Greg Cote

Greg Cote’s NFL playoff rankings, annual awards

Miami Dolphins quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill (left) and Matt Moore (8) welcome the team onto the field before the start of the game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, January 1, 2017.
Miami Dolphins quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill (left) and Matt Moore (8) welcome the team onto the field before the start of the game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, January 1, 2017.

I’m not sure which of these two truisms is harder to believe:

That the Miami Dolphins are in the playoffs. Or that I have a chance to get my Super Bowl pick right because both of my preseason teams remain alive.

Miami was last invited to the NFL’s postseason party in 2008, and I have bull’s-eyed only two SB champs in 26 seasons of Miami Herald predictions, so let’s call that a draw.

Alas, I’ll need a little luck for my pick (Steelers over Packers) to come true, and the Dolphins will need a lot of it for their run to last long. Ranking the 12 playoff teams on the likelihood they’ll be champions come the night of Feb. 5:

1. New England Patriots: Sorry, Dolfans, but after all this time Tom Brady and Bill Belichick still form the axis on which the NFL revolves. Top seed, home field, best team.

2. Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and home throughout NFC run makes ’Boys likely to reach first Super Bowl in 21 years.

3. Atlanta Falcons: The defense still isn’t that good, but when likely league MVP Matt Ryan is putting up 33.8 points per game, you don’t worry much.

4. Green Bay Packers: Cheesers and Aaron Rodgers arrive hot as anybody, with Rodgers 15-0 on TDs/picks in Gee Bees’ six-game win streak.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers: To put Dolphins’ first opponent higher would require a belief Ben Roethlisberger might beat Brady in Foxborough. Nope.

6. Seattle Seahawks: Beware. Russell Wilson and defense are playoff-tested, and this team is capable of beating any of three NFC teams ranked above.

7. Kansas City Chiefs: This might be low for Alex Smith’s No. 2 seeds, but K.C. has won only one playoff game since 1993.

8. New York Giants: Big dropoff here, from seven teams with a fighting chance to five with far less. But defense (of all things) gives NYG a prayer.

9. Detroit Lions: Ended season with three consecutive L’s, but Motown keeps games close and Matthew Stafford had strong season.

10. Oakland Raiders: A winnable first-round game, but devastating loss of QB Derek Carr means OAK won’t last long.

11. Houston Texas: Houston has 100 percent chance to be hosting this Super Bowl and maybe 1 percent shot to play in it.

12. Miami Dolphins: I’d probably rank Fins as eighth- or ninth-best playoff team, even with Matt Moore. But they’re last here as least-likely Super Bowl champ because their path is brutal. At Pittsburgh followed by at rested New England is a football apocalypse.


Our King Sport 2016 season awards:

▪ MVP: Matt Ryan, Falcons QB — Had 4,944 yards, 38 TDs and 117.1 rating to lead surprise team to No. 2 seed. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers close second. Only others with argument: Patriots QB Tom Brady, Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott.

▪ Offensive POY: David Johnson, Cardinals RB — Where MVP factors team success, this is individual award, and Johnson led league with 2,074 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns.

▪ Defensive POY: Von Miller, Broncos OLB — Miller, second in NFL with  13 1/2 sacks, hangs on despite slow finish. Rams DT Aaron Donald, Raiders DE Khalil Mack in mix.

▪ Offensive rookie: Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys RB — Led league in rushing, scored 16 TDs. Only teammate QB Dak Prescott is close.

▪ Defensive rookie: Joey Bosa, Chargers DE — Kid out of St. Thomas Aquinas had  10 1/2 sacks in 12 games. Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey my runner-up.

▪ Comeback POY: Cam Wake, Dolphins DE — Packers WR Jordy Nelson may win, but Wake came back from Achilles injury with  11 1/2 sacks at age 34. What more do you want?

▪ Coach of year: Jack Del Rio, Oakland — Dallas’ Jason Garrett or NE’s Bill Belichick might win, but Del Rio took a 3-13 team and in his second year earned club’s first playoff berth since 2002. (No, Miami’s Adam Gase won’t crack top three.)

▪ Dolphins MVP: Jay Ajayi, RB — Wake also is deserving, but reward Ajayi. He was fourth in league with 1,272 yards, averaged 4.9, had three 200-yard games and was catalyst for win streak that ended playoff drought.