The 2022-2023 NFL season is heading into the home stretch, and the playoff picture is starting to take shape. With several weeks left, there is still a lot up in the air, but we can begin projecting what the postseason matchups might look like.
In this comprehensive guide, we will analyze the current NFL standings, remaining schedules, and tiebreaking procedures to forecast the likely playoff participants and seeding scenarios. We will also preview some of the most anticipated potential postseason contests that could materialize based on how the final weeks shake out.
AFC Playoff Projections
Current AFC Standings
Here are the current AFC standings as of Week 11:
|1||Kansas City Chiefs||8-2||AFC West||6-2|
|2||Miami Dolphins||7-3||AFC East||5-2|
|3||Tennessee Titans||7-3||AFC South||5-2|
|4||Baltimore Ravens||7-3||AFC North||6-2|
|5||Buffalo Bills||7-3||AFC East||5-3|
|6||New York Jets||6-4||AFC East||5-3|
|7||New England Patriots||6-4||AFC East||5-2|
The Chiefs remain atop the AFC after taking control of the West division. The Dolphins have leapt up to the 2-seed thanks to their offensive explosion with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The Titans and Ravens are battling for supremacy in their respective divisions. The Bills hold the first Wild Card spot, while the Jets and Patriots are in position for the final two playoff openings.
Several teams remain in striking distance, including the Bengals, Chargers, and Colts. The final few weeks will determine which squads secure a coveted playoff berth.
AFC Playoff Picture Projections
Based on the current standings, schedules, and tiebreakers, here are the projected playoff seedings if the season ended today:
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Miami Dolphins
- Tennessee Titans
- Baltimore Ravens
- Buffalo Bills
- New York Jets
- New England Patriots
The Chiefs and Dolphins would earn first round byes. The Titans would host the Patriots, while the Ravens would host the Jets on Wild Card weekend. The Bills would have to head on the road as the 5-seed.
These projections could certainly change dramatically with almost two months left in the regular season. However, the Chiefs are well-positioned to maintain the top seed given their cushion atop the AFC West. The Dolphins face a tough remaining slate including the 49ers, Chargers, and Bills. Tennessee has key games against the Bengals and Cowboys. Baltimore has winnable matchups with Carolina, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh down the stretch.
The middle of the pack still has ample chance to move up in the coming weeks. The Bills, Jets, Patriots, Bengals, and Chargers all remain firmly in the mix. As divisional games heat up, head-to-head results will solidify the pecking order. Expect a frantic sprint to the finish in the AFC as competitors jockey for position.
NFC Playoff Projections
Current NFC Standings
Here is how the NFC playoff race stacks up after 11 weeks:
|1||Philadelphia Eagles||9-1||NFC East||6-0|
|2||Minnesota Vikings||8-2||NFC North||6-1|
|3||San Francisco 49ers||6-4||NFC West||5-2|
|4||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5-5||NFC South||3-5|
|5||Dallas Cowboys||7-3||NFC East||6-1|
|6||New York Giants||7-3||NFC East||5-2|
|7||Seattle Seahawks||6-4||NFC West||5-1|
The Eagles have emerged as the class of the NFC so far behind the brilliance of Jalen Hurts. The Vikings are cruising towards an NFC North title. The 49ers lead a crowded NFC West after acquiring Christian McCaffrey. The Bucs are struggling but still atop the weak South division. The Cowboys and Giants are battling the Eagles for NFC East supremacy. And the Seahawks have surprised as top Wild Card contenders.
With the Packers and Rams underperforming, the playoff picture remains wide open. Plenty of teams are still alive for the final couple Wild Card spots.
NFC Playoff Picture Projections
Here are the projected NFC playoff seedings if the regular season ended today:
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Minnesota Vikings
- San Francisco 49ers
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Dallas Cowboys
- New York Giants
- Seattle Seahawks
The Eagles would clinch home field throughout the playoffs. The Vikings would get a first round bye. The 49ers would host the Seahawks on Wild Card weekend. The Bucs would host the Giants. And the Cowboys would hit the road to face the 49ers.
However, the NFC playoff picture is extremely murky. The Packers or Rams could still make runs despite their disappointing starts. The Falcons, Commanders, and Lions are pushing for Wild Card spots. And the 49ers have a challenging schedule including the Dolphins, Saints, and Raiders ahead.
The Eagles are the most complete team and best positioned to lock up the 1-seed. But beneath them, expect a chaotic scramble the rest of the way. The last two berths could come down to Week 18 with numerous teams still fighting for their playoff lives.
Early Look at Potential Playoff Matchups
Based on the current projections, here is an early preview of some of the most intriguing potential postseason contests:
Chiefs vs Bills/Bengals/Chargers
The Chiefs are on track to secure home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. But that doesn’t guarantee an easy path to the Super Bowl. They could face a major challenge in the Divisional Round from the Bills, Bengals or Chargers. Each matchup would pit an explosive KC offense against a top-tier defense. Josh Allen and the Bills will be seeking revenge after falling just short in last year’s epic playoff duel. Joe Burrow would lead the hungry Bengals back to Arrowhead with a championship-caliber roster. Justin Herbert and the Chargers have the firepower to trade points with Mahomes and company. Any of these clashes would make for an instant classic.
Eagles vs Cowboys/49ers in NFC Championship Game
The Eagles have separated from the pack in the NFC. But two major obstacles potentially stand in their way of reaching the Super Bowl: the Cowboys and 49ers. Dallas already took Philadelphia down to the wire in Week 6 despite backup QB Cooper Rush. When Dak Prescott returns, the Cowboys offense will be even more high-powered. And if the 49ers continue rolling with McCaffrey and their dominant defense, they have the formula to disrupt the Eagles. San Francisco already has statement wins over the Rams, Chargers and Cardinals. Either a Philly-Dallas or Philly-San Francisco title bout would be must-see TV.
Bills vs 49ers Super Bowl Matchup
This pairing would feature arguably the NFL’s most complete teams. The Bills lead the league in scoring behind Allen’s MVP-caliber campaign. Buffalo boasts difference-makers like Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Dawson Knox on offense and Von Miller leading the defense. But the 49ers might have the most talented overall roster. McCaffrey makes their run game nearly unstoppable. The defense has stars at every level from Nick Bosa to Fred Warner and is number one in points allowed. The unstoppable force of the Bills offense versus the immovable object of the Niners defense would be a fascinating Super Bowl showdown.
Chiefs vs Eagles Super Bowl Matchup
This dream quarterback matchup would pit the last two young stars to win MVPs. Mahomes and Hurts have emerged as two of the faces of the NFL’s new generation. Both are elite passers and run threats with the ability to single-handedly take over games. They finished 1-2 in Pro Bowl fan voting, signaling their massive popularity. And they have transformed their franchises into perennial contenders. While the Chiefs still lean more on Mahomes’ brilliance, the Eagles have built a more complete roster around Hurts. But both organizations have the foundation to compete for titles for years to come. Seeing these superstar QBs battle it out on the NFL’s biggest stage would be spectacular theater.
Wild Card Weekend Sleeper Games
While the Divisional Round and Championship Games get more buzz, Wild Card Weekend often produces some of the most memorable contests. Here are two under-the-radar opening round clashes that could turn into classics:
Patriots at Titans
This projected matchup would pit the NFL’s top two defensive masterminds in Bill Belichick and Mike Vrabel. They know each other extremely well from Vrabel’s time playing under Belichick. Their chess match would feature elite tactics. Derrick Henry challenging the Pats’ top-ranked scoring defense would make for smash-mouth football. And players like Devin McCourty, Matthew Judon and Kyle Dugger would try to confuse rookie Titans QB Malik Willis. The savvy veteran Belichick going against his protege Vrabel would be a coaching battle for the ages.
Seahawks at 49ers
This NFC West rivalry produced an early Game of the Year candidate in Week 2. The Seahawks edged the 49ers 27-7 in a defensive slugfest. But both teams have evolved since then. QB Geno Smith has the surprising Seahawks leading the NFL in scoring. Rookie tackles Charles Cross and Abe Lucas have been revelations. And the defense is allowing the fewest points in the league. Meanwhile the 49ers added McCaffrey to an already stacked roster. This familiar foe matchup would likely produce another throwback, hard-hitting affair. And the bad blood between these teams always raises the intensity even more.
Playoff Clinching Scenarios
While projections are interesting, the only surefire way to make the playoffs is mathematically clinching a spot. Here are the scenarios for the top teams to punch their tickets:
- Clinched with 1 more win or 1 Chargers loss
- Clinched NFC East with 1 more win or 1 Cowboys loss
- Clinch playoffs with 2 more wins or 1 win + 1 loss by 49ers/Vikings/Cowboys
- Clinch NFC North with 1 more win or 1 Lions loss
- Clinch playoffs with 2 more wins
- Clinch playoffs with 3 more wins or 2 wins + 1 loss by Jets/Patriots
- Clinch playoffs with 4 more wins or 3 wins + 1 loss by Seahawks
Most contenders are still a few weeks from officially sealing their fate. But teams like the Eagles and Vikings are on the cusp of punching their postseason tickets. Expect more clinching scenarios to open up Week 12 and beyond as the playoff picture crystallizes.
Battle for Final AFC Wild Card Spots
The fight for the AFC’s final two Wild Card spots will likely go down to the wire. Here is how the top contenders currently stack up:
|Bengals||6-4||2nd AFC North||4-3||Titans, Chiefs, Browns|
|Chargers||5-5||2nd AFC West||3-3||Cardinals, Raiders, Colts|
|Colts||4-6-1||2nd AFC South||4-3||Steelers, Cowboys, Giants|
The Bengals face the toughest schedule but already hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets. The Chargers have an easier remaining slate and win the tiebreaker over the Patriots based on conference record. The Colts likely need to win out given their hole, but their defense could carry them on a run against struggling offenses.
Ultimately, winning divisional games will be critical. The Patriots have two left against the Bills. The Bengals and Ravens still meet twice, while the Titans and Colts square off in the South. Those head-to-head divisional battles will likely determine who survives this chaotic playoff scramble.
Battle for Final NFC Wild Card Spots
Similar to the AFC, the NFC has four teams battling for the seventh seed:
|Commanders||6-5||4th NFC East||5-4||Falcons, Giants|
|Falcons||5-6||2nd NFC South||4-5||Commanders, Ravens|
|Packers||4-7||3rd NFC North||3-5||Bears, Rams|
|Cardinals||4-7||3rd NFC West||3-5||Chargers, Broncos|
The Commanders have the inside track thanks to an easier remaining schedule. The Falcons have struggled to close out tight games. The Packers dug themselves a deep hole but have the talent to rattle off a win streak. And the Cardinals need Kyler Murray back healthy to have a chance.
The NFC South and East losers will likely battle for this final berth. Key
Key head-to-head games between the Commanders, Falcons and Giants will determine positioning. And the Packers still have faint hopes if they can sweep the Bears and upset the Dolphins or Rams.
But Washington is the safest bet thanks to emerging difference-makers like Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and a fierce pass rush. Carson Wentz is managing the offense efficiently enough to complement the strong defense. That formula should be enough for the Commanders to return to the playoffs if they take care of business in the next few weeks.
NFL Tiebreaking Procedures
With multiple teams often tied in the standings, here is a quick primer on the NFL’s tiebreaking rules:
- Head-to-Head: Better record in games between tied teams.
- Division Record: Better record in division games.
- Common Games: Better record in games played against the same opponents.
- Conference Record: Better record in games against AFC or NFC teams.
- Strength of Victory: Combined winning percentage of teams you beat.
- Strength of Schedule: Stronger overall schedule with opponents’ records factored in.
- Coin Toss: If still tied after all other tiebreakers.
These tiebreakers only apply within a division after settling its winner first. Then conference record takes precedence for Wild Card seeding.
Understanding the tiebreaking order is crucial, because head-to-head or divisional outcomes often determine playoff berths and seeding. Just a single result swing could massively impact postseason standings.
Why Playoff Seeding Matters
Seeding is critical because it determines matchups and home-field advantage. The top seeds in each conference get first-round byes and host playoff games throughout. Lower seeds have to play on the road and face the toughest opponents.
Recent Super Bowls demonstrate why fighting for the 1 or 2 seed is worthwhile. Since 2013, the #1 seed is 8-2 in the Super Bowl. Secure home field and you have a massive leg up on hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Seeding also affects Wild Card weekend. The 5 and 6 seeds get eliminated at much higher rates than the 3 and 4 seeds based on 30 years of playoff data. You want to rise as high as possible before the postseason starts.
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Finally, certain specific matchups are more favorable. Teams have particular opponents they match up better against. The Patriots, for example, would rather face the Bills than the Ravens or Bengals. Seeding determines who you’ll likely play each round.
One spot can be the difference between a joyous playoff run or bitter early exit. Every win down the stretch is thus hugely important for teams jockeying for position.
Why the 2022-2023 Playoff Race is So Compelling
This NFL season has been wildly unpredictable with plenty of surprises. That’s why this playoff race is shaping up to be one of the most competitive and compelling ever:
- Both conferences are wide open with new contenders emerging. No definitive favorites have separated yet.
- Traditional powers like the Chiefs, Bills, 49ers and Packers face stiff challenges from ascendant teams like the Eagles, Dolphins and Vikings. Changing of the guard potential!
- Rookie sensations like Sauce Gardner, Chris Olave and Dameon Pierce have reenergized teams. Fresh new faces instead of the same old stars.
- Massive comebacks: the Jets, Giants and Seahawks have returned to relevance after down years.
- Major injuries have paved the way for shocking breakouts like Geno Smith, Daniel Jones and Jeff Wilson.
- Blockbuster mid-season trades could shift balances of power further, like the Christian McCaffrey deal.
- Any given Sunday has defined this season. Even great teams are vulnerable with so much parity across the league.
- Divisional races are extremely tight. Most are likely to come down to Week 18 with playoff spots up for grabs.
- Winless starts by the Rams, Broncos, Raiders and Bucs seemed unthinkable in August. All bets are off!
This is all setting up for a December and January filled with high stakes drama, desperation and surprises. Every single regular season game now holds major playoff implications that could rewrite legacies.
After years of relative stability and predictable powerhouses, the NFL has never been more wide open and ripe for chaos. The only guarantee this postseason is utter mayhem! Get your popcorn ready and strap in for the wildest playoff race in NFL history.
The 2022-2023 NFL playoff picture remains very murky with the final two months of the season left to play. Several divisional and wild card races are extremely competitive and could come down to pivotal Week 18 matchups.
While teams like the Eagles and Chiefs appear on track for top seeds, nothing is set in stone yet. Injuries or late surges from challengers could still reshape the brackets.
Wild Card weekend already offers some tantalizing potential matchups like 49ers-Seahawks or Bills-Bengals. And the Divisional Round and Championship Games could feature iconic clashes between superstar QBs like Mahomes vs Allen or Hurts vs Prescott.
Given all the surprises already this rollercoaster NFL season, expect the unthinkable once the playoffs begin. Any outcome is on the table in the most wide-open postseason race in recent memory. Every remaining regular season contest is must-see TV with massive playoff implications.
Strap in for a wild sprint to the finish as teams scratch and claw for every possible playoff edge. This memorable NFL playoff picture promises to culminate in an unforgettable madness-filled postseason that will make history.