The 2022 NFL regular season is heading into the home stretch, and the playoff picture is really starting to take shape. With several weeks left, there is still a lot to be determined, but we can start projecting what the postseason bracket might look like.
In this comprehensive guide, we will break down the current standings, analyze the remaining schedules, and predict how the playoff seeding could shake out. Which teams are locks? Who is on the bubble? How important are these last few games? We will examine it all and forecast the most likely playoff scenarios.
Whether your favorite squad is battling for a division title or scrapping for a wild card spot, you’ll want to understand the various pathways to the playoffs. A single win or loss can make a huge difference this time of year. We’ll look at all the clinching scenarios so you know exactly what’s at stake down the stretch.
By the end, you’ll have a complete overview of the NFL playoff picture. Let’s take an in-depth look at how the bracket is shaping up!
AFC Playoff Projections
The Buffalo Bills have already clinched the AFC East title. They are 12-3 with a two-game lead over the Miami Dolphins. Barring an epic collapse, Buffalo will enter the postseason as the 2nd or 3rd seed.
This division is still up for grabs between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. Both teams are 10-5. The Ravens currently hold the edge based on tiebreakers.
Baltimore’s remaining game is home vs. Pittsburgh. Cincinnati has two road games left – at New England and at Buffalo.
The Ravens can clinch the North with a win over the Steelers. If Baltimore loses and Cincinnati wins out, the Bengals will take the division crown.
After a dreadful start, the Jacksonville Jaguars have surged to first place at 8-8. However, the Tennessee Titans are also 8-8 and hold the tiebreaker over Jacksonville.
The Jaguars face Houston in their finale. The Titans host Dallas. If Jacksonville wins or Tennessee loses, the Jags will win the South. But if the Titans beat the Cowboys, they’ll repeat as division champs.
The Kansas City Chiefs have owned the AFC West in recent years, but find themselves in a mad scramble with the Los Angeles Chargers this season. Both teams are 12-4. Kansas City holds the tiebreaker edge.
The Chiefs wrap up against Las Vegas. The Chargers have two remaining games – home vs Denver and at Denver.
Kansas City can lock up the division with a win over the Raiders or a Chargers loss. But if L.A. wins out and KC loses, the Chargers will shockingly swipe the crown on tiebreakers.
The three current wild card teams are the Bengals (10-5), Chargers (12-4), and Ravens (10-5).
The Patriots (8-7) and Dolphins (8-7) are still in contention but need help. New England faces Miami in a win-and-in Week 18 showdown.
Below is the full AFC playoff picture seeding as we project it:
Projected AFC Playoff Bracket:
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Buffalo Bills
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Baltimore Ravens
- Miami Dolphins
NFC Playoff Projections
The Philadelphia Eagles have the NFC’s best record at 13-2 and have already sewn up the East crown plus a first-round playoff bye.
At 12-4, the Minnesota Vikings lead the NFC North. But the 10-5 Detroit Lions still have a shot if they win out and Minnesota loses its final game.
The Vikings can clinch the division with one more win over Chicago or a Detroit loss. But if Detroit beats Green Bay and Chicago upsets Minnesota, the Lions would steal the title on tiebreakers.
This is the NFL’s only division still up for grabs in Week 18. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers, both 7-9, play each other with the winner taking the South.
If they tie, the Saints can swoop in to steal the crown at 7-9. But New Orleans must beat Philadelphia, which won’t be easy even if the Eagles rest starters.
The San Francisco 49ers have come from way back in the division to forge a tie with the Seattle Seahawks at 12-4. The Niners hold the tiebreaker edge.
San Francisco can lock up the West with a home win over Arizona. But if they lose and Seattle beats the Rams, the Seahawks will be division champs.
The three current wild cards in the NFC are the Vikings (12-4), Cowboys (12-4), and Giants (9-6-1).
The Packers (8-8) still have an outside chance but must beat Detroit while hoping New York loses to Philadelphia.
Here’s how we forecast the NFC postseason seeding:
Projected NFC Playoff Bracket:
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Minnesota Vikings
- San Francisco 49ers
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Dallas Cowboys
- New York Giants
- Seattle Seahawks
NFL Playoff Schedule
If the above projections hold, here is the full 2023 NFL playoff schedule:
Wild Card Weekend
- 7) Miami Dolphins at 2) Buffalo Bills
- 6) Baltimore Ravens at 3) Cincinnati Bengals
- 5) LA Chargers at 4) Jacksonville Jaguars
- 7) Seattle Seahawks at 2) Minnesota Vikings
- 6) NY Giants at 3) San Francisco 49ers
- 5) Dallas Cowboys at 4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Lowest remaining seed at 1) Kansas City Chiefs
- Remaining team at highest remaining seed
- Lowest remaining seed at 1) Philadelphia Eagles
- Remaining team at highest remaining seed
- AFC Championship Game at higher seed
- NFC Championship Game at higher seed
Super Bowl LVII
- AFC Champion vs NFC Champion at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ
There will surely be more shakeups in the final weeks. Teams will move up or down the standings, clinch playoffs berths or be eliminated as the drama unfolds. But this provides an overview of how the bracket could take shape based on the current playoff picture.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are the NFL playoffs seeded?
The top four division winners in each conference earn the top four seeds based on record. The three wild card teams in each conference are seeded 5-7 based on record.
When do the NFL playoffs start?
The postseason begins with Wild Card weekend on January 14-15, 2023.
How many teams make the playoffs from each conference?
There are 14 playoff teams total – seven from the AFC, seven from the NFC.
Who has the tiebreaker advantage – Baltimore or Cincinnati?
The Ravens have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bengals based on their 19-17 win in Week 5.
Can the Lions or Packers still win the NFC North?
Yes, both Detroit and Green Bay still have playoff clinching scenarios if they win out and the Vikings lose.
Which teams have already clinched playoff spots?
In the AFC, the Bills, Chiefs, and Bengals have all clinched spots. In the NFC, the Eagles and 49ers have clinched.
What happens if Carolina and Tampa Bay tie in Week 18?
If the Panthers and Bucs tie, the winner of the Saints vs Eagles game would win the NFC South at 7-9 based on tiebreakers.
This comprehensive analysis covers all the details NFL fans need to understand as the playoff drive heads down the final stretch. With playoff positioning and division titles on the line, the last couple weeks will be intense!
Strength of Schedule Implications
With multiple teams vying for the same playoff spots or seeds, strength of schedule often comes into play as a tiebreaking procedure. Teams that faced a tougher slate of opponents during the regular season get the edge.
Here are some strength of schedule factors that could impact the postseason seeding:
AFC North – The Bengals (opponents .483 winning percentage) have a slight strength of schedule edge over the Ravens (.465). This could determine the division title if both teams finish tied at 11-5.
AFC West – The Chiefs (.504) have a big advantage in strength of schedule over the Chargers (.457). So if KC drops their finale vs Vegas, they would still likely keep the division over LA if tied at 12-5.
AFC Wild Card – The Dolphins’ tough schedule (.533) gives them an advantage for the 7th seed over the Patriots (.439) if both finish 9-7.
NFC North – The Lions (.538) have faced a harder slate than the Vikings (.480). So if tied atop the division, Detroit would earn the higher seed.
NFC South – The Bucs’ opponents (.488) have been slightly tougher than the Panthers’ (.482). Tampa Bay would win a tiebreaker at 8-8-1 or 7-9-1.
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So as we head down the stretch, keep an eye on strength of schedule differences as they could swing key outcomes.
Players to Watch
Now let’s look at some of the top players who could be X-factors in this final push towards the playoffs:
Josh Allen (QB Bills)
Allen is an MVP candidate leading a Super Bowl contender. How he finishes the season could determine if Buffalo claims the AFC’s #1 seed.
Patrick Mahomes (QB Chiefs)
Mahomes can cement himself as the best QB in football by powering KC to another conference title game. His health and performance are critical.
Joe Burrow (QB Bengals)
Burrow was brilliant in last year’s playoff run to the Super Bowl. He will aim to recapture that magic during this postseason.
Jalen Hurts (QB Eagles)
The dual-threat Hurts has Philly looking unstoppable. Can he maintain his stunning form into January?
Christian McCaffrey (RB 49ers)
This midseason trade addition has transformed San Francisco’s offense. McCaffrey’s versatile impact makes the Niners dangerous.
Some defensive stars like Nick Bosa, Chris Jones and Micah Parsons could also take over games in the playoffs. And we may see an unheralded player come out of nowhere to have a postseason breakout!
Early Super Bowl LVII Prediction
Based on how the standings look now, the early betting favorite to win the Super Bowl appears to be the Kansas City Chiefs facing the Philadelphia Eagles.
Mahomes vs Hurts would be a fantastic quarterback matchup. Kelce vs the Eagles elite defensive line. Two explosive offenses. This would make for an incredible championship game.
Of course, nothing is set in stone. There is still ample time for other contenders like the Bills, 49ers and Bengals to state their case. But if the season ended today, Chiefs vs Eagles would be the projected Super Bowl LVII.
We’ll see how it all plays out! The final playoff field won’t be set until Week 18 concludes on January 8. It’s going to be a riveting race to the finish.