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2023 Final NFL West Power Rankings & Wild Card Previews

The Kansas City Chiefs, LA Rams, and San Francisco 49ers will be playing in the postseason

Posted on January 11, 2024


  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

The regular season has come to an end and three teams from the West will be playing in the postseason.

The Chiefs will get things started with a Saturday night game against Miami. The Rams will head to Detroit on Sunday night and the 49ers will rest and await their opponent in the Divisional round.

In Seattle, the Seahawks announced that Pete Carroll is out as head coach, but will remain on as a team advisor.

The final week of the regular season saw me close it out on a high note. For my picks for the entire NFL this week, I went 11-5 overall with an impressive 12-4 mark against the spread and a 12-4 over/under totals.

Season-long I’m 173-103 overall, 144-120-9 ATS, and 150-110-8 O/U.

Below are my Final 2023-24 Power Rankings for the eight teams in the AFC and NFC West along with a quick look at the upcoming week’s matchups.

1. San Francisco 49ers (12-5) ◄►
San Francisco had nothing to play for against the Rams in their season finale and they took full advantage, getting some rest for a lot of players.

The Niners own the top seed in the NFC and will have a bye in the opening round of the playoffs.

Brock Purdy was the only healthy scratch for San Francisco but a lot of banged-up playmakers were among the inactive list as they look to get healthy ahead of the Divisional round.

Some playmakers that were active—Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, for example—saw limited action.

The one-point loss to Los Angeles has no bearing on the season for San Francisco and the most important aspect for them coming out of Week 18 was keeping their stars healthy. They accomplished that.

You do wonder how much two straight weeks off could affect the crispness of the offense. I think the answer to that is, “minimal.”

This team is focused and ready to reverse the results of a season ago. The 49ers know they need to win three more games for their ultimate goal to be reached and I don’t see anything in the NFC slowing them down too much.

Bye Week in first week of playoffs

2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-6) ◄►
The Chiefs and Chargers played a completely meaningless game in the regular season finale.

Unlike the 49ers, Kansas City does not have a bye in the opening week of the playoffs. Due to that fact, the Chiefs made sure to rest their starters in the finale and still came away with a 13-12 victory.

Kansas City won the AFC West for the eighth consecutive season and will host the Dolphins in the Wild Card Round this Saturday.

Miami Dolphins Preview 

Saturday, January 13
5:00 pm PT, Peacock

Tyreek Hill will return to Kansas City with the Dolphins and their high-powered offense.

The knock on the Dolphins this season has been their inability to beat a quality opponent.

This one will be a rematch of the week nine meeting in Frankfurt, Germany. In that win it was a microcosm of the Kansas City season, good defense and just enough offense to get a 21-14 win.

The Chiefs’ defense has been really good this season, but the offense has struggled. Kansas City led the NFL with 40 dropped passes in 2023.

The one thing the Chiefs have going for them is Patrick Mahomes. Sure, this may have been one of the worst seasons in his career thus far but he is still Patrick Mahomes, and in the postseason he shines.

Mahomes has a  career postseason of 11-3 and is 9-2 in playoff games at Arrowhead. This season, he has a defense that can cover up errors from the offense.

I am not sure I trust either of these teams a great deal. The temperature is supposed to be five degrees at game time. In that weather, give me the defense I have more confidence in, and in this one, that is the Chiefs.

My Pick: Chiefs 21, Dolphins 20

[Advice: Kansas City is favored by 4, the Dolphins will cover that, but the Chiefs will win. The point total stays under 44.]

3. Los Angeles Rams (10-7) ◄►
The Rams are in the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons.

The win over San Francisco was a nice one to get but did not mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.

Wrapping up a spot in the tournament after Week 17 afforded the Rams the ability to rest some starters ahead of their trip to Detroit this week.

Puka Nacua did get four receptions for 41 yards in the win. In doing so, he pulled down his 105th reception of the season, surpassing Jaylen Waddle for the most by a rookie in NFL history.

The first-year player from BYU also ended the season with a rookie record of 1,486 yards, exceeding the previous record set by Bill Groman with 1,473, way back in 1960.

Detroit Lions Preview 

Sunday, January 14
5:00 pm PT, NBC

The Rams enter the playoffs as the hottest team in the NFC. The four-game winning streak Los Angeles closed out the season on is the longest in the conference and trails only Buffalo’s current five-game streak in the NFL.

The Lions have not hosted a playoff game since 1993. There are plenty of good storylines in this one and we have not even mentioned the QB matchup.

Jared Goff and Mathew Stafford get a chance to square off in the playoffs against their old teams.

The Lions quartet of Jahmyr Gibbs, David Montgomery, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Sam LaPorta all ended up with 10 TDs this season, becoming just the second team in NFL history with four players ending a season with at least 10 scrimmage TDs.

LaPorta will likely miss the playoff opener with a knee injury suffered last week. That will be a key loss for the Lions in their passing attack.

The Detroit faithful have been waiting 30 years for a home playoff game, and they will be very loud. The Lions should have a significant home-field edge. The thing that can disrupt that advantage is defense.

I think the Rams’ defense is slightly better and LA should have an advantage there. Both teams will score a lot of points in this one.

This is the first time in NFL history that all three Lake Erie teams are in the playoffs in the same season. I think Buffalo and Cleveland will see the second round; Detroit’s run will end on Sunday night.

My Pick: Rams 31, Lions 28

[Advice: Detroit is favored by 3.5. The Rams not only cover but get the road win. The over 51.5 is the best bet though. Points will be scored.]

4. Seattle Seahawks (9-8) ◄►
The 2023 season held so much promise for Seattle. The legitimate question entering the year was if they could supplant San Francisco for the division crown.

Not only did they fail to win the NFC West, but they also failed to make the playoffs. It is just the third time in the last 12 seasons Seattle will not be playing in the postseason.

Consequently, Pete Carroll will not coach the Seahawks next season, though he will remain in an advisory role.

After nine games, Seattle was 6-3 and in first place in the division. A 3-5 finish to the year doomed the playoff hopes and season for the team.

The finale produced a 21-20 win over the Cardinals as Geno Smith led a come-from-behind win. This was the fifth game-winning drive orchestrated by the QB in 2023.

This season, Smith set an NFL record with seven TD passes in the fourth quarter or overtime that gave the Seahawks the lead.

Smith had a career year in 2022, and despite his heroics this season, there are some questions if he is the right guy under center for Seattle.

The biggest questions for Seattle heading into the offseason are on the defensive side of the ball. The Seahawks’ run defense in particular was very poor this season.

Seattle allowed at least 125 yards on the ground in 10 of the last 12 games and allowed over 200 rushing yards in each of the last two games of the season. Seattle ended the season 30th in the NFL against the run.

5. Las Vegas Raiders (8-9) ▲1
The Raiders finished off the 2023 season with a 17-16 win in Denver. The win capped off a 5-4 finish for the team since making the switch to Antonio Pierce as head coach.

Pierce certainly made a case to get the job permanently. Whether he will get that opportunity is unknown. There are some flashy options out there and Mark Davis tends to like making a splash.

Another question that the Raiders will answer this offseason is what they plan to do at QB. Aidan O’Connell finished the season strong, completing 20-31 for 244 and a couple of TD passes in the win.

His rating of 110.1 was his second-highest of the year. The Raiders went 3-1 in the last four weeks and O’Connell looked really good in three of those four outings, the win over the Chiefs being the outlier.

No matter who the head coach or QB ends up being there is some promise for the future in Las Vegas.

The defense performed very well, led by Maxx Crosby. Against Denver, he had seven pressures and one sack. On the season he ended up with 79 QB pressures, tied for the ninth most in NFL history.

6. Denver Broncos (8-9) ▼1
At the start of the season the Broncos’ offense was lackluster, and the defense was terrible. The defense got things worked out, but the offense did not.

The loss to the Raiders in the season finale polishes off an 8-9 campaign this season. It is the seventh consecutive season Denver has finished with a sub-.500 record.

That is the longest such streak in the franchise’s history since a 10-year run of losing seasons ended in 1973.

The QB spot will be an offseason concern for Denver. Russell Wilson was benched, and you have to figure his days in Denver are numbered.

Jarrett Stidham started the final two games, and while the numbers were not terrible, he is most likely not the answer under center for the Broncos.

The 1-5 start was really bad, and the Broncos had some terrible losses at the start of the season. The playoffs were there for the taking before a 1-3 finish over the last four weeks.

Lost in the bookended struggles to the season was a 6-1 stretch in the middle of the season.

Denver played some good football at times and the improvement from last season was three wins. The eight wins this season were their most since a 9-7 2016 season.

Year One of the Sean Payton era may not have ended in a playoff run but it does offer some excitement for coming seasons.

The expectations were high after his hiring and the 2024 offseason may see more realistic expectations for a team looking for a winning season for the first time in eight years.

7. Arizona Cardinals (4-13) ◄►
Arizona may have put together one of the best 4-13 seasons ever. Four wins for this team were more than would have been expected at the start of the season.

The Cardinals found themselves in most of the games they played this season.

Alas, Year One of the Johnathan Gannon era in Arizona ended with the same record as the final season of the Kliff Kingsbury era. The Cardinals have still had just one winning season and one playoff birth since 2015.

The Cardinals look to have laid down the foundation in 2023 for what the organization will be. And it is going to start with the running game.

In the season finale, Arizona topped the 200-yard mark on the ground with 150 of them from James Conner as the back had his first 1,000-yard season with 1,040 yards on the ground—and that was with four weeks on the IR.

The Cardinals will have the fourth overall selection in the draft in April. And there are options for them.

The run game looks solidified, and Kyler Murray has played well since returning from his knee injury and looks like he can lead the franchise once again.

Arizona could end up with a playmaker on the outside for the QB to use or may be able to build draft capital with a trade. Arizona has a second pick in the opening round from Houston.

8. Los Angeles Chargers (5-12) ◄►
The Chargers finished out the season with a 13-12 loss at home to the Chiefs, or at least a version of the Chiefs, minus many of their starters.

The one-point loss kept in the finale followed the season script.

Eight of the 12 losses this season were by one score, and this was the seventh game the Chargers lost this season that was decided by a field goal or less.

One bright spot this season was Khalil Mack, and he picked up another sack in the final week of the year to bring his season total to a career-high 17.0. That total tied Leslie O’Neal and Shawne Merriman for the most in a season by a Chargers player.

Those 17 sacks also rank as the second most in NFL history for a player in his age 32 season, as Robert Mathis and his 19.5 in 2013 is the only more prolific season.

This Charger team will have a much different look in 2024. The coaching staff will be new, and the roster will look different.

LA is projected to be $34.8 million over the cap for next season and many of the high-priced contracts will be reworked or off of the books via trade or release.

Justin Herbert will be back and having a franchise QB is a good starting spot. The fifth overall pick in the draft can be used on the best player available, that is not a QB.

The Chargers have some promise for the future, but they can’t afford to miss on this coach hiring. The window with Justin Herbert is shrinking and this hire needs to be a good one.




—More from Stephen Vilardo—