Nine of the NFL’s 12 playoff teams have been decided. Seven of them have 10 or more wins. And nary a one of them felt the need to issue a news release last Friday announcing they are not firing their head coach.

But the most dangerous playoff team — if indeed they become a playoff team on Sunday — would be the 9-6 Baltimore Ravens and John Harbaugh, the Super Bowl-winning coach who apparently won’t be whacked.

The Ravens aren’t the best team. Not even close. But they would be the nastiest underdog no high-flying offensive team wants to tangle with in January.

The Ravens have the No. 1 scoring defense. A defense that allows only 17.5 points per game in the NFL’s Great Offensive Explosion of 2018. A defense that travels to Los Angeles on a short week and holds the high-flying, 11-win Chargers to 198 yards and 10 points in prime time.

Yeah, they lost at Kansas City three weeks ago. But it took overtime for the Chiefs to reach their second-lowest point total of the season (27).

The Ravens, who have won five of six games since rookie Lamar Jackson took over for Joe Flacco, currently hold the AFC’s fourth seed as AFC North leader. If they beat the Browns or the Steelers lose at home to the Bengals, Baltimore is in.

Here is a look at what makes each team in the playoff race a dangerous postseason opponent:


The top six heading into Week 17 …

Chiefs (11-4, clinched playoff spot): Patrick Mahomes is magical and fearless. And sidekick Tyreek Hill is the game’s most electric playmaker.

Patriots (10-5, clinched AFC East): Are we really going to write them off? Again? Two words: Tom Brady. Two more: Bill Belichick.

Texans (10-5, clinched playoff spot): Run defense is holding teams to a league-low 3.5 yards per carry.

Ravens (9-6): Aforementioned defense and a young, fast, athletic, game-plan-busting running quarterback.

Chargers (11-4, clinched playoff spot): Philip Rivers’ 8.5 yards per pass attempt is only two tenths behind Mahomes.

Colts (9-6): Andrew Luck, a sneaky defense and, oh yeah, they’ve won eight of their past nine games.

Still alive, but outside the top six …

Titans (9-6): They can run the ball and they have the No. 2 scoring defense.

Steelers (8-6-1): On a 1-4 slide, but Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and a defense that’s third in sacks per pass play could be troublesome.


The top six heading into Week 17 …

Saints (13-2, home-field advantage): Drew Brees doesn’t make mistakes. And he doesn’t have to leave the Superdome until Super Bowl LIII.

Rams (12-3, clinched NFC West): If Todd Gurley’s knee returns to full strength, the Rams can score however many points it takes to win.

Bears (11-4, clinched NFC North): Needing a win and a Rams loss to earn a bye, the Bears lead the league in takeaways (36), interceptions (27) and defensive touchdowns (six). They’re also one of only two teams, along with the Saints, that rank in the top eight in scoring (eighth) and scoring defense (third).

Cowboys (9-6, clinched NFC East): They have the No. 4 scoring defense and Ezekiel Elliott, an old-fashioned power runner who can catch. He has a league-leading 2,001 combined yards.

Seahawks (9-6, clinched playoff spot): Russell Wilson is as slippery as ever and a better passer than he’s ever been. And their No. 1 rushing attack (158.5) can bludgeon defenses.

Vikings (8-6-1): They need a win at home over the Bears or an Eagles loss at Washington to reach the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 2009. Even with an $84 million QB, the danger in facing this team is a defense that leads the league on third-down conversion (28.4) and red zone scoring (41.3) percentages. But with a .359 strength-of-victory percentage that’s better than only Atlanta’s (.356) and Arizona’s (.322), one wonders if the Vikings can flex those muscles against a playoff team.

Still alive, but outside the top six …

Eagles (8-7): No offense to Carson Wentz, but the past nine games that Nick Foles has started and finished, he’s 8-1 with a .677 completion percentage, 2,563 yards, 16 touchdowns, five interceptions and one Super Bowl-winning MVP trophy.


Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: