The 2022 NFL regular season is nearing the halfway point, and the playoff picture is starting to take shape. With contenders rising and pretenders falling, it’s time to take an in-depth look at projecting which teams will make the postseason and their potential playoff seeding.
The NFL playoffs bring out the best in pro football. With just one game deciding a team’s fate, the intensity ratchets up several notches. brackets bracketology March Madness type scenarios emerge as teams jockey for position and favorable matchups.
Predicting the playoff bracket requires analyzing team performance to date, remaining schedules, injuries, and other factors that influence a club’s projection. It’s an inexact science blending data and gut intuition. Let’s examine the contenders in both conferences and handicap the playoff odds.
NFC Playoff Picture
The NFC appears top-heavy with several strong playoff contenders and a muddled wild card mix. Here are the primary postseason candidates:
The Eagles have jumped out to a 6-0 start behind stellar quarterback play from Jalen Hurts. With an MVP-level season so far, Hurts leads a dynamic offense. The defense ranks highly as well. Philly’s weak spot is a thin secondary vulnerable against elite passing attacks. Still, the Eagles have separated from the pack and remain Super Bowl favorites in the NFC.
Playoff Projection: NFC East champion and #1 seed
Led by resurgent quarterback Kirk Cousins, the 5-1 Vikings are off to their best start since 2009. While concerns linger about sustaining their success, Minnesota boasts difference-makers on both sides of the ball. The offense runs through elite receiver Justin Jefferson and running back Dalvin Cook while the defense generates steady pressure. With a significant lead over Green Bay in the NFC North, the Vikings appear playoff-bound.
Playoff Projection: NFC North champion and #2 seed
Despite injuries and quarterback issues, the Cowboys have scratched out a 4-2 record. The defense ranks top 5 in both yards and points allowed. However, the offense sorely misses injured quarterback Dak Prescott. Dallas remains the class of the weak NFC East but needs a healthy Prescott to advance in the playoffs. Signs point to Prescott returning within a month which would provide a timely boost.
Playoff Projection: NFC East runner-up and #3 seed
New York Giants
The surprise Giants have rode Saquon Barkley’s resurgent season and stingy defense to a 5-1 start. Quarterback Daniel Jones has avoided critical mistakes while making enough plays under new coach Brian Daboll. The schedule toughens over the next month which will reveal if New York is a contender or pretender. For now, the Giants appear playoff-worthy.
Playoff Projection: NFC wild card #5 seed
San Francisco 49ers
Despite a slow start, the 49ers kicked into high gear by trading for Christian McCaffrey and getting healthier. The Niners boast elite offensive and defensive lines capable of controlling games. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has stabilized the offense. Expect San Francisco to keep rolling and challenge for the NFC West title.
Playoff Projection: NFC wild card #6 seed
Riding rookie quarterback Geno Smith’s career revival, the rebuilding Seahawks have shocked the NFL with a 3-3 start. Fueled by Smith’s efficient play and a fierce pass rush, Seattle has exceeded expectations. Still, significant questions remain about their viability over a 17-game season. I’m still skeptical of a playoff berth this season, but Seattle could play spoiler down the stretch.
Playoff Projection: NFC wild card contender but misses playoffs
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Despite Tom Brady’s heroics, the Bucs offense has sputtered due to injuries and poor line play. Tampa’s defense ranks 21st in points allowed as well. At 3-3, the Buccaneers can still right the ship but need the offense and run defense to get rolling. It’s hard to bet against Brady figuring it out, so pencil in Tampa Bay as a wild card for now.
Playoff Projection: NFC wild card contender, 50/50 playoff odds
While lacking star power, the Falcons play hard and clean football under coach Arthur Smith. Led by cornerback A.J. Terrell and rookie receiver Drake London, Atlanta hangs around most games. Still, quarterback Marcus Mariota has yet to prove he can elevate a team over a 17-game slate. The Falcons appear a year away from realistic playoff contention.
Playoff Projection: Outside looking in
Los Angeles Rams
The defending champion Rams sit at 3-3 after getting blown out the past two weeks. Injuries have ravaged the offensive line and secondary. Struggling to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford, the offense lacks its signature explosiveness. The Rams should improve health-wise after the bye week but need cornerback Jalen Ramsey to regain All-Pro form. Until the deep passing game re-emerges, pencil Los Angeles in as a playoff long shot.
Playoff Projection: Needs major turnaround for wild card spot
AFC Playoff Picture
Despite not having a dominant team, the AFC boasts several strong playoff contenders battling for both division titles and wild card berths. The chief contenders include:
Despite inconsistencies from quarterback Josh Allen, the Bills have cruised to a 5-1 record. While not as statistically dominant as last year, Buffalo excels at winning close games. The defense remains elite even with the absence of injured safety Micah Hyde. The Bills are virtual locks to repeat as AFC East champs. Allen must improve his decision-making for Buffalo to reach the Super Bowl.
Playoff Projection: AFC East champion and #1 seed
Kansas City Chiefs
Reigning AFC champs, the Chiefs continue rolling behind Patrick Mahomes’ brilliance. Kansas City leads the NFL in scoring at 31.8 points per game. While the defense looks improved, questions remain about their ability to slow potent offenses in the playoffs. Still, with Mahomes at the helm, the Chiefs remain conference favorites along with Buffalo.
Playoff Projection: AFC West champion and #2 seed
Despite devastating injuries to running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, quarterback Lamar Jackson has carried the Ravens offense atop the AFC North at 3-3. Baltimore’s defense leads the NFL with 15 takeaways fueling their success. The Ravens need secondary receivers to step up and the run game to recover for a deep playoff run. But Jackson’s magic gives them a strong chance.
Playoff Projection: AFC North champion and #3 seed
Mired in a three-game losing streak, the Titans have slipped to 3-2 after a hot start. Tennessee misses star receiver A.J. Brown and has suffered multiple injuries. But running back Derrick Henry should regain his dominant form. If the Titans shore up the defense and rebuild the passing game, they have time to recover their early season form. But the AFC South remains up for grabs.
Playoff Projection: AFC South champion and #4 seed
New York Jets
Gang Green’s bounceback season has them firmly in the mix at 4-2. Powered by breakout performers like receiver Garrett Wilson and cornerback Sauce Gardner, the Jets have bought into coach Robert Saleh’s program. Quarterback Zach Wilson’s eventual return from injury gives New York a dynamic element. Expect the young Jets to stay in the hunt for an improbable wild-card spot.
Playoff Projection: AFC wild card contender, 50/50 odds
Los Angeles Chargers
Bolstered by new stars Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson on defense, the Chargers have underwhelmed at 4-2. Justin Herbert continues playing at an elite level, but injuries have slowed the offense. Brandon Staley’s risky coaching style has backfired recently as well. The Chargers have displayed mental toughness in close games, but the offense needs a healthy Keenan Allen and Mike Williams to maximize their playoff run.
Playoff Projection: AFC wild card #5 seed
After a 3-0 start, the Dolphins have stumbled to 3-3 and lost quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to a scary concussion. While Miami’s defense is championship caliber, Tagovailoa’s health likely determines if they make the playoffs. The offense craters without his accurate passing to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. If Tagovailoa misses extended time, Miami will fall short of expectations.
Playoff Projection: AFC wild card contender but misses playoffs
Despite a talented roster, the Bengals have disappointed at 3-3 coming off their Super Bowl run. Joe Burrow continues playing well, but the offensive line suffers protection issues. The run game provides no balance, and the defense lacks consistency. There is time for Cincinnati to turn it around, but they need a healthy O-line and improved rush defense to contend. For now, the Bengals seem bound for the playoffs but no deep run.
Playoff Projection: AFC wild card #6 seed
After trading for Matt Ryan, the Colts looked like contenders after starting 1-1-1. But Indy has crumbled to 3-3-1 during a four-game winless streak. Between struggles on the O-line and a flawed defense, the Colts lack an identity right now. Jonathan Taylor missing time further dampens their outlook. With a quality roster, Indianapolis still has playoff life but needs fast improvements to salvage their season over the next month.
Playoff Projection: Playoff long shot barring turnaround
Las Vegas Raiders
Despite a talented roster, the Raiders have underperformed at 1-4. Quarterback Derek Carr displays inconsistency behind a porous O-line. The defense lacks a consistent pass rush and has blown multiple late leads. With coach Josh McDaniels already under fire, Las Vegas needs major improvements on both lines and at linebacker to entertain playoff thoughts. Until they establish an identity, the Raiders look bound for disappointment.
Playoff Projection: Not contenders this season
Projected Playoff Bracket and Matchups
Based on the above conference breakdowns, here is how the playoff bracket may shape up:
- (#2) Vikings vs. (#3) Cowboys – Potential defensive slugfest between Cousins and Prescott. Dallas pass rush keys their chances.
- (#5) Giants vs. (#4) Seahawks – Clash of styles with NY’s grind-it-out run game against Seattle’s passing attack.
- (#6) 49ers vs. (#3) Cowboys – 49ers have the pass rush and run game to stifle Cowboys.
- (#2) Chiefs vs (#3) Ravens – Mahomes and Jackson on national stage would be extremely compelling.
- (#5) Chargers vs. (#4) Titans – Herbert and Chargers pass rush must disrupt Henry and Tennessee’s offense.
- (#6) Bengals vs. (#3) Ravens – Divisional rivals meet again in playoffs in what could be a scoring fest.
NFL Playoff Prediction Summary
- The NFC appears top-heavy with the Eagles and Vikings having the inside tracks on the #1 and #2 seeds. Cowboys, Giants, and 49ers project as wild cards.
- In the AFC, the Bills and Chiefs look like favorites for the top two seeds. The Ravens and Titans win their divisions, while the Chargers and Bengals nab wild cards.
- Teams like the Bucs, Jets, Rams, and Colts remain in the mix but face uphill battles to qualify.
- Making the playoffs demands winning close games. Quarterback play in clutch moments proves paramount.
- The NFC seems more wide open overall compared to the AFC where the Bills and Chiefs stand above the pack.
Of course, injuries, trades, and surprise teams emerging could alter the forecast significantly. No matter what, NFL fans are in store for a wild second half of the action-packed 2022 season. The only sure thing is the drama and excitement will build towards a playoffs with several potential Super Bowl matchups in the making.
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Frequently Asked Questions about the 2022-2023 NFL Playoffs
Here are answers to some common questions fans have about this season’s NFL playoff predictions:
What are the most important games remaining that will impact playoff seeding?
Some key games that could shape both playoff spots and seeding include:
- Week 11 Titans at Packers – Should help clarify crowded NFC North and AFC South races.
- Week 13 Chiefs at Bengals – Rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game.
- Week 14 Vikings at Lions – NFC North rivals clash in game with major implications.
- Week 15 Ravens at Browns – AFC North matchup.
- Week 16 Bengals at Patriots – Shows if Pats are real contenders and if Bengals are getting hot.
- Week 17 Rams at Chargers – Could decide wild card spots and AFC West standings.
- Week 18 Ravens at Bengals – Critical game for AFC North title.
Which conference is tougher and deeper this season?
The AFC boasts more consistent quality from top to bottom. The NFC has a couple dominant teams in the Eagles and Vikings, but the middle class lacks strength. The Chargers, Bengals, Ravens, Titans, Jets, and Patriots all could contend for AFC playoff spots while the NFC has question marks like the Bucs, Rams, Panthers, and Commanders.
Which team currently outside the playoffs could still make a run?
In the NFC, watch for the Rams or Bucs to go on a late-season run and grab a wild card. The AFC’s Patriots and Colts both have the roster talent and coaches to get hot and go on a run towards the playoffs.
What is the most likely Super Bowl matchup as of now?
The Bills and Eagles stand out as the most complete teams on both sides of the ball. A Josh Allen vs. Jalen Hurts showdown would provide an intriguing contrast in quarterback styles highlighting mobility and passing skills. Based on mid-season projections, Bills-Eagles makes sense as the Super Bowl favorite.
Which underdog teams could make noise if they make the playoffs?
The upstart Giants and Jets have Formula to at least win a playoff game with their stingy defenses, grinding run games, and conservative quarterback play. Either squad could knock off a favorite if their style travels in January. The Seahawks also play with a swagger and physicality that fits the playoff atmosphere.
What is your way-too-early Super Bowl projection?
Too early to make any definitive calls, but I’ll take the Bills edging the Eagles 27-24 in Glendale, Arizona for the 2023 NFL championship. Buffalo seems like a team of destiny after last season’s epic playoff collapse. The Bills break through behind another MVP season from Josh Allen.
Projecting the ever-changing NFL playoff picture presents challenges. Teams rise and fall rapidly, making definitive judgments impossible. However, by analyzing records, schedules, and team strengths and weaknesses, fans can handicap the playoff odds.
The Eagles and Bills look like frontrunners to earn #1 seeds. Division races should remain tight across both conferences. Several new teams like the Giants, Jets, and Vikings appear poised to join the playoff party this winter.
No matter the final participants, the 2022 NFL playoffs will undoubtedly provide plenty of excitement and drama. Every game takes on greater meaning on the quest for the Lombardi Trophy. Look for the intensity to ratchet up down the regular season stretch run as the contenders separate from the pretenders.
Strap in for a thrilling second half of the NFL season. This year’s playoff field contains several Super Bowl-worthy teams ready to claim the throne when it matters most.