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Hub Arkush: Ranking the four remaining clubs on talent alone

January 19, 2019

No, the most talented teams don’t always win on Sunday – i.e. the New England Patriots, but it’s usually a pretty good place to start.

So, what if we threw out all the other variables and intangibles and just ranked Sunday’s four championship game participants on pure talent and ability?

I’ve checked in with some of my best sources in scouting departments and front offices around the league. Here’s how we think they stack up.

Quarterback: 1. Brady 2. Brees 3. Mahomes 4. Goff

Brady is the GOAT, Brees isn’t far behind and for all Mahomes has done in his magical 2018 season, in this context he’s just matched one of Brady’s multitudes of accomplishments.

Goff is a bit of a puzzle as he hasn’t played his best football of late.

Patriots go to Kansas City, but Mahomes is entering Brady’s house now. New England and New Orleans rate edges here.

Running Back: 1. Rams 2. Saints 3. Patriots 4. Chiefs

There is very little splitting the Rams and Saints, but Todd Gurley is the best running back still playing, and C.J. Anderson and Sony Michel have been revelations, while we know what James White can do this time of year.

My expert consensus was that L.A. and the Saints might be a draw, while the Patriots’ and Chiefs’ running back corps are both scheme-based, but the Patriots are definitely more talented.

Receivers: 1. Chiefs 2. Patriots 3T. Rams 3T. Saints

This is the weakest position group in these rankings. Star power? Yes. Depth? No.

Off this season we have to rank Hill and Kelce one, but in the playoffs Edelman, Gronk, Hogan and White could be better. The Rams’ Cooks and Woods are very good but not No. 1s, and the loss of Cooper Kupp hurts. Michael Thomas is the best wideout still playing, and Kamara helps, but after them the cupboard is bare.

Is Gronk’s max production behind him, or is he lying in the weeds for an eminently beatable Chiefs’ Pass ‘D?’

This one has to be edge, Chiefs, and Saints and Rams a draw when you factor in Gurley and Kamara.

Offensive Line: 1. Rams 2. Patriots 3T. Saints 3T. Chiefs

These are four of the best offensive lines in football, along with the Cowboys (when healthy) and the Steelers. But the Chiefs, while very good, are a notch below the other five.

The revelation here is Patriots’ OLT Trent Brown, who might have been the best player on the field last Sunday vs. the Chargers.

We rank them here based on their ability to handle their matchup, and the Saints’ loss of Sheldon Rankins and Andrus Peat playing with that surgically repaired hand could be game changers.

Defensive Line: 1. Rams 2. Chiefs 3. Patriots 4. Saints

Even if they haven’t played the best this year, how do you argue with Donald, Suh and Brockers? Kansas City’s Chris Jones has come out of nowhere to dominate inside, and the Patriots work together as a unit better than any group in football. New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan might be the most underrated player in the game, but, again, the loss of Rankins really hurts.

Linebackers: 1T. Patriots 1T. Chiefs 3. Saints 4. Rams

These four are barely better-then-average units.

The Saints have played the best, but theirs and the Rams are no-name groups that don’t impress consistently. The choice between the Patriots and Chiefs is Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower vs. Justin Houston and Dee Ford.

Secondary: 1. Patriots 2. Saints 3. Rams 4. Chiefs

Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty make the Pats the best, but the Saints are breathing down their necks. The Rams should be first but Talib, Peters and Joyner all had off years. This is a soft spot for the Chiefs.

But if Talib is finally healthy and he can match up with Thomas, the Saints have a problem.

Special Teams: 1. Chiefs 2. Patriots 3. Rams 4. Saints

The Chiefs are an easy pick here, but none of these clubs are likely to lose because of these groups.

Coaching: 1. Belichick 2. Reid 3. Payton 4. McVay

Other than Belichick being the only other GOAT working Sunday, rank them however you like.

The last five Super Bowls have featured nine No. 1 seeds and the second seed Atlanta Falcons in LI, so that means Sunday is the Saints’ and Chiefs’ day, right?

Maybe, but remember we threw that out.

Based strictly on talent, it appears Sunday could be:

Rams 30, Saints 27

Patriots 37, Chiefs 31

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