Now that we’ve played every game of the 2015 NFL Playoffs, the only thing left to do is rank them.
Eleven postseason games took place in all, capped off by the Denver Broncos being crowned as Super Bowl 50 champions in a 24-10 drubbing over the Carolina Panthers
If you’re wondering which games were the best and which games were the worst, you have come to the right place.
11: AFC Wild Card Round: Kansas City Chiefs 30, Houston Texans 0
Unfortunately, the first game of the 2015 NFL Playoffs didn’t give us a whole heck of a lot to talk about. It did start with a bang when Knile Davis returned the opening kick for a touchdown, but it didn’t open the door to a lot of excitement.
The Texans had virtually no offense. Brian Hoyer turned in one of the worst performances for a quarterback in playoff history, and the first game of the playoffs was never even remotely competitive.
Fortunately, things would get a little better.
10. NFC Championship Game: Carolina Panthers 49, Arizona Cardinals 15
This game gets a slight bump over the Chiefs vs. Texans game for a couple reasons.
One, the Panthers played better in victory than the Chiefs. Kansas City was opportunistic, but it was not as overwhelming as Carolina was.
The game was a personal highlight film for many of the team’s most prominent players. Tedd Ginn Jr., Corey Brown, and of course Cam Newton all crossed the goal line in tremendous fashion, while Luke Kuechly put a stamp on the game with a pick-six which mercifully ended the scoring.
Two, the game might have been competitive if Patrick Peterson hadn’t muffed a punt. The Cardinals only trailed 17-7 and with good field position, could have gone into the halftime locker room down by seven, or even three if not for his faux pas.
Unfortunately for Arizona, we can’t play it back without Peterson’s fumble. He did muff the ball, the Panthers did recover and score on the ensuing possession to take a 24-7 lead at halftime and poured it on in the second half.
9. Green Bay Packers 35, Washington Redskins 18
What might have been? What if DeSean Jackson held the ball out ahead of his body and scored a touchdown? What if the Redskins had put up more of a fight in the fourth quarter that they entered trailing by only six points?
Like Patrick Peterson’s muffed punt, we shall never know.
The fact is that Washington was the better team for basically the whole first quarter and into the second. So, even as the Packers began to pull away, there was always enough of a possibility that the Redskins might regain their dominant form.
At the end of the day, though, a 17-point loss is just not that exciting.
8. New England Patriots 27, Kansas City Chiefs 20
Here’s a fun hypothetical for you fine folks out there. The team you cheer for is in a playoff game. Your team trails by two possessions with several minutes to play. Is there a coach in NFL history that you’d want running your team less than Andy Reid?
The Chiefs trailed by 14 points and did get a cosmetic touchdown from Charcandrick West to make the score close, but once it became clear that Kansas City was not running a hurry-up offense down two touchdowns, the outcome of this game was not in doubt.
This game will likely be more remembered for a viscous (and completely cheap) hit from Pats’ return man Danny Amendola on a punt.
7. Super Bowl 50: Denver Broncos 24, Carolina Panthers 10
Super Bowl 50 was very much the opposite of the Patriots vs. Chiefs game. A late strip-sack from Super Bowl MVP Von Miller set up a short field for the Broncos to put the game away late in the fourth quarter. But while Denver kicked a field goal on the game’s opening possession and never trailed, the outcome of this game was at least partially in doubt throughout most of it.
At the end of the day, though, Miller and the Broncos’ defense were just too dominant to rank this game any higher. Plenty of Super Bowls have produced bigger margins of victory, but not many defenses have been as dominant as Denver’s, especially not in the offense-happy league that the NFL has become.
6. Denver Broncos 23, Pittsburgh Steelers 16
Now we’re into the nitty gritty, the truly classic games of the 2015 NFL Playoffs. A severely shorthanded Steelers team gave the gave the Broncos a great effort but ultimately made too many mistakes to win a road playoff game.
Peyton Manning made probably his greatest play of the postseason, and the Broncos took great advantage of a fumble from Fitzgerald Toussaint, taking a lead. Then, in what would be a recurring theme of the playoffs, the Denver defense did what championship defenses do — it won the game.
The Steelers gave the Broncos quite a scare, leading into the fourth quarter until the final three minutes of the game. It was a seven-point win for Denver but in reality, the game was played even closer than that.
5. Seattle Seahawks 10, Minnesota Vikings 9
Temperature at kickoff was a balmy minus-six degrees. It was so cold that weeks after the game was played, Seattle safety Kam Chancellor’s hands were still showing the effects of playing in the cold.
While the score was close and the end of the game was wild, the game itself was not terribly well played. It’s hard to have a well played game in that weather.
This game provided two lessons for NFL players, coaches, fans, or pretty much anyone who’ll ever remotely consider watching a game.
One, under no circumstances should Russell Wilson ever be counted out of a play. There may be better quarterbacks (not many), but nobody makes something out of nothing better and more consistently than Seattle’s quarterback.
Two, laces out!
4. Carolina Panthers 31, Seattle Seahawks 24
The Seahawks’ reign atop the NFC came to an end against the Carolina Panthers, but they did not go down before putting up an incredibly bitter fight.
It looked like it would be an early knockout. Jonathan Stewart and Luke Kuechly jumped on Seattle early. By the time halftime rolled around Carolina had a 31-0 lead, which proved insurmountable, but not by a whole lot.
Russell Wilson’s continued craftiness, as well as some big plays from Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse helped make this one a lot more interesting than it had to be.
For a lot of this game, it didn’t look like it’d be anything other than a blowout, or at best, maybe a cosmetically close game (see Patriots 27, Chiefs 20). But the abundance of big plays from great players made this one of the more interesting games of the 2015 NFL Playoffs.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers 18, Cincinnati Bengals 16
How can one measly incomplete pass net 30 yards for the team that threw it? Well, Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones playing on the defensive team is a big help. The Steelers were driving but were not yet in field goal range. Then, Burfict and Jones tag-teamed for two stupid fouls to give Pittsburgh 30 yards, giving Chris Boswell a fairly easy 35-yard kick to win the game.
That quickly, a fantastic comeback from the Bengals was down the drain.
Cincinnati had no offense for nearly the whole game and trailed 15-0 going into the fourth quarter. An excellent rally, capped off by a marvelous touchdown pass from A.J. McCarron to A.J. Green gave the Bengals a late lead. Burfict intercepted a pass on the following drive and the game appeared over, so much so that he went ahead and ran into the locker room.
The problem is that the game was not quite over. Jeremy Hill fumbled, giving the Steelers one more chance, and well, you know the rest.
Sure, there were better, crisper games in the 2015 NFL playoffs, but this one was not boring.
2. Denver Broncos 20, New England Patriots 18
Until the late fumble and Broncos touchdown, Super Bowl 50 was looking like a carbon copy of the AFC Championship Game. The Broncos defense was absolutely dominant, but after a hot start their offense was not doing enough to put their opponent away.
Down by eight points, they passed up on two short field goals in the fourth quarter and the Denver defense held both times.
Late in the game, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski finally got clicking, connecting on two fantastic fourth-down plays, one to put the Pats in position to score, the other to actually score. Fortunately for the Broncos, the defense stood strong one more time to clinch the win on New England’s failed two-point conversion.
This game could very well be the final time that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady share a field. If it was, the two quarterbacks and their teams sent one of the best rivalries in history of sports out with a bang.
1. Arizona Cardinals 26, Green Bay Packers 20 (OT)
Let’s go back in time a bit. On Dec. 3, the Packers beat the Detroit Lions on a Hail Mary. A fantastic play, no doubt, but that was it for their Hail Mary luck, right?
You have to be kidding… the hail mary play pic.twitter.com/PpKa1OeWQw
— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) January 17, 2016
Wrong! Very, very, wrong!
Unfortunately for the Pack, the feelings of happiness were short-lived.
The only thing overtime featured was a big play from Larry Fitzgerald to set up the score and the winning touchdown, also made by Fitzgerald. His overtime brilliance was proceeded by of all things, a botched coin toss.
Let’s see, one sure future Hall of Fame player in Aaron Rodgers doing everything to be sure that his team won’t die. Another sure future Hall of Famer in Larry Fitzgerald making big plays to be sure that his team will win. The referees messing up what should be the easiest part of the game in between it all. Pretty unforgettable.
It’s hard to top that. The game would eliminate the Packers and the Cardinals would get routed the next week, but this was the best game of the 2015 NFL Playoffs.