The 2022 NFL Season has thus far been a wild ride. Many teams have performed as expected while others have underperformed. There has also been a fair share of surprises, including the Bills’ struggles, the Vikings’ record, and the Colts’ hiring of Jeff Saturday as head coach to replace fired former coach Frank Reich.
With seven teams from each conference earning playoff spots, the question is which will rise to the occasion? The AFC division leaders are currently the Dolphins, Chiefs, Ravens, and Titans. In the NFC, the Eagles, Seahawks, Vikings, and Buccaneers lead their divisions. There are also no less than 10 wild card hopefuls duking it out for six spots.
Currently, the Bills, Patriots, and Bengals are the AFC wildcard teams while the Cowboys, Giants, and 49ers fill out the NFC wildcard sheet. The prize of a playoff appearance and a chance to contend for a Superbowl will dot the eyes of many teams as the season’s final stretch gets underway and jockeying for position begins.
Predicted AFC Playoff Teams
Kansas City Chiefs (#1 Seed): Andy Reid’s squad is currently 8-2 and the #1 seed in the AFC. The offseason chatter that the Chiefs would finally come back down to earth minus all-pro receiver Tyreek Hill seems to not be coming to fruition. The team is easily the best in its division and is also better than the team many thought would come out of the AFC.
Buffalo Bills (#2 Seed): The Bills, despite their recent struggles, are a well-built and well-coached team. Josh Allen is still very much in the MVP conversation and the team can go toe to toe with the NFL’s best. Despite already losing to the division-rival Dolphins, the Bills will right their previous wrongs and overtake the Fins late in the season for the division.
Baltimore Ravens (#3 Seed): Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have led their division since the beginning of the season, and their cohesive approach yielding much success doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. The Ravens are currently just a game up on the Bengals, but they do hold the tiebreaker courtesy of a head-to-head victory back in October.
Tennessee Titans (#4 Seed): Mike Vrabel is one of the best coaches in the NFL. He has solidified his candidacy for coach of the year by guiding a squad with many injuries and player turnover (most notably the loss of receiver A.J. Brown) to a division-leading 7-3 record. Playing in a weak division, the Titans may be one of the first teams to clinch.
Miami Dolphins (#5 Seed): The Dolphins, with new head coach Mike McDaniel and MVP candidate Tua Tagovailoa, are accomplishing what many thought impossible, leading their division. The team is vastly overperforming and is a darkhorse Superbowl contender with receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle lighting up the scoreboard week in and week out.
Cincinnati Bengals (#6 Seed): Cincinnati started the season 0-2 but has since gone 6-2 to give the Ravens a run for their money. It seems they’ll likely come up short of a division title this season, but a solid playoff run similar to last year can’t be ruled out. With lingering problems on the offensive line, the pick here is the #6 seed and second wildcard.
New England Patriots (#7 Seed): After Sunday’s stunning victory over the division rival Jets courtesy of Marcus Jones’ seconds to spare punt return touchdown, the Patriots are 6-4 with a clear shot at the playoffs. This season hasn’t always been pretty, but their record can’t be ignored. Between the Pats, Jets, and Chargers, the former is the pick for this slot.
Predicted NFC Playoff Teams
Philadelphia Eagles (#1 Seed): The Eagles played like one of the best teams in the NFL for all but the last two weeks. The birds lost to the underdog Washington Commanders then just barely defeated the Indianapolis Colts after Jalen Hurts’s game-winning touchdown. The team is good enough to win its division but perhaps not good enough to win it all.
Minnesota Vikings (#2 Seed): Minnesota was playing solid football behind record-breaking receiver Justin Jefferson. But that all came to a screeching halt at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, who delivered a 40-3 beatdown of the team. That being said, this loss seems more like an anomaly than a pattern, so the team is still predicted to finish 2nd in the NFC.
San Francisco 49ers (#3 Seed): Head coach Kyle Shanahan finally has all the pieces on offense to pair with a solid defense. This includes newly acquired running back Christian McCaffrey who has taken little time to make big contributions to his new team. All things considered, San Francisco is a more complete team than the division-rival Seahawks.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (#4 Seed): Tom Brady, by his standards, is having a down year for the Buccaneers, leading the team to a lackluster 5-5 record thus far. Lucky for him, the rest of the NFC South is pitiful. The Bucs picked the right year to get off to a slow start, but the hard work of locking down the division and preparing for the playoffs begins now.
Dallas Cowboys (#5 Seed): Some may argue that the Cowboys’ road beatdown of the 8-1 Vikings should warrant division-winning consideration. Despite this, Dallas still has flaws on both sides of the ball that must be corrected come playoff time. A showdown with the division-leading 9-1 Eagles on Christmas Eve may very well decide this division.
Seattle Seahawks (#6 Seed): Pete Carroll, who has somehow never won coach of the year, again finds himself overseeing a division leader. Quarterback Geno Smith leads the league in completion percentage and is in the race for comeback player of the year. Despite the Hawks’ solid play to this point, it seems the rising 49ers will be just too much to handle.
New York Giants (#7 Seed): The Giants may be the biggest surprise of the season playing to a 7-3 record under new head coach Brian Daboll. Behind running back Saquon Barkley, the G-men are likely to make the playoffs as a wild card as the NFL-best Eagles currently lead the NFC East. That being said, the Giants could surprise many come playoff time.
Predicted Conference Champions
Kansas City Chiefs (AFC Champions): The Chiefs are playing some of their best football at an opportune time. They are an AFC-best 8-2 with a chance to represent their conference as the #1 seed. The competition is stiff, including from the Bills, Ravens, and Titans. It will be hard fought, but at the end of the day, the Chiefs will emerge from the stacked AFC.
Dallas Cowboys (NFC Champions): This may be a surprise, but after seeing Jerry World dismantle the NFC North-leading Vikings, there is hope that this is finally Dallas’ year. The NFC is far less potent than the AFC, so perhaps the Cowboys sneak in with wins over lesser opponents. A 2017 Eagles trajectory is on the table, just perhaps not the end result.
Kansas City Chiefs (Super Bowl Champions): Patrick Mahomes will win his second Lombardi Trophy as the Chiefs take down the Cowboys in Superbowl LVII. The Chiefs are due for a bounce back after losing to Tom Brady’s Buccaneers two seasons ago and then falling to the Bengals in the AFC Championship last season. The squad definitely has a lot to prove.
NFL Playoff Bracket Roundup
Overall, the 2022 NFL Playoffs are sure to be as entertaining and fulfilling as ever. The addition of a seventh team a few seasons ago has allowed so many more possibilities to emerge from the playoff picture. Recall that Super Bowl LVI featured a showdown between two #4-seeded teams.
Furthermore, only #1 seeds get playoff byes now thanks to the addition of the seventh team. This means that home-field advantage is less of an overwhelming advantage seeing as only one team in each conference gets a week off. The new NFL playoff format has clearly changed how the playoffs unfold.
Predicting which teams will make the playoffs let alone which will win their conferences is a tall order, but all things considered, the teams predicted have a very solid chance of having special seasons. If the Super Bowl matchup is indeed Kansas City and Dallas, expect a game chock full of offensive fireworks.
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