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  • Writer's pictureStone Lexington

Updated NFL power rankings: Houston Texans, Detroit Lions crack Divisional Round top 5


C.J. Stroud
 

The 2023 NFL season has reached the Divisional Round of the playoffs, and eight teams still have an opportunity to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February. Each of the top seeds remains alive in both conferences, except for the NFC’s No. 2-seeded Dallas Cowboys, which were humiliated during Super Wild Card Weekend by the No. 7-seeded Green Bay Packers. Five of the six matchups in the first round of the playoffs were relatively uncompetitive, and NFL executives in the league office are probably hoping for closer matchups this weekend. Below are the teams that sit atop the latest NFL power rankings.



5


Houston Texans

The Houston Texans might be the most surprising team left in the league’s final eight. At the end of last season, the Texans were a mess. Houston finished the 2022 regular season with a 3-13 record and the rights to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. They also fired Lovie Smith after the season, making him the franchise’s fourth head coach to be relieved of his duties in three seasons. Then, the Texans made four moves that would immediately turn their franchise around.


First, Houston hired head coach DeMeco Ryans last January, establishing a vocal leader in the locker room. Less than a month later, the team hired offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, who has been brilliant this season and is likely receiving interest for head coaching jobs around the league. The final two moves were made in April at the 2023 NFL Draft when the franchise selected C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr. Stroud has only produced what could be the greatest rookie season ever by a quarterback, and Anderson has been a standout playmaker on defense. The Texans will face the No. 1-seeded Ravens in Baltimore on Saturday with another opportunity to shock the NFL world.



4


Detroit Lions

What a season it has been thus far for the Detroit Lions. They’ve won their first playoff game since the 1991 season, and it came against former beloved Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Detroit has tied its most wins in any season with 13, and a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend would clinch another opportunity to reach their first-ever Super Bowl.


The Divisional Round couldn’t have worked out better for Detroit. Aside from the Lions’ 24-23 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, the Dallas Cowboys’ loss to the Green Bay Packers allows Detroit to host a second consecutive playoff game. The Lions defeated the Bucs 20-6 in Tampa Bay in Week 6 this season, and they’re looking to produce a similar performance on Sunday. Sunday’s matchup will also feature a quarterback battle of former No. 1 overall picks, as the often underrated Jared Goff meets the much-maligned Baker Mayfield.




3


Kansas City Chiefs

For the sixth straight season, the Kansas City Chiefs are one of the final four teams left standing in the AFC. What the Chiefs have done over the past five seasons is remarkable, reaching five straight conference championship games and winning two Super Bowls. Set to play the Bills in Buffalo on Sunday, the Chiefs would reach a sixth straight AFC Championship Game with a victory.


One notable difference for the Chiefs in the Divisional Round this season from the past five seasons is that they’ll be on the road. Kansas City’s superstar quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, has never played a road playoff game; and the Bills could be looking to atone for the epic playoff loss to the Chiefs in the 2021 season. Kansas City has been doubted this season, but it’s difficult to doubt No. 15.






2


San Francisco 49ers

Stacked with one of the best rosters in the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers are undoubtedly the NFC favorite to reach the Super Bowl. The 49ers had a bye in the opening round of the playoffs and watched their next opponent, the Green Bay Packers, annihilate the Cowboys in Dallas. It’s difficult to say whether the Cowboys looked past rising quarterback Jordan Love and the Packers, but Green Bay should have San Francisco’s full attention.


All eyes will be on the quarterback matchup featuring two young gunslingers, Love and the often underappreciated Brock Purdy. Purdy finished the 2023 regular season with the fifth-most passing yards in the league, the third-most passing touchdowns, the No. 1 QBR and the highest passer rating (excluding Mason Rudolph in four games). It’ll be interesting to see which up-and-coming quarterback reaches the NFC Championship game and adds to his blooming career.



1


Baltimore Ravens

Sitting at home during Super Wild Card Weekend, waiting to see who their opponent would be in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the Baltimore Ravens are the AFC favorite to reach the Super Bowl. Baltimore finished the regular season with the league’s best record (13-4), the No. 1 ranked scoring defense (16.5 points per game), and the No. 4 ranked scoring offense, which is why the team has the shortest odds to win the AFC. However, although the Ravens will be favored when they host their next opponent this weekend, that opponent has proven to be extremely dangerous.


Baltimore will host the Texans on Saturday in a rematch from Week 1 of the regular season. The Ravens won that opening week matchup 25-9 in Baltimore, but they’ll face a significantly more experienced Texans team in the Divisional Round. Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has 15 additional games under his belt, and the Texans look like they’re playing their best football of the season. With a win on Saturday, the Ravens can reach their first conference championship since the 2012 season.








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