NFL Playoff Picture 2022-2023: Projections and Postseason Matchup Outlook

The 2022-2023 NFL season is heading into the home stretch, and the playoff picture is starting to take shape. With several weeks left, the jockeying for playoff positioning and postseason matchups will be fierce. This comprehensive guide breaks down the current NFL playoff standings, projects the likeliest playoff scenarios, and analyzes the key matchups to watch in the 2023 NFL playoffs.

Current NFL Playoff Standings and Division Leaders

Here are the current NFL playoff standings after Week 7:

AFC

  1. Buffalo Bills (5-1)
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)
  3. Tennessee Titans (4-2)
  4. Baltimore Ravens (4-3)
  5. New York Jets (5-2)
  6. Los Angeles Chargers (4-3)
  7. Miami Dolphins (4-3)

NFC

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (6-0)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (5-1)
  3. Seattle Seahawks (4-3)
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3)
  5. Dallas Cowboys (5-2)
  6. New York Giants (6-1)
  7. San Francisco 49ers (4-4)

The current division leaders are:

  • AFC East: Buffalo Bills
  • AFC North: Baltimore Ravens
  • AFC South: Tennessee Titans
  • AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs
  • NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles
  • NFC North: Minnesota Vikings
  • NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • NFC West: Seattle Seahawks

However, there is still a lot of football left to be played. Division leads and playoff spots are far from secured.

Projecting the 2022-2023 NFL Playoff Field

Based on the current standings, strength of schedule, injuries, and other factors, here are the projected playoff teams:

AFC

  1. Buffalo Bills
  2. Kansas City Chiefs
  3. Baltimore Ravens
  4. Tennessee Titans
  5. Cincinnati Bengals
  6. New York Jets
  7. Los Angeles Chargers

NFC

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Minnesota Vikings
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  4. Dallas Cowboys
  5. New York Giants
  6. San Francisco 49ers
  7. Seattle Seahawks

Some key points on these projections:

  • The Bills and Chiefs appear on track for the AFC’s top two seeds, setting up a potential playoff clash.
  • The Bengals get the final Wild Card spot over the Dolphins and Jets.
  • The NFC East could get four playoff teams with the Giants joining the Eagles, Cowboys and Commanders.
  • The banged-up Packers miss the playoffs, snapping their three-year playoff streak.
  • The 49ers take the NFC’s final Wild Card spot.

Of course, injuries, trades, and other factors could shuffle these projections. The playoff field won’t be set until Week 18.

Race for the Top AFC Playoff Seeds

The AFC playoff picture is shaping up to be a battle between the Bills, Chiefs, and Ravens for the top two seeds and first-round byes.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills have bounced back strong from their shocking Week 1 loss to the Jets. Josh Allen is playing at an MVP level and the defense ranks top 5 in points and yards allowed. The Bills still have road tests upcoming against the Chiefs, Lions, and Patriots. But if they can win 2 of those 3, the AFC’s #1 seed looks very achievable.

Kansas City Chiefs

Despite some defensive struggles, the Chiefs are still formidable thanks to Patrick Mahomes’ brilliance. However, KC has a tough schedule ahead including games against the Bills, 49ers, Rams, Bengals and Raiders. Winning enough of those to keep pace with Buffalo will be a challenge.

Baltimore Ravens

Sitting at 4-3, the Ravens need to go on a run to claim a top 2 seed. The offense ranks dead last in passing but Lamar Jackson’s playmaking gives them a chance every week. Upcoming games against the Saints, Panthers, Broncos, Steelers and Browns are all winnable. But the Ravens need to beat either the Bengals or Bills down the stretch.

Battle for Top NFC Playoff Seeds

The NFC playoff picture has more uncertainty beyond the unbeaten Eagles. Four NFC teams have only one loss. Here is how the race for the NFC’s top two seeds could play out:

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles are the NFL’s lone unbeaten team, powered by Jalen Hurts’ MVP-level play and a stacked roster. However, their schedule gets much tougher in the second half. Upcoming games against the Steelers, Colts, Packers, Titans, and Giants will test Philly’s mettle. But if Hurts stays healthy, the Eagles remain the NFC’s team to beat.

Minnesota Vikings

Despite some shaky wins, the Vikings’ talent and coaching have them well-positioned for a top 2 seed. Their upcoming slate (Cardinals, Commanders, Bills, Cowboys) is manageable. But they’ll need to beat either the Bills or Cowboys down the stretch to hold off the pack.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa’s offense still looks out of sync but the defense is playing at an elite level. The Bucs’ schedule is favorable the rest of the way if Tom Brady can get the offense rolling. With the NFC South likely wrapped up, Tampa is poised for at least one home playoff game.

Notable AFC Playoff Matchups

Based on the projected playoff teams above, here are some of the most intriguing potential AFC playoff matchups:

Bills vs Chiefs Rematch

This would be a rematch of last year’s epic AFC Divisional playoff, won 42-36 by Kansas City in overtime. The Bills would be hungry for revenge on the Chiefs on their home field with the stakes even higher. This matchup of elite QBs Mahomes and Allen could be an instant classic.

Bengals vs Ravens Rubber Match

The AFC North rivals would be meeting for the 3rd time after splitting their regular season series. Lamar Jackson vs. Joe Burrow is always must-see TV. In this playoff clash, the bruising Ravens defense would look to slow down Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and the Bengals’ loaded offense.

Justin Herbert vs Chiefs/Bills

A matchup between Herbert’s explosive Chargers offense against the likes of the Chiefs or Bills would be wild. Could coach Brandon Staley and Herbert exploit KC or Buffalo’s vulnerable defenses? Or would Mahomes, Allen and their elite offenses prove too much for the Chargers? This game could be a shootout for the ages.

Intriguing Potential NFC Playoff Matchups

The NFC playoff field could also produce some terrific matchups. Here are some of the most compelling possibilities:

49ers vs Eagles

This clash of titans would pit the Eagles’ #1 defense against the 49ers’ #1 offense. Could dual-threat QB Jalen Hurts conquer the 49ers’ ferocious pass rush? Or would Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and the 49ers offense roll at home? This game could come down to the final possession.

Cowboys vs Giants Rivalry Renewed

America’s team vs. New York’s team on the playoff stage would be historic. With Daniel Jones playing well, Saquon Barkley running wild, and the Giants defense thriving, Big Blue could challenge Dak Prescott and the talented Cowboys. This classic NFC East rivalry is always unpredictable.

Vikings vs Seahawks Defensive Struggle

This projected 3 vs 6 seed matchup could be an old-school defensive battle. Justin Jefferson and the Vikings offense against the Seahawks’ stingy defense led by Jamal Adams could be a low-scoring slugfest. Kirk Cousins would also have to contend with Seattle’s raucous home crowd. Turnovers and big plays could decide this matchup.

Early Super Bowl Matchup Predictions

Looking even further ahead to the 2023 Super Bowl in Arizona, here are 3 of the most enticing potential matchups:

  • Bills vs Eagles – This battle of #1 seeds would pit MVP candidates Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts in a classic offense vs defense showdown. These well-rounded rosters have all the pieces for a thrilling Super Bowl.
  • Chiefs vs Cowboys – Mahomes vs Prescott. Two of the NFL’s biggest brands battling it out on the league’s biggest stage would be tremendously compelling TV. Andy Reid matching wits with Mike McCarthy would provide great coaching subplots too.
  • Ravens vs 49ers – Lamar Jackson made NFL history against the 49ers on the ground earlier this season. In a Super Bowl rematch, Kyle Shanahan would love to shut down Jackson and the Ravens offense on the NFL’s biggest stage after their last matchup in New Orleans. This clash of styles would be fascinating.

Key Factors That Could Alter the Playoff Picture

With the playoff matchups far from set, here are some pivotal factors that could change the AFC and NFC postseason outlook:

  • Injuries to star QBs – If Allen, Mahomes, Hurts or another top QB suffers an injury, that could reshape their team’s playoff chances and the entire playoff bracket.
  • Trades at the Deadline – Teams like the Rams, Packers, and others could make a big trade for help at the November 1 deadline that boosts their playoff odds.
  • Surprise Division Winners – Divisions like the NFC East, NFC South, and AFC North are still wide open. An unexpected division champion could knock a projected playoff team out of the mix.
  • Young QBs Catch Fire – If young QBs like Geno Smith, Daniel Jones, or Trevor Lawrence go on a late tear, their teams could surprise and grab a playoff spot.
  • Major Injuries to Top Stars – Beyond just QBs, injuries to guys like Nick Bosa, Tyreek Hill, or other difference-makers could swing the playoff race.

Stay tuned, as the road to Super Bowl 57 will be paved with plenty more twists and turns. The next few weeks will go a long way in solidifying the AFC and NFC playoff picture.

Frequently Asked Questions about the 2022-2023 NFL Playoff Picture

Here are answers to some of the most common questions regarding this year’s NFL playoff picture:

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Q: When do the 2023 NFL playoffs start?
A: The 2023 NFL playoffs will kick off on Saturday, January 14, 2023 with Wild Card weekend. The Divisional round will follow on the weekend of January 21-22. Championship Sunday is January 29. Super Bowl 57 takes place on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona.

Q: How many teams make the NFL playoffs?
A: 14 total teams make the NFL playoffs – 7 from the AFC, 7 from the NFC. The top seed in each conference receives a first round bye.

Q: What are the current NFL playoff tiebreaker rules?
A: The current NFL tiebreakers for playoff spots are: 1) Head-to-head record. 2) Division record. 3) Record against common opponents. 4) Conference record. 5) Strength of victory. 6) Strength of schedule.

Q: Which NFL teams have already been eliminated from 2022 playoff contention?
A: Through Week 7, the following teams have already been eliminated: Texans, Lions, Panthers, Colts, Raiders, Steelers, and Jaguars. More teams will be eliminated in the coming weeks.

Q: Which divisions are still wide open races?
A: The AFC North and NFC East and South still have tightly contested division title races. Any of the four teams in those divisions could still win them.

Q: What are the clinching scenarios for teams to make the playoffs?
A: Teams can clinch playoff spots by winning their divisions, securing a Wild Card spot via overall record, or a complex combination of other outcomes. Clinching scenarios become clearer by Weeks 16-18.

Q: When will the actual 2023 NFL playoff matchups be determined?
A: The final 2023 NFL playoff bracket won’t be fully set until the end of Week 18 on January 8. The outcome of every Week 17 and 18 game will impact the final playoff picture.

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