NFL Playoff Projections & Player Ratings: Ranking the Most Valuable Players To All 14 Teams
Getty Images. Pictured: Packers WR Davante Adams, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, Rams DT Aaron Donald
In honor of the NFL playoffs, I’m rolling out the first ever edition of my player ratings — i.e. how much players are worth to their team’s spread.
Of course, the path to the Super Bowl starts with the Wild Card Round, so I’ve also included my projected spreads and totals for the five (of six) matchups already set as of Sunday evening.
After that, I’ve highlighted the top-five most valuable players to each squad (complete with analysis!) and included my full ratings, which you can sort to view in different ways.
NFL Playoff Projections
NFL Player Ratings
No. 1 Chiefs
- Patrick Mahomes is worth about 7 points over backup Chad Henne.
- The Chiefs have dealt with offensive line injuries all season. Getting Mitchell Schwartz back could boost their team rating by about a half-point.
- The loss of Clyde Edwards-Helaire isn’t ideal, but the combination of in-season addition Le’Veon Bell and Darrel Williams should replace CEH seamlessly. K.C. can always rely on Mahomes even more and be just fine.
- Tyreek Hill (+0.9) and Travis Kelce (+0.7) are two of the most valuable players at their positions. The loss of either one would result in the other stepping up and the Chiefs’ team rating to drop a full point. If both were to miss time, it would be difficult to replace them. I would lower the Chiefs’ team rating by about 2.5-3 points.
- It remains a mystery to me why Demarcus Robinson still gets more run over Mecole Hardman. I would boost the Chiefs’ power rating about 0.2 points if they were to flip their playing time. Having Hill and Hardman on the field simultaneously makes it even tougher on the opposing defense. However, I do trust whatever must be going into Andy Reid’s thought process here.
No. 2 Bills
- The addition of Stefon Diggs (+1.03) has played a considerable role in Josh Allen’s (+4.64) breakout season. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s innovative play-calling has also contributed to Allen’s success.
- Micah Hyde (+0.35) and Jordan Poyer (+0.29) remain among the best safety duos in the league.
- Ed Oliver (-0.06) and Tremaine Edmunds (-0.20) haven’t lived up to their first-round billing yet.
- The Bills are a team that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Head coach Sean McDermott consistently puts his players in a position to succeed.
No. 3 Steelers
- The losses of Devin Bush (+0.0) and Bud Dupree (+0.05) weren’t ideal. But it’s fair to say the defense is still in good hands as long as Cameron Heyward (+0.72), T.J. Watt (+0.58) and Minkah Fitzpatrick (+0.47) are all healthy.
- Tyson Alualu (+0.16) and Alex Highsmith (+0.11) have been pleasant surprises for this defense. They will be players to watch in the playoffs.
- Ben Roethlisberger (+2.8) has struggled at times, but with the Steelers’ defense (ranked third overall in Football Outsiders’ DVOA), he doesn’t have to play at an MVP caliber for Pittsburgh to win. If he gets hot in the playoffs, the Steelers could be the team that can beat the Chiefs.
No. 4 Titans
- Ryan Tannehill (+4.74) proved that 2019 wasn’t a fluke — he’s the very reason that the Titans overcame poor defensive play to make the playoffs.
- The Titans would love to give Derrick Henry (+0.64) 25-plus carries and set up play-action passes to A.J. Brown (+0.84), but their defense (18th in DVOA) doesn’t afford them comfortable leads.
- The Titans generate the NFL’s lowest pressure rate (16.7%), putting a ton of pressure on a secondary that’s been without Adoree’ Jackson (+0.21) for the first 14 games this season. His return could help stop the bleeding a bit.
- Jadeveon Clowney’s (+0.36) season-ending injury played a role in the defense falling apart in the second half of the season.
No. 5 Ravens
- Lamar Jackson is among the NFL’s more valuable quarterbacks in the league, but struggles when playing from behind. It will be critical for the defense to be in top form to prevent a trailing game script.
- Cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey (+0.43), Jimmy Smith (+0.17) and Marcus Peters (+0.28) are all banged-up. Their health will be critical for the Ravens.
- Calais Campbell’s (+0.26) calf injury has limited his playing time since Week 5 in the 30-50% range in addition to the four games he missed. If he were healthy enough to return to a normal 75% snap count, it would boost the Ravens’ rating by about 0.2 points.
- The Ravens lost Marshal Yanda (+0.37) to retirement and Ronnie Stanley (+0.3) and Nick Boyle (+.1) to season-ending injuries. Considering the Ravens run the ball at the highest rate in the NFL, it’s fair to wonder if these key losses to their run-blocking will be their downfall in the playoffs.
No. 6 Browns
- The Browns have a very balanced roster with nine starters with a +0.3 rating or higher, and three of those players are offensive linemen, only amplifying the lethal running back duo of Nick Chubb (+0.52) and Kareem Hunt (+0.24).
- Head coach Kevin Stefanski’s run-heavy approach has helped take the pressure off Baker Mayfield (+3.49). Since the Browns’ Week 10 bye — ignoring their Week 16 loss where four wide receivers were out — he has been playing lights-out.
- Myles Garrett (+0.76) is one of the few defensive players that could move the spread by a full point if he ever were to miss a game.
No. 7 Colts
- The loss of Anthony Castonzo (+0.18) was a big blow to the O-line. It’s a net 0.38 drop-off with the Colts having to turn to backup Chaz Green (-0.18).
- Jacoby Brissett (+0.0) is the definition of a replacement-level quarterback. The addition of Philip Rivers (+3.1) played a key role in taking the Colts from a 7-9 team to an 11-5 one. If Andrew Luck (+5.0) were still playing, this roster would have been a Super Bowl contender.
- DeForest Buckner (+0.56) and Xavier Rhodes (+0.34) were key offseason additions who helped the defense go from 19th in DVOA in 2019 to eighth this season.
No. 1 Packers
- The Packers had Corey Linsley (+0.40) return to the lineup in Week 16, only to lose David Bakhtiari (+0.51) before Week 17. He will likely be replaced by Lane Taylor (-0.01).
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling (-0.21) is Aaron Rodgers’ main deep threat, but has made costly mistakes at times. It’s fair to wonder how much better this offense would be if they had selected a wide receiver such as Tee Higgins (+0.18) or Chase Claypool (+0.14) with their first pick in the 2020 draft instead of Jordan Love (-0.45).
- Damon “Snacks” Harrison (+0.06) was claimed by Green Bay after Seattle cut him this week. He could help improve the Packers’ run defense, which is typically their main weakness.
No. 2 Saints
- Alvin Kamara (+0.50) was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list one week before the playoffs start. The Saints may be without him for the first round, but head coach Sean Payton is an offensive genius and can usually help soften the blow any time an individual skill player misses time.
- The Saints expect Michael Thomas (+1.11) to be “close to 100 percent” for the start of the postseason. His return will be even more urgent if they will be without Kamara (+0.50).
- DL David Onyemata (+0.28) is arguably the most underrated player on the team.
No. 3 Seahawks
- Tre Flowers (-0.06) is set to return from IR, but D.J. Reed (+0.13) has played lights-out and will likely remain Seattle’s starting cornerback.
- D.K. Metcalf (+0.73) is already one of the most valuable wide receivers in the NFL. He enters Year 3 next season, which is typically when a wide out enters his prime. I expect him to be worth 1-1.5 points against the spread over the next few seasons.
- Jamal Adams (+0.46) had a bit of a slow start as a Seahawk. He has the potential to be worth 0.5-1 point against the spread when he’s playing at his peak, which he is right now.
No. 4 Football Team
Check back later for my Washington or Giants player ratings.
- Alex Smith (+1.56) has been an effective game manager. Washington likely goes into every game wanting him to throw for fewer than 200 yards and lean on the defense to get the win.
- Chase Young (+0.52), Jonathan Allen (+0.42), Daron Payne (+0.14) and Montez Sweat (+0.21) form one of the best defensive lines in the game.
- WR Terry McLaurin (+0.70) is one of the most valuable wide receivers in the league, mostly due to the lack of depth behind him.
No. 5 Buccaneers
- Chris Godwin (+0.66), Mike Evans (+0.59) and Antonio Brown (+0.54) make up arguably the most valuable WR trio in the NFL.
- Rookie OT Tristan Wirfs (+0.23) looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
- G Ali Marpet (+0.31) is the glue that holds the offensive line together. When he missed Weeks 11-13, the Bucs went 1-2 against the spread — including an embarrassing 38-3 primetime loss to the Saints.
- CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (-0.25) is a liability on defense. Cornerback is one of the easiest positions for a team to game plan around attacking a specific player. He will have to step up in the playoffs.
No. 6 Rams
- Jared Goff (+2.53) is worth about 3.5-4 points over backup QB John Wolford (-0.74). Head coach Sean McVay is one of the reasons why the drop-off may not be as severe.
- Aaron Donald (+0.98) is worth 1-1.5 points against the spread. He’s the only defensive player who could be worth two full points depending on the matchup and what numbers it would cross.
- Andrew Whitworth (+0.40) could return for the playoffs, sending Joseph Noteboom (-0.22) back to the bench. That would be a massive boost to the offense.
No. 7 Bears
- The Bears are one of the few teams where the starting QB isn’t going to move the line much — if at all. Mitch Trubisky (+1.47) has led them to three straight wins, so maybe he would lower the Bears’ power rating by a half-point if Nick Foles (+1.18) had to replace Trubisky.
- David Montgomery (+0.33) is having a breakout season. He’s one of the most valuable RBs in the league right now, considering the Bears don’t have much depth at the position with Tarik Cohen (+0.04) on season-ending IR.
- Khalil Mack (+0.71) is still valuable enough to move the spread by a full point if he were ever to be ruled out.