The Cincinnati Bengals were the fourth overall seed last season after winning the AFC North with a 10-7 overall record. If the Bengals want to win the division, that record may not cut it this year. The AFC is loaded with talent, and this playoff race will be extremely interesting come December and January. Here are my 2022 NFC and AFC playoff predictions.
NFC Playoff Predictions
1. Los Angeles Rams – (13-4)
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – (12-5)
3. Philadelphia Eagles – (11-6)
4. Minnesota Vikings – (11-6)
5. Green Bay Packers – (11-6)
6. San Francisco 49ers – (11-6)
7. New Orleans Saints – (10-7)
(In The Hunt)
– Arizona Cardinals – (10-7)
– Dallas Cowboys – (10-7)
– Washington Commanders – (8-9)
The NFC will be a slugfest like the AFC, but for different reasons. This conference is beaten up. Many teams are battling the injury bug so far throughout the preseason, but when breaking down which teams have the highest upside and what are mortal locks, the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to mind as the top two teams in the conference this year.
Some may view the two big upsets as controversial: the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings win their respective divisions in close battles against the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys.
The Eagles had a very solid offseason with the addition of A.J. Brown. The Cowboys lost some key pieces, and the possibility that star offensive tackle Tyron Smith could be out until December hurts the chances of the Cowboys taking this division. The NFC East feels like a two-man race, and I think the Commanders hang around but ultimately fall short.
The Saints and 49ers lock up the final two spots in the NFC playoffs due to their consistent talent on both sides of the ball. NOLA’s success will fall on Jameis Winston’s shoulders; however, with rookie wideout Chris Olave in the picture and Michael Thomas healthy along with the signing of Jarvis Landry, Winston will have plenty of options to distribute the football. Alvin Kamara is also expected to play the entire season after his trial was delayed once again.
The 49ers have moved on from Jimmy Garoppolo and shifted their future to Trey Lance. Between them and the Cardinals, it will be a competitive shootout for second place in the NFC West. I like the 49ers’ roster more, which is why I think they clinch a wild card playoff spot.
So that caps off my NFC playoff predictions. As for the AFC….
AFC Playoff Predictions
1. Buffalo Bills – (14-3)
2. Indianapolis Colts – (12-5)
3. Cincinnati Bengals – (11-6)
4. Los Angeles Chargers – (11-6)
5. Baltimore Ravens – (11-6)
6. Kansas City Chiefs – (10-7)
7. Denver Broncos – (10-7)
(In The Hunt)
– Las Vegas Raiders – (9-8)
– Miami Dolphins – (9-8)
– Tennessee Titans – (9-8)
– New England Patriots – (8-9)
– Pittsburgh Steelers – (8-9)
This conference will be nail-bitingly close, as shown in my predicted records of the teams in the playoff picture and the teams in the hunt. Playoff spots will likely be decided by one or two wins or losses, and tiebreakers will play an enormous role in who advances and who goes home.
I think the Buffalo Bills win the AFC this season. Having the Colts as the No. 2 seed is bold, but they play in the most questionable AFC division and have one of the easier schedules. The Colts could easily coast to 12 wins even if they lose their head-to-head matchups against the Chiefs and Chargers, arguably their only two extremely difficult games in 2022.
I went back and forth on the third and fifth seeds because I think the North could be won by the Ravens, but Baltimore having that Week 18 game away in Cincinnati made me lean toward the Bengals.
The AFC West could go any possible way given the four elite teams in that division. It hurts to leave out the Raiders because I think they are a very serious threat and could even end up winning this division, but compared to his competition, Derek Carr is the least competent even though he is still a great QB. I’m putting my money on Herbert, Mahomes, and Russell Wilson before Carr.
I have the Chargers winning the division because of the monstrous signings they made to a defense that was one of the worst in the league last year. They added Khalil Mack to the interior and J.C Jackson, one of the best ballhawks, to the secondary, not to mention they still have Joey Bosa, one of the best pass-rushers in the league.
Outside of that, there are a few teams you could move around, potentially the Miami Dolphins or the Tennessee Titans, but I think they just miss out and both finish 9-8 to end the season.