason.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Dynamic RB duo
Mason Rudolph’s play down the stretch was huge, but the running of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren has also played an integral role in Pittsburgh’s three-game winning streak. The Steelers may not have T.J. Watt this weekend, but they do have one of the NFL’s top RB duos, led by Harris, who ran for a combined 234 yards and three touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s last two regular-season games.
Harris has been complemented in the backfield all year by Warren, who in addition to averaging a team-high 5.3 yards per carry, caught 61 passes during the regular season. Both players will be critical to Pittsburgh’s success Sunday in Buffalo.
Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen
A golf fanatic, Allen shares a similar philosophy to links legend Arnold Palmer, whose aggressive approach on the course resulted in many wins, but also some heartbreaking losses. Allen’s bold approach in football has led to a lot of success, but he would be wise to adopt some of golf legend Jack Nicklaus’ calculated approach to competition. Taking risks is good, but Allen needs to lay up at times while playing the long game.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Jones
Obviously, Jordan Love will have to play well if the Packers are going to make a playoff run. But Love’s success is clearly connected to Jones, who had three straight 100-yard rushing performances to close out the regular season. It’s no coincidence that the Packers won each game and Love enjoyed considerable success over that span.
Dallas Cowboys: No. 1 ranked scoring offense
The Cowboys currently possess their best offense since The Triplets led Dallas to three titles in the ’90s. Dallas’ offense features the league’s top QB-WR duo in Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb. Like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice four decades ago, Dallas’ current duo can etch their place in history by parlaying their prolific partnership into a Super Bowl title. The unit will need help from Tony Pollard and a running game that was hot and cold during the regular season.
Los Angeles Rams: NFL’s top offensive trio
OK, the Bengals’ trio of Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins probably has something to say about this. But this year, it’s hard to argue that the Rams’ trio of Matthew Stafford, Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp was the NFL’s best, even with Kupp dealing with injuries.
The Rams’ current trio calls to mind the franchise’s former trio of Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. That trio led the Rams to a Super Bowl win. Can the current one follow suit?
Let’s also not forget Kyren Williams, who might give the Rams the NFL’s best offensive quartet. His success has made Stafford and the passing game ever harder to contain.
Detroit Lions: Depth at skill positions
No playoff team sans the 49ers can match the offensive depth that is in Detroit. The Lions have the NFL’s top RB duo in David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, who combined to run for 1,960 yards and 23 touchdowns during the regular season. The Lions also have one of the NFL’s best wideouts (and arguably this year’s biggest Pro Bowl snub) in wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown, who is flanked in the passing game by Pro Bowl tight end Sam LaPorta and fellow wideout Josh Reynolds.
At the center of all this talent is Jared Goff, who is hoping to knock off his former team this weekend.
Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Hurts
Honestly, it’s hard to find reason for optimism if you’re an Eagles fan. But Philly fans can take solace in the fact that they still have one of the game’s best quarterbacks in Hurts, who a year ago nearly led the franchise to its second Super Bowl win.
Given how bad their defense was down the stretch, it’ll be on Hurts and the Eagles’ offense to light up the scoreboard in the postseason. The Eagles’ offense is still capable of doing that, but they’re going to need Hurts and the rest of his offensive teammates to play at an incredibly high level. That won’t be easy, however, with Hurts dealing with a finger injury and wideout A.J. Brown working through a knee injury.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Double WR trouble
Tampa received big campaigns this season from Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Godwin went over 1,000 yards receiving for the third straight year, while Evans submitted arguably the greatest season of his career. He had his most receiving yards in a season (1,255) since 2018 and tied Hill with the league’s most touchdown receptions (13).
We’d be remiss not to mention the fact that the Buccaneers also possession the NFL’s third-ranked red zone defense, which will surely be a main contributor if Tampa goes on a run.
San Francisco 49ers: NFL’s best roster
It’s hard to argue that the 49ers don’t have the NFL’s best team from a talent standpoint entering the playoffs. San Francisco’s roster comprises of a 1,000-yard receiver (Brandon Aiyuk), a 1,000-yard tight end (George Kittle), two league MVP candidates in Brock Purdy and Christian McCaffrey and one of the NFL’s most versatile players in Deebo Samuel. Defensively, the 49ers are armed with Pro Bowlers Nick Bosa, Javon Hagrave, Fred Warner and Charvarius Ward.
Injuries may be the only thing standing in the 49ers’ way of winning the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl.