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Ravens look Super as NFL playoffs begin

And, now, the real season begins. Ranking the postseason contenders heading into wild-card weekend:

1. Baltimore (14-2)

Lamar Jackson should be the MVP, but the secret sauce for this team is the transformation of the defense with corners Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters.

This week: Bye. Last week’s ranking: 1.

2. San Francisco (13-3)

A week of rest will be huge for the 49ers defense which now could get end Dee Ford and safety Jaquiski Tartt for the divisional round. Both are key players.

This week: Bye. Last week’s ranking: 2.

3. New Orleans (13-3)

That earlier loss to the 49ers cost them home field and possibly the Super Bowl. Drew Brees’ completion percentage and passer rating are 10 points lower on the road.

This week: vs. Minnesota (10-6). Last week’s ranking: 3.

4. Kansas City (12-4)

Chiefs get biggest gift with Patriots’ season finale loss — don’t have to face Titans and could host Patriots.

This week: Bye. Last week’s ranking: 4.

5. Green Bay (13-3)

According to FootballOutsiders.com, the Packers are the second-worst 13-3 team ever. Four of the previous six lost in the divisional round.

This week: Bye. Last week’s ranking: 7.

6. New England (12-4)

Patriots went from puncher’s chance to win Super Bowl to virtually no shot with loss to the Dolphins, which was the fault of their vaunted defense.

This week: vs. Tennessee (9-7). Last week’s ranking: 5.

7. Tennessee (9-7)

Looks like New England’s worst nightmare with coaches (former linebacker Mike Vrabel, defensive coordinator Dean Pees) who know how to attack and beat the Patriots.

This week: at New England (12-4). Last week’s ranking: 9.

8. Seattle (11-5)

This isn’t hard: Russell Wilson had a passer rating over 100 in eight of the first nine games when the team was 7-2. Since, he’s done that once as the Seahawks are 4-3.

This week: at Philadelphia (9-7). Last week’s ranking: 6.

9. Minnesota (10-6)

Expect the unexpected in this one. With the Bounty Game (2010) and whiffed tackle on Stefon Diggs (2018) in the recent past, this could get weird.

This week: at New Orleans (13-3). Last week’s ranking: 8.

10. Buffalo (10-6)

With a tough defense and good running game, Bills have a great mix to continue Bill O’Brien’s rough postseason history (1-3).

This week: at Houston (10-6). Last week’s ranking: 11.

11. Houston (10-6)

The Texans have to have receiver Will Fuller (groin) at full strength to beat a good Bills defense, and there’s not much confidence in that.

This week: vs. Buffalo (10-6). Last week’s ranking: 10.

12. Philadelphia (9-7)

The Eagles have taped their offense together with Carson Wentz doing a Russell Wilson imitation. Need a big home-field advantage.

This week: vs. Seahawks (11-5). Last week’s ranking: 12.

Greg A. Bedard covers the NFL for the Review-Journal. Follow @GregABedard on Twitter.

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