The 2022 NFL regular season is shaping up to be an exciting one, with several teams emerging as top Super Bowl contenders. As we approach the halfway point, it’s time to take an in-depth look at projecting the 2022-2023 NFL playoff picture.
AFC Playoff Projections
The Buffalo Bills are the clear favorites to win the AFC East division title again. Led by MVP candidate Josh Allen, the Bills have cemented themselves as Super Bowl contenders with a dominant offense and stifling defense. While the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins have shown flashes of potential, neither team has the roster to truly challenge Buffalo over a 17-game season.
Projected Division Winner: Buffalo Bills
This division features a tight three-way race between the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. The Ravens have battled inconsistency but remain dangerous with playmakers like Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews. The defending AFC champion Bengals started slowly but appear to be hitting their stride. And the Browns have leaned on their punishing run game and stout defense. This division is still wide open, but right now the Ravens look like the slight favorites.
Projected Division Winner: Baltimore Ravens
After trading for Matt Ryan, the Indianapolis Colts were expected to run away with this weak division. But so far Ryan has struggled, and the Colts have underwhelmed. Meanwhile, the upstart Tennessee Titans have quietly gotten off to a strong start behind Derrick Henry’s dominant ground game. The Jacksonville Jaguars have shown promise but lack consistency. Barring a Colts midseason turnaround, Tennessee should be able to fend them off and repeat.
Projected Division Winner: Tennessee Titans
Arguably the NFL’s toughest division, the AFC West features a slugfest between four talented rosters. The Kansas City Chiefs remain the team to beat behind Patrick Mahomes’ brilliance, but the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders can all make playoff runs. This division race will likely come down to the final weeks, with Kansas City ultimately fending off the fierce competition.
Projected Division Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Wild Card Teams
Based on the above division projections, the three AFC Wild Card spots are most likely to be captured by the Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens.
The Bengals are peaking at the right time and seem poised to make another deep playoff run. The Chargers have had some hiccups but their talent will earn them a Wild Card spot. And the Ravens have the playmakers to grab the third Wild Card, edging out the Browns, Jets and Patriots.
Projected AFC Wild Cards: Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens
NFC Playoff Projections
Fueled by a bruising rushing attack and stifling defense, the Philadelphia Eagles have emerged as the class of the NFC East. Jalen Hurts has taken a huge leap at quarterback, Miles Sanders is running wild, and the defense has shut down opponents. With the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Commanders struggling with inconsistency, Philadelphia should have little trouble locking up this division.
Projected Division Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers entered as NFC North favorites but have struggled mightily, opening the door for the Minnesota Vikings. With new head coach Kevin O’Connell unleashing their offensive talent, Minnesota boasts one of the NFL’s most dangerous attacks. The Bears and Lions remain rebuilding. Expect the Vikings to hold off Green Bay and win their first division title since 2017.
Projected Division Winner: Minnesota Vikings
No division has been more disappointing than this one, where all four teams currently sit under .500. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered as heavy favorites but have underwhelmed, especially on offense. The Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers are exceeding expectations but aren’t true contenders. And the New Orleans Saints continue to struggle without Drew Brees. The Bucs should eventually rise to the top, but it won’t be pretty.
Projected Division Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The NFL’s best division features a heavyweight clash between the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. The Rams have battled a Super Bowl hangover but have too much talent to continue struggling. Meanwhile, the 49ers have been ravaged by injuries but remain contenders behind their elite defense. This race will go down to the wire, but Los Angeles should prevail and prove they can defend their crown.
Projected Division Winner: Los Angeles Rams
NFC Wild Card Teams
If the above projections hold, the NFC Wild Card spots would be captured by the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers.
The Cowboys seem to have too many weapons to miss the playoffs, even in a competitive NFC. The Packers should edge out their NFC North foes and advance thanks to Rodgers and their defense. And the 49ers’ ferocious pass rush and brilliant offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan should power them to a Wild Card berth.
Projected NFC Wild Cards: Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers
2022-2023 NFL Playoffs Matchup Projections
Based on the above division winner and Wild Card team projections, here is an early prediction of the potential playoff matchups:
- Wild Card Round
- (7) Baltimore Ravens at (2) Cincinnati Bengals
- (6) Los Angeles Chargers at (3) Tennessee Titans
- Divisional Round
- Lowest Remaining Seed at (1) Buffalo Bills
- Highest Remaining Seed at (1) Kansas City Chiefs
- AFC Championship
- Divisional Round Winners
- Wild Card Round
- (7) San Francisco 49ers at (2) Minnesota Vikings
- (6) Green Bay Packers at (3) Philadelphia Eagles
- Divisional Round
- Lowest Remaining Seed at (1) Los Angeles Rams
- Highest Remaining Seed at (1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- NFC Championship
- Divisional Round Winners
NFL Playoff Prediction and 2023 Super Bowl Outlook
Given these potential playoff matchups, my prediction for Super Bowl LVII is:
Buffalo Bills vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Bills and Eagles have established themselves as the most complete teams in their respective conferences. Both feature MVP-caliber quarterbacks leading high-powered offenses and intimidating defenses. A Bills vs. Eagles Super Bowl would be a heavyweight battle featuring two of the league’s brightest rising stars in Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts. After years of playoff disappointments, expect Buffalo to finally get over the hump led by Allen’s brilliance. The Bills have all the pieces in place for a Super Bowl run and should edge the Eagles in a thrilling Super Bowl for their first championship.
6 Key Questions About the 2022-2023 NFL Playoffs
1. Can the Chiefs get back to the Super Bowl?
The Chiefs remain formidable Super Bowl contenders, but face much stiffer competition in the AFC this season. With Buffalo, Cincinnati and the L.A. Chargers presenting difficult matchups, Kansas City will have a challenging path back to the Super Bowl. Patrick Mahomes gives them a chance in any game, but the defense remains vulnerable against elite offenses.
Verdict: The Chiefs will reach the AFC Championship but fall just short of the Super Bowl behind a weakened defense.
2. How far can Geno Smith and the Seahawks go?
The Seahawks have been the NFL’s biggest surprise behind Geno Smith’s revitalized play. But in the loaded NFC, it’s unlikely they have enough firepower to make a deep run. Matching up against elite defenses like the 49ers or Eagles would likely prove too much for Smith and the overachieving Seahawks.
Verdict: Seattle will fall in the Wild Card round to a more battle-tested NFC contender.
3. Could Aaron Rodgers miss the playoffs?
Given the Packers’ significant struggles, it’s now conceivable they could miss the playoffs entirely in a crowded NFC race. But Rodgers’ brilliance should be enough to lift Green Bay to a Wild Card spot, even if he fails to meet his lofty standards. At minimum, the Packers will sneak into the playoffs.
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Verdict: Thanks to Rodgers, the Packers edge their way into the postseason, but fail to make serious noise.
4. Can the 49ers overcome injuries and contend?
The 49ers have been decimated by injuries but coach Kyle Shanahan has kept them afloat thanks to brilliant game planning. But losing difference-makers like Trent Williams and Nick Bosa may be too much to overcome against the NFC’s elite. Still, San Francisco remains dangerous and capable of playoff upsets.
Verdict: Injuries will keep the 49ers from truly contending, but they will notch a playoff win before bowing out.
5. Are the Bengals legit Super Bowl contenders?
After last season’s surprising AFC title, Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have proven that Cincinnati is no one-year wonder. With Burrow’s precision passing, a potent offense and an improving defense, the Bengals have a balanced roster built for January success. Pencil them in as true AFC contenders.
Verdict: The Bengals are absolutely real Super Bowl threats who just might return to the big game.
6. Can the Eagles win the NFC without a proven QB?
Jalen Hurts has enjoyed a breakout season but remains unproven in big playoff games. And the Eagles lack other playoff-tested stars. Their run-heavy offense and stifling defense should bring postseason success. But outdueling seasoned NFC champions like Brady, Rodgers and Stafford seems unlikely for Hurts and the Eagles.
Verdict: Philadelphia will nab the NFC’s #1 seed but falter in their first playoff test against elite competition.
The 2022 NFL season has provided no shortage of surprises, but some clear Super Bowl frontrunners have emerged. The Bills, Chiefs and Eagles look like the cream of the crop – all have MVP candidates leading complete rosters built for January football. Expect Buffalo and Philadelphia to power through their conferences and match up in a tightly contested Super Bowl. But in the end, Josh Allen gets his storybook ending as the Bills hoist the Lombardi Trophy to finally capture their long-awaited championship.