Last week: 11 (+8)
The Buccaneers are surging thanks to Doug Martin’s improved play and the improved chemistry between Josh Freeman and new free agent acquisition Vincent Jackson. They’ve won 3 of 4 and sit at 4-4 with a +41 points differential that ranks 6th in the loaded NFC (for reference, it’d be 4th in the AFC). They rank 12th in yards per play differential and 14th in rate of sustaining drives differential. If history is any indication, they’re more likely to make it than some other borderline playoff teams in the NFC right now. Every year, 5 new playoff teams make the playoffs that didn’t make it the year before, dating back 17 straight years. I use this in my Power Rankings every week.
Right now, Chicago, who didn’t make the playoffs last year, looks like a lock to make it this year. Meanwhile, Cincinnati and New Orleans, two playoff teams from a year ago, look very unlikely to make it this year. Indianapolis, sitting at 5-3, is another solid bet to make the play...