As we enter week 16 of the 2022 NFL season, the playoff picture seems to get clearer and clearer. Sure there are still a few divisions up for grabs (see AFC North, NFC West, and the NFC South which has to go to somebody), but for the most part, positions 1-4 are set in both conferences; with just the wild card teams playing musical chairs for positions 5-7. Today we look at the current playoff picture, and see which teams are likely to make an impact in the playoffs, and which teams are likely to be one and done.
Currently, the AFC teams in the playoff picture are:
- Buffalo Bills
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Tennessee Titans
- Baltimore Ravens
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Miami Dolphins
And the teams in the NFC playoff picture are:
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Minnesota Vikings
- San Francisco 49ers
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Dallas Cowboys
- New York Giants
- Washington Commanders
Of course only 1 team from each conference can make it to the big game, but of the 14 teams listed above, only a few of them have a realistic shot at getting there and winning as we wind down to 3 games left in the year. Here we will start with the obvious contenders.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are currently sitting with the best record in the NFL at 13-1, and despite having the easiest schedule in the league, they have been down right BLOWING teams out, and that’s what you do when you are a legitimate contender.
2. Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen and the Bills have had a roller coaster of a year, starting the year looking better than the Eagles did, and going through a slump with Allen throwing 6 interceptions in 3 consecutive weeks, 2 of them losses. However, Allen looks to have cut back on the turnovers, and the Bills have been in every one of their losses, with key plays contributing to each loss. The loss of Von Miller on defense will really hurt this team come playoff time. but lets not forget this team was 13 seconds away from a second consecutive AFC Championship game.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Need we say more? It doesn’t matter the receivers, it doesn’t matter who’s playing defense, and it doesn’t matter who’s running the ball; as long as you have Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid together, these two will find a way to be competitive and probably make it to a 4th straight AFC championship game. It doesn’t help that this team actually has a really good receiver in Kadarius Toney, a defense that has only been getting better as the year goes on, and a breakout running back in Isiah Pacheco.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
Pardon me for a few minutes, I have quite a bit of egg on my face to remove. I was not sold on Joe Burrow and the Bengals. Yes I know Joe Cool is the man and atandout WR Ja’maar Chase is awesome, but I actually chalked their Superbowl appearance up to luck, with the Ravens injury bug getting the best of them, the Bengals being healthy, and getting hot at the right time. However the Ravens are healthy (well not as decimated as 2021), and the Bengals are playing a 1st place schedule and STILL getting hot at the right time. And while they are dealing with injuries to Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, they also went weeks without Chase and still managed to leap the Ravens at this point. With wins against both the Titans and the Chiefs, the Bengals look very very good, and while the remainder of the schedule looks very tough, if the Bengals can hang with the Bills and beat the Ravens in Week 18, there’s no reason this team can’t make a second Superbowl appearance in as many years.
5. San Francisco 49ers
Trey Lance. Jimmy G. Deebo Samuel. The Niners are trying to avoid another injury bug like the one that hit them in 2020, but there’s only so much one team can do. Though, when that team has the #1 defense in the league, has a versatile weapon like CMC (who can make up for the loss of Samuel), and a 3rd string QB that’s playing as well as the other two QBs, maybe a playoff run is in your near future. Who really knows what the rest of the season holds for Brock Purdy (I refuse to call him Mr. Irrelevant) and the Niners, but with wins against both the red hot Dolphins and the GOAT Tom Brady, this team is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
6. Dallas Cowboys
Yes I know, here comes the laughter, “Dallas is a contender in 2022”. But this Dallas team is actually different from previous years teams. This team is not relying solely on an offense led by Dak and his arm. This Cowboys team is built on a stout defense, a two-headed running monster, and Dak completing passes when only necessary. The team has also cut down on penalties, and Jerry Jones seems to be committed to getting this team whatever it needs to keep going, even passing up on O’dell Beckham for T.Y Hilton.
7. Minnesota Vikings
Welcome to the party Minnesota. After weeks of will they, won’t they be competitive, the Vikings came back from a 33 point deficit to beat Matt Ryan and the Colts, after looking like they were trending backwards losing to the Lions in Week 14. But the Lions are actually a good team, and divisional games are always tough. Despite alot of up and down this season, one thing that can be counted on is the dynamic duo of Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook making key plays and keeping this team competitive.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This might be the point in league history where the league looks at who should and who should not be able to get into the playoffs. The fact that any team in this division makes the playoffs is mind boggling to me. The new rule going forward should be that if any divisions leader is under .500, then the wildcard seedings extends from 3 to 4 teams, kicking that division leader out of the postseason. Then again, keeping that team in the playoffs bodes well for the teams that are really good, just not 1st place good (i.e. the #1 wildcard team, #5 overall), because this rewards their efforts with a pretty easy win Wildcard weekend.
2. Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens are not a bad team, by any stretch of the imagination. What they also are not is a great team. This team wants to be in the same conversation with the Chiefs, the Bills, and the other big names in the AFC, but they aren’t. Do they have the QB to be in the conversation, of course; the defense, sometimes; the offense, well……………… The Ravens are a stubborn organization that want to win its way, while the league has shown them that their method no longer wins championships. This team foregoes WRs for RBs and TEs, while other teams have a healthy mixture of all three. In the Ravens past 5 games, they have failed to crack 20 points, scoring a whopping 3 points against a team led by a QB who hadn’t played pro football in over 700 days. This team is at a crossroads, where it needs to decide what it wants to be. Are you going to give Lamar Jackson real weapons and actually compete for a title (assuming they get him signed), or do you blow everything up and rebuild from the bottom up?
3. Tennessee Titans
What more can be said about these Titans? After trading away AJ Brown to the Eagles and watching him flourish, this team has no passing attack whatsoever, with 1st round pick Treylon Burks having only 25 receptions for 359 yds and a TD this season. And while Derrick Henry started the season looking like his dominant self, teams have been able to stack the box and slow him down. The Titans have made the postseason the past 3 years under Tannehill, but nothing ever comes of it. Luckily, his replacement may already be on the team in 3rd round pick Malik Willis. Now they need to find a true #1 receiver, (and a #2), and get back to dominating a division that Jacksonville is very close to stealing.
4. New York Giants
Despite coming off of an impressive win over the Washington Commanders (more on them later), the Giants are definitely beneficiaries of a weak conference. Simply put there aren’t enough competitive teams to fill out the wildcard spots (see entire NFC South). To be fair to the team, Saquon has been having a bounce back year, and if they even had 1 relevant receiver, this team might be able to make some noise. But behind pedestrian performances by QB Daniel Jones, and a defense that’s showing signs of 2021 Baltimore Ravens with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, the best this team can hope for is to be a stepping stone for one of the actual NFC Contenders listed above.
ON THE FENCE
1. Miami Dolphins
I initially started this article 3 weeks ago, before real life got in the way and deterred things. At that time, the Dolphins had just lost to a red hot Niners team, and I was willing to write that off as a one-off, a bad day at the job. Since then this team is 0-2, losing to an inconsistent Chargers squad and divisional foe Buffalo. Now that’s not to say that that this is the start of something bad, but 3 consecutive loses isn’t a good sign, especially in December when your team is supposed to be getting hot. While the Dolphins beat “good” teams like Baltimore and Buffalo in the early part of the season, the fact that this team can’t pull off similar feats when they are supposed to be gelling and more familiar with one another is a bit concerning. The Dolphins have Green Bay, New England, and the Jets on their schedule for the last 3 games, This team needs to go 3-0 to get some steam heading into the the post season if they want to make some noise.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
“The Chargers are looking like a playoff team this year, where have I heard that before?” After a season of mediocrity, the Chargers are heating up, and giving us fans another reason to get our hopes up. The team is getting healthy at the right time, getting Mike Williams and Keenan Allen back. However the coaching situation looks the same as it has the past few years, which means you can count on a bone-headed decision to be made in Week 18 that keeps this team from making it into the post season.
3. Washington Commanders
Despite falling to the Giants on another controversial call, the Cammandos are really heating up at the right time. Scary Terry and Brian Robinson can carry the offense, as long as Taylor Hienicke plays conservatively and limits turnovers. And this defense can hang with the best of the NFC. Don’t be surprised if this team makes a Bengals like run in the 2022 playoffs. Well that is, if they can ever get Chase Young to suit up again this season.
What say you? Which teams do you think are contenders, and which teams are just stepping stones in the 2022 potseason? Let us know in the comments below!