The 2022-2023 NFL season is nearing the halfway point, and playoff races are starting to take shape. With several weeks left, there is still plenty of jostling for playoff positioning. This comprehensive guide takes an early look at the potential playoff matchups based on the current NFL standings and playoff picture.
The NFL playoffs bring out the best in pro football. With just one loss eliminating a team, the postseason forces maximum effort and intense competition. Analyzing the potential playoff picture provides fascinating insight into how the rest of the season may unfold.
This in-depth examination of the 2022-2023 NFL playoff picture projections covers all the key information football fans crave. Which division winners seem destined for the postseason? What wildcard teams could snag those coveted extra playoff spots? How might the seeding shape up after 17 grueling regular season games?
Continue reading for a detailed breakdown of the current NFL playoff picture and predictions for all the matchups. Discover which teams are poised for success, primed for an early exit, or right on the playoff bubble.
NFC Playoff Picture Projections
The NFC playoff race features heated battles for division titles and wildcard spots. Here are the current NFC standings:
|New York Giants||6-2|
Projected Division Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
The undefeated Eagles show no signs of slowing down behind the outstanding play of QB Jalen Hurts. With a two game lead over the Cowboys and Giants, Philadelphia is in the driver’s seat to clinch the NFC East title.
In the Hunt: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants
Dallas and New York have identical 6-2 records and appear headed for wildcard spots. Both teams need to keep winning to fend off challengers like the 49ers and Seahawks.
|Green Bay Packers||3-5|
Projected Division Winner: Minnesota Vikings
Despite starting 6-1, the Vikings only lead the disappointing Packers by 2.5 games. But with Green Bay struggling mightily, Minnesota is still the favorite to take the NFC North.
On the Bubble: Green Bay Packers
At 3-5, the Packers are hanging by a thread in the playoff hunt. But with Aaron Rodgers at QB, Green Bay can never be counted out. A late season run could propel them to a wildcard spot.
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||3-5|
|New Orleans Saints||3-5|
Projected Division Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The NFC South has been the NFL’s weakest division so far. But Tom Brady and the Bucs are well-positioned to repeat as division champs despite their losing record.
In the Hunt: Atlanta Falcons
Given the sorry state of this division, the 4-4 Falcons have a shot at stealing the NFC South title if Tampa Bay falters down the stretch.
|San Francisco 49ers||4-4|
|Los Angeles Rams||3-4|
Projected Division Winner: San Francisco 49ers
The Seahawks lead now, but the 49ers are the most talented team and poised to retake the division lead once healthy. San Francisco took the NFC West last season and should do so again.
In the Hunt: Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson and the surprising Seahawks look primed to make a strong push for a wildcard spot.
Based on the current NFC standings, the four division winners would be:
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Minnesota Vikings
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- San Francisco 49ers
The three wildcard spots would go to:
- Dallas Cowboys
- New York Giants
- Seattle Seahawks
Here are the projected NFC playoff matchups based on the seeds:
- Wildcard Round:
- (7) Seahawks at (2) Vikings
- (6) Giants at (3) Buccaneers
- Divisional Round
- Lowest remaining seed at (1) Eagles
- Highest remaining seed at (2) Vikings
- NFC Championship
- TBD at TBD
The Eagles would earn the lone first-round bye, rewarding their dominant season with rest before the grind of the playoffs. This projects two stellar wildcard matchups featuring teams with Super Bowl aspirations.
The Seahawks visiting the Vikings would pit two talented teams led by veteran star quarterbacks. The Giants heading to Tampa Bay allows Saquon Barkley to battle Tom Brady. Divisional round matchups of Eagles vs. Giants or Seahawks would be must-see TV.
AFC Playoff Picture Projections
The AFC playoff race is equally chaotic. Here are the current AFC standings:
|New York Jets||5-3|
|New England Patriots||4-4|
Projected Division Winner: Buffalo Bills
Despite some midseason struggles, Josh Allen and the Bills remain the class of the AFC East and the favorite to win the division title.
In the Hunt: New York Jets, Miami Dolphins
These two upstarts have been pleasant surprises this season. Both the Jets and Dolphins are right in the mix for AFC playoff spots.
Projected Division Winner: Baltimore Ravens
With QB Lamar Jackson playing at an MVP level, the Ravens seem poised to fend off the defending AFC champion Bengals for the division crown.
On the Bubble: Cincinnati Bengals
It’s been a disappointing start for Joe Burrow and company coming off last season’s Super Bowl run. But the Bengals have enough talent to contend for a wildcard.
Projected Division Winner: Tennessee Titans
Despite losing star RB Derrick Henry, the Titans remain in control of the AFC South. They are the clear favorites thanks to the weak competition.
On the Bubble: Indianapolis Colts
It’s been an ugly year for the Colts, but with Jonathan Taylor healthy again, Indianapolis could make a late push towards the playoffs.
|Kansas City Chiefs||5-2|
|Los Angeles Chargers||4-3|
|Las Vegas Raiders||2-5|
Projected Division Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have dominated this division for years, and Patrick Mahomes has them rolling again. Kansas City remains the team to beat in the AFC West.
In the Hunt: Los Angeles Chargers
Despite some disappointing losses, Justin Herbert and the Chargers have enough firepower to be firmly in the mix for an AFC wildcard spot.
Based on the current standings, the four division winners would be:
- Buffalo Bills
- Baltimore Ravens
- Tennessee Titans
- Kansas City Chiefs
The three wildcard spots would go to:
- New York Jets
- Miami Dolphins
- Los Angeles Chargers
Here are the projected AFC playoff matchups:
- Wildcard Round:
- (7) Chargers at (2) Ravens
- (6) Dolphins at (3) Titans
- Divisional Round
- Lowest remaining seed at (1) Bills
- Highest remaining seed at (2) Ravens
- AFC Championship
- TBD at TBD
This projects two stellar wildcard games with the rising Chargers visiting the surging Ravens and the scrappy Dolphins heading to Tennessee. The divisional round matchups would also feature elite teams clashing.
Just like the NFC, the AFC’s top team, the Bills, would earn the lone bye week to rest their starters. The Bengals and Colts still have a chance to shake up the projected seeds, but both need to string together wins in the crowded AFC playoff race.
Wildcard Weekend Showdowns
Based on these AFC and NFC playoff picture projections, the wildcard weekend matchups would be:
- (7) Los Angeles Chargers at (2) Baltimore Ravens
- (6) Miami Dolphins at (3) Tennessee Titans
- (7) Seattle Seahawks at (2) Minnesota Vikings
- (6) New York Giants at (3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
These four matchups feature exciting storylines. The veteran QBs Rivers and Brady dueling the rising young stars Herbert and Barkley. Wilson returns to Minnesota to face his former NFC West rival. A rematch of last year’s epic Bills-Chiefs divisional round game looms as well.
While the actual playoff seedings will change as the NFL season progresses, these potential matchups provide a thrilling glimpse of the elite playoff football ahead. Every remaining regular season game will shape the final NFC and AFC playoff pictures.
Who Needs Help? Bubble Teams Seeking Playoff Berths
As the projected seeds highlight, several talented teams currently sit on the outside of the playoff picture but still have a chance to earn a postseason berth. These bubble teams need to string together some wins down the stretch to have a shot.
In the AFC
- New England Patriots (4-4): Bill Belichick’s squad is dangerous but needs to pass either the Jets or Dolphins to grab a wildcard spot.
- Cincinnati Bengals (4-4): The defending AFC champs have underwhelmed but capable of a run. Joe Burrow would be a tough out in the playoffs.
- Indianapolis Colts (3-4-1): Injuries have plagued Indy, but Jonathan Taylor’s return boosts their wildcard hopes.
In the NFC
- Green Bay Packers (3-5): Written off by many, but Aaron Rodgers can never be counted out.
- Atlanta Falcons (4-4): Lack playoff pedigree but positioned to steal the NFC South with more wins.
- Arizona Cardinals (3-5): Disappointing so far but a late surge could snag the last NFC wildcard spot.
Any of these teams could upset the projected playoff field, but they’ll need help via losing skids by current contenders.
Who Looks Safe? Division Leaders Poised for Playoffs
While nothing is certain in the NFL, some teams appear to have their divisions and playoff spots under control barring collapse. These leaders have separation from rivals and inside tracks to play January football:
In the AFC
- Buffalo Bills (6-1): QB Josh Allen has the Bills looking like true Super Bowl contenders again.
- Baltimore Ravens (5-3): With Jackson playing at MVP level, Ravens can win shootouts or grind out victories.
- Kansas City Chiefs (5-2): Mahomes and Andy Reid have the Chiefs offense rolling once again.
In the NFC
- Philadelphia Eagles (7-0): New coach Nick Sirianni and QB Jalen Hurts have Philly undefeated.
- Minnesota Vikings (6-1): WR duo of Jefferson and Thielen powers prolific offense led by Cousins.
Despite chasing wildcard spots, the Jets, Dolphins and Giants also occupy playoff spots currently with solid 5-3 and 6-2 records. Each team has shown resilience and toughness this season that will serve them well down the stretch.
Barring injury catastrophes, all of these division leaders have the top-tier talent at key positions to maintain their advantage. But nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, providing the drama that captivates pro football fans.
Why Playoff Seeding Matters
The specific playoff seedings make a huge impact once the postseason starts. The top seeds in each conference earn valuable first-round byes and home field advantage. This allows their stars extra rest and recovery before the grind of playoff competition.
Lower seeds must play dangerous wildcard weekend matches, often on the road, with a one-game exit eliminating their Super Bowl dreams. The 6th seed drawing the 3rd seed while the 5th gets the easier 4th seed matchup is pivotal.
Division winners also get preferential seeding over wildcard teams, moving up the ranks compared to their regular season record thanks to winning their division.
Home field advantage is massive, with raucous live crowds energizing the host team. No one wants to visit venues like Buffalo’s Highmark Stadium with 70,000 screaming Bills Mafia fans in January.
With so much at stake during the regular season, the NFL playoff picture projections will remain highly volatile right up until Week 18. Every win or loss shapes the final standings.
Why the NFL Playoff Race Remains Wide Open
Parity reigns in the NFL, which means shockers and Cinderella runs happen every year once the playoffs start. Not even powerhouses like the Chiefs, Bills and Eagles are safe. Who can forget the 9-7 Giants taking down the mighty 16-0 Patriots? Or the 6th-seeded Packers getting red hot on the way to winning Super Bowl XLV?
The ultra-competitive playoffs mean droughts and losing seasons can be erased instantly. Just ask last season’s champion Bengals, who went from 4-11-1 in 2020 to the Super Bowl in 2021. Other bottom feeders like the Lions, Jaguars and Jets dream of similar rapid turnarounds this season.
Injuries play a major role as well. The Titans overcame Derrick Henry missing nine games to clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed last year. Joe Burrow led the Bengals on a playoff run after an up-and-down sophomore season. Stars like Lamar Jackson, Saquon Barkley and Justin Herbert could carry their teams on shocking deep postseason runs.
Coaching and defensive dominance are also great playoff equalizers. Well-designed game plans by creative play-callers like Brian Daboll (Giants) and Kevin O’Connell (Vikings) can neutralize more talented teams in single-elimination games. Defensive powerhouses like the 49ers, Cowboys and Jets use suffocating pressure to force turnovers that flip games in January.
Every playoff contender still has flaws that can be exploited in the postseason. Sleepers need only get hot at the right time while super teams rarely live up to regular season hype once the competition gets tougher. This opens the door for underdogs and chaos once the NFL playoffs kick off.
Key Games Remaining That Will Shape the Playoff Picture
With the playoff races constantly evolving in both conferences, there are pivotal games in the coming weeks that will significantly impact the final NFC and AFC standings:
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- Chiefs at Bills (Week 6) – This potential AFC Championship preview could decide who claims the coveted No. 1 seed and home field.
- Eagles at Texans (Week 9) – The NFL’s last unbeaten faces a scrappy Texans team fighting for pride in an upset opportunity.
- Rams at Saints (Week 11) – Both disappointing NFC contenders need this win to stay in the crowded playoff hunt.
- Bengals at Titans (Week 12) – The Burrow vs Tannehill QB duel will shape the AFC playoff picture.
- Dolphins at Bills (Week 15) – This AFC East rivalry battle will have massive playoff seeding implications.
- Buccaneers at Cowboys (Week 1) – Brady vs Prescott on Sunday Night Football will impact NFC positioning.
Every remaining divisional game also carries extra weight with tiebreakers and division titles on the line. The last few weeks of the season typically see the most volatility as surging bubble teams shake up the standings.
Football fans should savor the exciting final weeks of the NFL’s regular campaign. Then the real fireworks will start once the playoffs kick off and dreams of a Super Bowl run either come to fruition or end abruptly.
Predicting the NFL Playoffs Far Ahead of Time
Projecting the unpredictable NFL playoffs this far in advance, before clinching scenarios or playoff bids actually occur, is mostly an exercise in futility. The league prides itself on parity and upsets. Any team can get hot at the right time. Major injuries to star QBs and game-breakers can sink contenders overnight.
At this point in the NFL season, ranking teams based solely on playoff pedigree and talent on paper seems justifiable. But once the fierce competition begins, the injury-riddled Ravens might suddenly have no shot while a lightly regarded franchise like Jacksonville catches fire at just the right time.
So these early NFL playoff predictions should be consumed purely for entertainment purposes. The final NFC and AFC standings will look quite different come playoff time. But imagining how the contenders stack up and match up generates excitement for the intense battles ahead.
Every NFL postseason delivers stunning upsets, miracles like the Minneapolis one, and historic individual performances. Football fans should simply enjoy the thrilling weekly drama as the 2022-2023 NFL playoff picture continues evolving. Soon enough, the actual playoff field will crystallize and the real NFL drama begins.
Frequently Asked Questions About the 2022-2023 NFL Playoff Picture
The NFL playoff race raises many questions for football fans. Here are helpful answers to the most frequently asked queries:
How many teams make the NFL playoffs?
14 total teams qualify for the NFL postseason:
- 4 division winners from both the AFC and NFC
- 3 wildcard teams from both the AFC and NFC
- 6 playoff teams from each conference
- The top seed in each conference earns the lone bye week
So 12 teams play on wildcard weekend, with 2 from each conference getting byes for the divisional round.
What are the NFL playoff seeding rules?
The seeds are assigned as follows:
- The four division winners get seeds 1-4 in order of their regular season records.
- The top three non-division winners qualify as wildcards, seeded 5-7 based on their records.
- Head-to-head record, division record, common opponents, and other tiebreakers decide close battles for seeds.
When do the 2023 NFL playoffs start?
The wildcard round begins on Saturday, January 14, 2023 with two AFC games. Two NFC games follow on Sunday, January 15, 2023.
The divisional round occurs the following weekend starting January 21. Conference championships happen on January 29.
Super Bowl LVII concludes the NFL playoffs on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona.
What are the NFL playoff matchups if the season ended today?
See the projections outlined earlier based on the standings at the midway point of the NFL season. The seeds, matchups, and potential conference brackets are detailed in this guide.
Which teams look like true Super Bowl contenders right now?
The Eagles, Bills, Chiefs, and 49ers appear to have the most complete rosters and best odds of winning it all as of Week 9. But plenty can change down the stretch. At least 3-4 other playoff teams will also have strong cases depending on health and late surges.
Can a team with a losing record make the playoffs?
Yes, it is possible if a team wins their division without a winning overall record. This has happened 7 times in NFL history, most recently the 2014 Panthers who went 7-8-1 but took the NFC South.
The 2022 Buccaneers and Falcons could continue this trend in the weak NFC South this season if neither gets above .500.
How important is playoff seeding for Super Bowl hopes?
Getting a first-round bye and home field advantage boosts a team’s Super Bowl odds significantly based on NFL history. But lower seeds have advanced to and won the Super Bowl as well. Once in the playoffs, getting hot at the right time matters more than seeding.