World Series contenders ranked 1-8

Two postseason games are completed, with the chance of 41 more to go over the next 28 days.

The best-of-five American League Division Series begin Thursday, followed by the National League Division Series on Friday.

So how would you rank the remaining eight teams? The Cubs are the overwhelming favorite to win the World Series, but it gets tricky after that.

1. Cubs: The Cubs finished the season with the best record in baseball and won 100 games for the first time since 1935. They have the best rotation, including Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, who combined for a 2.96 ERA. They have one of the most dominant closers in Aroldis Chapman. And they have two MVP candidates in 3B Kris Bryant and 1B Anthony Rizzo. But what speaks the most to their dominance is a run differential of plus-252, 68 more runs than the next closest team, the Red Sox.

2. Rangers: They have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and finished with the AL's best record for the first time in franchise history. But unlike the Cubs and Red Sox, the Rangers' run differential is only plus-8. So what has been the secret to their success? Clutch factor. The Rangers are 36-11 (.766) in one-run games, which, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is the best win percentage in a season. They also led the league with 49 comeback wins and eight when trailing after the eighth inning.

3. Red Sox: The worst-to-first Red Sox closed out the regular season playing their best baseball, going 19-10 (.655) in September and October. The Red Sox are known for their potent offense, led by MVP candidate Mookie Betts and DH David Ortiz. The lineup racked up an MLB-high 878 runs, 101 more runs than the runner-up Cleveland Indians. Can they send Big Papi into retirement in style?

4. Dodgers: When Clayton Kershaw was lost for more than two months this summer with a back injury, it seemed so were the Dodgers' hopes of reaching the playoffs. But the Dodgers fought through it and took over first place in the NL West by mid-August. With the addition of Rich Hill at the trade deadline, the Dodgers have a formidable 1-2 punch. SS Corey Seager has had a phenomenal rookie season, batting .308 with 26 home runs. And 3B Justin Turner, with 27 homers and 90 RBI, is also having a career year

5. Nationals: The Nationals fought through their share of injuries in September but still managed to finish the regular season with a 17-12 record. Stephen Strasburg (elbow) has been ruled out of the NLDS and C Wilson Ramos (torn ACL) is out for the season. All-Star 2B Daniel Murphy (strained buttocks) and OF Bryce Harper (thumb) are expected to play in Game 1 of the NLDS.

6. Blue Jays: After Edwin Encarncion's walk-off three-run home run to beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 in the 11th inning in the AL wild-card game, the Blue Jays head into the ALDS against the Rangers with a chip on their shoulder. In their final regular season matchup, the Rangers' Rougned Odor and Toronto's Jose Bautista got into a scuffle. The Jays lineup, which includes reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson, is extremely dangerous and can quickly change the momentum of the game.

7. Indians: The Tribe continue to flourish despite a rash of injuries. OF Michael Brantley (shoulder surgery) played 11 games. The starting rotation has been decimated by injuries to Carlos Carrasco (broken hand) and Danny Salazar (forearm tightness). But the Indians' consistent lineup and dominant bullpen has them in the playoffs.

8. Giants: When the Giants face elimination in the playoffs, they find a way to win. It helps to have Madison Bumgarner on the staff, but he can't pitch every game. The Giants had a terrible second half, going 30-42. But this is an even year, so maybe they can recreate the magic a fourth time.

PHOTOS: 2016 MLB Playoffs

Copyright 2016 USA TODAY Sports


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