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Ultimate NFL playoff team rankings: The best on offense, defense and overall

Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson could have been speaking to all 12 NFL playoff teams Sunday night.

"Always get in the tournament -- always get in, and see what happens," Pederson told Eagles players after Philly clinched the NFC's sixth seed.

With postseason seeding set, six NFL coaches and evaluators ranked the field of playoff teams 1 through 12. I've molded their votes into a composite order and peppered the final ranking with their insights.

Each team's entry includes 2018 season rankings in ESPN's expected-points efficiency metrics for offense, defense, special teams and overall. Twelve of the top 13 teams in total efficiency reached the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Steelers (ninth) were the lone exception.


1. New Orleans Saints (13-3, No. 1 seed in NFC)

Off: 3 | Def: 28 | ST: 1 | Total: 5

The Saints possess many of the characteristics a playoff team should possess:

  • Top-tier QB paired with elite offensive playcaller

  • Offensive balance via strong offensive line and running backs

  • Capable pass-rush rotation led by Cameron Jordan (12 sacks)

  • Strong home-field advantage

  • Competent defense

"I think the Saints have the best combination of offense and defense," a defensive coach said. "Their defense is greatly improved last season and this season. They have the best playcaller-and-quarterback combination [Sean Payton and Drew Brees] of the whole thing."

The Saints ranked only 24th in ESPN's defensive efficiency metric through Week 16 because they were especially poor against Tampa Bay (Week 1), Atlanta (Week 3), Baltimore (Week 7) and the Rams (Week 9).

In a testament to the Saints' overall team balance, they won three of the four games when their defense was especially poor. Throw in their Week 16 game against Pittsburgh and the Saints were 4-1 when their defensive efficiency was below average. Their .800 winning percentage in those games was best in the NFL (I excluded Week 17 from the calculations because the Saints rested starters).

"Dallas showed they were capable of doing some things defensively against those guys," a personnel director said. "Chicago would be a very, very interesting matchup because that defense could stop New Orleans' run game. Part of me wants to say Seattle could be a tough matchup as well, but it is not the same dynamic when Seattle is on the road."