Scott Taetsch / Getty Images

The 2023 NFL regular season is in the books, which means it's time for the real games to begin. All 14 playoff spots are finalized, and the race toward Super Bowl LVIII and the Lombardi Trophy is about to get underway.

Upsets and surprises are all part of the experience, so it'd be foolish to count on just about anything. But here's how we'd rank all the contenders going into the tournament, from least to most likely to hoist the trophy on Super Bowl Sunday (be sure to check out the entire playoff schedule here):

14. Buccaneers (9-8)

Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield USATSI

Baker Mayfield deserves credit for exceeding expectations as their trial-run quarterback, and Todd Bowles' defense has quietly clamped down in the last month, particularly against the run. But their old-school, ball-control brand has been more scattershot outside the NFC South, and Bowles' group tends to lean painfully conservative in pivotal spots.

13. Steelers (10-7)

Steelers HC Mike Tomlin Getty Images

Mike Tomlin has once again pulled a rabbit out of his hat, navigating staffing turmoil and quarterback injuries to keep Pittsburgh above water. But as sharp as Mason Rudolph's been off the bench, this is the only playoff team with a negative point differential, and now the defense's best difference-maker, T.J. Watt, is banged up. They'll still be scrappy as always.

12. Eagles (11-6)

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts USATSI

Has there ever been a team to start 10-1 the year after a Super Bowl bid, only to look this deflated? There are special players on this roster, but all the pizzazz of their 2022 run has vanished in an increasingly apathetic 1-5 stretch to end the year. The defense can't stop anyone, but perhaps there's hope for Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown and Co. to rediscover magic on the road.

11. Packers (9-8)

Packers RB A.J. Dillon, QB Jordan Love Getty Images

Not so dissimilar to the Rams, their fellow wild card entrant, they weren't supposed to stay relevant while rebuilding with a stripped-down defense. And certainly Joe Barry's unit remains a liability. But QB Jordan Love has been such a revelation alongside a quietly deep group of speedy young wideouts. Paired with Aaron Jones and Matt LaFleur's ground game, they can play spoiler.

10. Browns (11-6)

Browns DE Myles Garrett Getty Images

Joe Flacco has been a story of the season, coming in off the street to chuck it left and right, bringing a sorely lacking authority to Kevin Stefanski's passing attack. Will it hold up against playoff defenses? Maybe. Maybe not. But Jim Schwartz's own stingy unit, headlined by Myles Garrett and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, may be opportunistic enough to offset the QB's riskiness.

9. Texans (10-7)

Texans QB C.J. Stroud USATSI

Not even the biggest C.J. Stroud fans could've anticipated the rookie QB doing so much for Houston so fast. His pocket presence is far beyond his years, and DeMeco Ryans has consistently gotten more from their transitioning defense than expected. Are they still a year away from a deep run? Maybe. But with such youthful swagger, never say never.

8. Rams (10-7)

Rams QB Matthew Stafford USATSI

Matthew Stafford looked destined to break behind an iffy line early in 2023, but Sean McVay's offense has been humming since a mid-November bye, helping L.A. go 7-1 during that stretch (with the sole defeat coming in overtime to the Ravens). Besides Aaron Donald, they've still got a makeshift "D." But with Puka Nacua and their weapons, they can play shootouts.

7. Dolphins (11-6)

Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill USATSI

There might not be a more boom-or-bust squad in the dance. When operating at full health and speed, Mike McDaniel's all-star lineup can light up the scoreboard, with the Tua Tagovailoa-to-Tyreek Hill connection among the NFL's best. The issue is, they're all banged up at the wrong time, leaving Tua to face big-game questions without a fully intact supporting cast.

6. Lions (12-5)

Lions QB Jared Goff Getty Images

They've been a different animal at home versus on the road, with Jared Goff susceptible to turnover sprees against aggressive fronts, but when they're firing on all cylinders, few clubs are as confident and controlled. Dan Campbell's aggression from the sidelines is undying, and their sturdy front helps set up both a steady run and play-action attack.

5. Cowboys (12-5)

Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb USATSI

America's Team is back on top of the NFC East, and we've seen many times this year that when Dak Prescott and Co. are clicking, there's perhaps no prettier offense in the game. Prescott still warrants MVP buzz for the way he's reclaimed the pocket as his domain, with CeeDee Lamb virtually unstoppable out wide and playmakers like Micah Parsons and DaRon Bland doing their own ball-hawking on the other side. But alas, Prescott and Mike McCarthy's staff still have to get over the hump on the big stage.

4. Chiefs (11-6)

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes USATSI

Andy Reid's offense is typically video game-like in its creativity and execution, which has not been the case in 2023. But for all the frustration Patrick Mahomes has exhibited, the QB practically lives and breathes playoff football, not so unlike Tom Brady in his prime. And their Chris Jones-led defense has been nasty up front -- top-five in sacks across the NFL.

3. Bills (11-6)

Bills QB Josh Allen Getty Images

They struggled to close key contests earlier this year, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more dangerous offensive trio than Josh Allen, James Cook and Stefon Diggs. They have January hurdles to clear, but throw in an improved Sean McDermott-led defense featuring ballhawk Rasul Douglas, and they might be the contender that nobody else wants to play.

2. 49ers (12-5)

49ers HC Kyle Shanahan Getty Images

It's not a coincidence that Kyle Shanahan's reached the NFC title game three times since 2019. A fourth trip would surprise no one, because Brock Purdy is the most poised, quick-footed point guard Shanahan's ever deployed. Besides also boasting elite multipurpose weapons, they've still got an imposing defense. Their key will be getting out to early leads.

1. Ravens (13-4)

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson Getty Images

They've got all the ingredients of a true championship contender: a dynamic QB in Lamar Jackson who's slinging it with effortless accuracy and can escape trouble with his legs, an experienced coach in John Harbaugh who's been to the big stage before, and a fast, physical defense that can affect the ball at every level. They should be favored in every matchup.