The 2022 NFL regular season is heading into the home stretch, and the playoff picture is starting to take shape. With under 10 weeks left, the jockeying for playoff seeding and postseason positioning is intensifying across the league. Which teams will claim division titles and lock down wildcard spots? Let’s take an in-depth look at how the AFC and NFC playoff races are unfolding and project the most likely playoff matchups we could see in the 2022-2023 NFL postseason.
AFC Playoff Picture Projections
The Buffalo Bills have firmly established themselves as the class of the AFC East. Led by MVP frontrunner Josh Allen, the Bills have opened up a commanding lead in the division. While the surging New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are battling for a wildcard spot, neither team looks poised to catch Buffalo for the division crown.
Projected AFC East Winner: Buffalo Bills
This division has developed into a tight two-horse race between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. The defending AFC champion Bengals got off to a slow start but have found their rhythm behind Joe Burrow. However, Lamar Jackson has the Ravens rolling with the NFL’s #2 scoring offense. This one could come down to the wire, but Baltimore’s balance gives them the edge.
Projected AFC North Winner: Baltimore Ravens
After shocking the NFL last year, the Tennessee Titans remain the team to beat in the middling AFC South. Derrick Henry is powering the league’s #2 rushing attack while the defense has held firm despite injuries. With the Indianapolis Colts reeling, Tennessee just needs to fend off the gritty Jacksonville Jaguars to repeat as division champs.
Projected AFC South Winner: Tennessee Titans
The drama never stops in the ultra-competitive AFC West. The Kansas City Chiefs have proven they remain a juggernaut behind Patrick Mahomes’ brilliance. But the surprise Los Angeles Chargers, fueled by a resurgent Justin Herbert, are within striking distance. Still, Mahomes is a cut above and should guide KC to another division title.
Projected AFC West Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Wildcard Outlook
With the cream rising to the top of each division, the fight for the three AFC wildcard spots is bound to be fierce. Here are the leading contenders:
- Baltimore Ravens/Cincinnati Bengals – whichever team finishes runner-up in the AFC North landing a wildcard looks probable.
- New York Jets – their defense and run game make them a balanced threat few projected before the season.
- Miami Dolphins – Tua Tagovailoa’s breakout makes them potent, but inconsistency may cost them.
- Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert can go toe-to-toe with any QB, which keeps them in the mix.
- New England Patriots – after a shaky start, the Pats rounded intoform and are knocking on the door.
The surprise teams like the Jaguars and Jets have a shot, but bet on experience winning out with the Ravens, Bengals and Chargers claiming wildcards. However, nothing is guaranteed with so many tightly-bunched contenders in AFC.
NFC Playoff Picture Projections
The league’s most shocking turnaround has happened in the NFC East, where the Philadelphia Eagles have soared to the NFL’s best record behind MVP candidate Jalen Hurts. Thanks to a dominant rushing attack and punishing defense, the Eagles have left the rest of the division in the dust.
Projected NFC East Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers entered 2022 with sky-high expectations after three straight 13-win seasons. But the offense has sputtered, leaving the door open for the Minnesota Vikings and their new coach Kevin O’Connell. Still, never count out Rodgers, who should spur a late-season surge to reclaim the NFC North.
Projected NFC North Winner: Green Bay Packers
No division has been more disappointing than the NFC South, where all four teams sport losing records. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have failed to meet expectations, but Tom Brady’s track record speaks for itself. With the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers rebuilding and the New Orleans Saints in transition, the Bucs almost back their way into another division title by default.
Projected NFC South Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The NFL’s glamour division has lost some shine this year, opening the door for the San Francisco 49ers to overtake the struggling Los Angeles Rams. Christian McCaffrey’s addition makes the Niners a balanced powerhouse. Don’t count out the feisty Seattle Seahawks, but the 49ers have proven the class of this division.
Projected NFC West Winner: San Francisco 49ers
NFC Wildcard Outlook
Despite underwhelming seasons for many 2021 playoff teams, the NFC wildcard race remains loaded with contenders fighting for just three spots:
- Dallas Cowboys – even with Cooper Rush under center, Dallas will be a dangerous playoff team when Dak Prescott returns.
- New York Giants – Brian Daboll has the Giants ahead of schedule thanks to Saquon Barkley’s MVP-level campaign.
- Minnesota Vikings – if their defense comes together, Justin Jefferson makes them a threat.
- Seattle Seahawks – Pete Carroll has them overachieving, but QB limitations may hamper playoff hopes.
- Atlanta Falcons – don’t count them out with an ascending quarterback in Marcus Mariota.
- Los Angeles Rams – until proven otherwise, the defending champs can’t be dismissed with their talent.
I’ll take the balanced Cowboys, upstart Giants, and explosive Vikings to round out the NFC field, but this conference is filled with volatility.
Projected AFC Playoff Matchups
Based on the current AFC playoff picture, here are the likely postseason matchups:
| Matchup | Analysis |
| 1. Buffalo Bills vs 7. Los Angeles Chargers | An electric quarterback duel between Josh Allen and Justin Herbert. Buffalo’s complete roster gives them an edge.|
| 2. Kansas City Chiefs vs 6. Cincinnati Bengals | A rematch of last year’s classic AFC Championship game that could light up the scoreboard.|
| 3. Baltimore Ravens vs 5. New York Jets | A contrast of styles between Lamar Jackson’s offense and the Jets’ stout defense.|
| 4. Tennessee Titans vs 5. Miami Dolphins | Tua Tagovailoa battles his old college rival Ryan Tannehill in an underrated matchup.|
With elite quarterbacks at the helm of the top seeds, I’ll take the Bills and Chiefs advancing to the AFC Championship. However, potential upsets loom in a stacked AFC playoff field.
Projected NFC Playoff Matchups
Based on the current NFC playoff picture, here are the likely postseason matchups:
| Matchup | Analysis |
| 1. Philadelphia Eagles vs 7. Minnesota Vikings | Justin Jefferson takes aim at Philadelphia’s fierce pass defense led by Darius Slay. |
| 2. San Francisco 49ers vs 6. Dallas Cowboys | A classic rivalry renewed, with Christian McCaffrey adding firepower to the 49ers. |
| 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs 6. New York Giants | Tom Brady looking to torment the Giants in the playoffs yet again. |
| 4. Green Bay Packers vs 5. Seattle Seahawks | Aaron Rodgers battles old foe Pete Carroll and the feisty Seahawks. |
I’ll take the Eagles and 49ers to win at home behind their staunch defenses and reach the NFC Championship game. But nothing comes easy in the NFC playoffs.
Wildcard Weekend Sleeper Team
One under-the-radar team to watch heading into the playoffs is the New York Jets. While they lack playoff experience, the Jets have the makeup of a dangerous wildcard opponent. Defensive guru Robert Saleh fields a top-10 scoring defense anchored by newcomers like Sauce Gardner. On offense, OC Mike LaFleur has tailored a run-heavy attack around the talents of Zach Wilson, Breece Hall, and Alijah Vera-Tucker. If Wilson can limit mistakes, the Jets have the formula to grind out upsets. They could very well play spoiler in the AFC.
NFL Playoff Prediction
Ultimately, the NFL’s stacked postseason field will come down to quarterback play. With Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes leading the AFC’s top contenders, I predict another epic Bills vs. Chiefs showdown in the AFC Championship. In the NFC, I’ll take Jalen Hurts and his dominant Eagles to match up with Jimmy Garoppolo’s 49ers, who find ways to win behind their mash-unit backfield of McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel. That sets up an Allen vs. Hurts Super Bowl matchup, where Buffalo’s complete roster finally gets them over the top against Philadelphia’s fearsome pass rush to win their first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history. No matter what, with so many dangerous teams stacked across both conferences, NFL fans are in for an absolutely thrilling postseason!
Frequently Asked Questions about the 2022-2023 NFL Playoffs
Who are the current top seeds in each conference?
AFC: 1. Buffalo Bills, 2. Kansas City Chiefs, 3. Baltimore Ravens, 4. Tennessee Titans
NFC: 1. Philadelphia Eagles, 2. San Francisco 49ers, 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4. Minnesota Vikings
Which teams have already clinched playoff spots?
As of now, no team has officially clinched a playoff berth yet. The closest are the Eagles and Chiefs, who would both clinch spots with one more win.
What are the current AFC and NFC playoff pictures?
AFC: 1. Bills, 2. Chiefs, 3. Ravens, 4. Titans, 5. Bengals, 6. Jets, 7. Chargers
NFC: 1. Eagles, 2. 49ers, 3. Buccaneers, 4. Vikings, 5. Cowboys, 6. Giants, 7. Seahawks
Which divisions are still up for grabs?
The tightest division races are in the AFC North between the Ravens and Bengals and the NFC North between the Vikings and Packers. The AFC South and NFC South also remain competitive.
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Which teams are on the playoff bubble?
In the AFC, the Chargers, Patriots, and Dolphins are battling for wildcards. In the NFC, the Seahawks, Commanders, Rams, and Falcons are fighting for the 7th seed.
What are some sleeper teams to watch in the playoffs?
The Jets, Giants, and Seahawks are lower seeds that could make noise in January with their defenses and run games. The Chargers and Bengals are also lower seeds with the firepower to pull off upsets.
Who are the best candidates for Super Bowl LVII?
The Bills, Chiefs, Eagles, and 49ers look like the class of each conference. A Bills-Eagles Super Bowl would pit two of the NFL’s most complete teams in an epic showdown.
Down the Stretch They Come
With the playoff field starting to crystallize, the final weeks of the NFL regular season promise endless drama as teams jockey for prime postseason positioning. Races for division titles, wildcard spots, and the lone bye week that comes with the #1 seed will drive competition across the league. Here are some of the key storylines to watch for as the 2022 regular season barrels towards its climactic conclusion:
Chargers and Ravens Duel for Positioning
Currently the #5 and #6 seeds in the AFC, the Chargers and Ravens seem destined for a first-round playoff collision. The order of finish between these two talented teams will come down to execution in crunch time. Justin Herbert thrives in tight games, but few quarterbacks are as clutch as Lamar Jackson. This duel could determine who gets a much preferred matchup against the inconsistent Titans instead of the juggernaut Bills in the playoffs.
Packers Search for Missing Offense
The NFC North champion Packers are almost assured of reaching the postseason. But with the offense sputtering, there remain real concerns about just how dangerous Green Bay will be in January. Getting healthier and re-establishing their identity will be crucial to any Super Bowl hopes. Aaron Rodgers needs to get on the same page with his young receivers fast, or an early exit could be forthcoming.
Tom Brady’s Bucs Look to Get Right
Despite holding a tenuous lead in the NFC South, these Buccaneers just don’t look like the same dominant contender we’ve come to expect under Brady. The offense is still gelling and too mistake-prone, while the defense springs leaks against top competition. But Brady’s track record speaks for itself, and Tampa has enough talent to be playing their best football when it matters most come January.
Coaching Impacts Playoff Fortunes
Reaching the playoffs takes a full team effort, but the influence of head coaches can’t be understated with game plans and in-game adjustments magnified. Master motivators like Pete Carroll, Mike Tomlin and Sean McDermott have their squads playing inspired football. Meanwhile, the schematic wizardry of younger minds like Kevin O’Connell, Brian Daboll and Mike McDaniel has rejuvenated their teams. December and January battles often come down to coaching, so keep an eye on the NFL’s best this postseason.
With the intensity ratcheting up both on the field and the sidelines, the stage is set for a December to remember en route to a thrilling NFL playoffs. Strap in and get ready, because this year’s tournament promises to take us on a wild ride!