By Conor Perrett
After 18 weeks of football, the regular season of the NFL season may be finished, but that only means the playoff field has been set. In four and a half weeks time the Lombardi Trophy will be lifted, but before then, 14 teams must be squeezed down to two.`
So with the Wild-Card round starting this weekend, let’s look at all the teams in the play-offs and rank them.
- Kansas City Chiefs (14-3)
The Chiefs finished another season as the No. 1 seed in the AFC and currently have an offence that is better than every other team left in the playoffs. Patrick Mahomes looks set to win another MVP award, as his 5,377 combined passing and rushing yards this season, is the most of any player in NFL history.
It feels we have taken Mahomes for granted over the years and if he can keep this up, this superstar pairing of him and Andy Reid may have the potential to one day be mentioned in the same sentence of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
Up next: Bye
- Buffalo Bills (13-3)
Josh Allen and the Bills will one day make a Super Bowl, but it won’t be easy given how stacked the AFC conference currently is. Despite only losing three games on the season to a combined eight points, Buffalo won’t be getting a bye, but will play at a neutral site if they meet the Chiefs in the Conference Championship.
The Bills feel like the most complete team in the league, but they will be missing a few key players particularly Von Miller. Such a loss hasn’t stopped them yet though, as Buffalo finished as DVOA’s No. 1 team in the regular season. To one up on that, on offence, defence and special teams, no other team is ranked top-10 in each phase, while the Bills on the other hand finished Top-4 in all three phases.
Up next: vs. Miami, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT
- Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
The Bengals are among the league’s hottest teams entering the playoffs and it would be difficult to find a more confident player in the NFL right now than Bengals’ QB Joe Burrow. “The window is my whole career,” Burrow replied when asked about the Bengals’ championship window. He’ll need all that confidence if he wants to return to the Super Bowl.
Cincinnati’s path to Arizona may be the most difficult road, as they will have to beat a potential returning Lamar Jackson, then the Bills and possibly finish off the Chiefs again, and that is to only make the Superbowl.
Up next: vs. Baltimore, Monday 1:15 a.m. GMT
- Philadelphia Eagles (14-3)
The Eagles got a much needed bye, by beating the Giants’ B team to secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC. No team feels more in need of a week to recover than Philly, as Jalen Hurts was extremely cautious in his return from an injured shoulder. For the first time in his career, Hurts went the entire game without scrambling for a run as he heals up.
If Hurts, Lane Johnson, Josh Sweat and Avonte Maddox can regain some health over the course of the playoffs, and get back to how they were in the first half of the season, the Eagles should be considered NFC favourites with back-to-back games at home.
Up next: Bye
- San Francisco 49ers (13-4)
The Niners closed out the regular season on a 10-game winning streak, with only two of those games decided by six points or fewer. That alone is a fair shout for them to be the best team in the NFC, if Hurts isn’t 100%.
They also happen to have the best point differential in the league and the No 1 ranked defence by DVOA and EPA per drive. All of those statistics look great, but the only thing that could be holding them back is the fact they are starting a seventh-round rookie at quarterback.
Brock Purdy has been awesome, filling in for Jimmy G towards the end of the season, but he’s Mr. Irrelevant for a reason. The playoffs are a different kind of game and in the crucial moments, Purdy will be put in situations he may not be familiar or comfortable with. The key is how he responds to that.
Up next: vs. Seattle, Saturday 9:30 p.m. GMT
- Dallas Cowboys (12-5)
Since Mike McCarthy was hired as head-coach of the Cowboys, the expectation was to win playoff games. Dallas won’t get a better shot at one when they head to Tampa on Monday night.
In the end, nothing was lost in their regular season finale loss to the Commanders, but the pressure did heat up. Dak Prescott played one of his worst games of the season and led the Cowboys’ offence to a season-low 182 yards. Before that blowout loss, the offence was red-hot, but if they have another bad day at the office, fingers will start to be pointed at individuals within the organisation.
Up next: at Tampa Bay, Tuesday 1:15 a.m. GMT
- Los Angeles Chargers (10-7)
Head-coach Brandon Staley has the potential to be an amazing defensive genius, but the Chargers are far too inconsistent. With only one win on the season against a playoff team in Week 14 against Miami, it was by far their most impressive performance, but those kind of performances happen too little.
The Bolts are 0-5 in every other game against a playoff contender and just played its starters deep into a meaningless game against the lowly Broncos, which they ultimately lost. They have the star-power in Justin Hebert, but it’s anyone’s guess which Chargers team will show up on the day.
Up next: at Jacksonville, Sunday 1:15 a.m. GMT
- Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)
The Jaguars are 7-2 in their last nine games and their wild-card opponent is a team they have beaten already. Respectively it was all the way back in Week 3 and the Chargers were a lot more beaten up back then, but it should be noted down. Doug Pederson put on a masterclass in offensive play-calling that day and Trevor Lawrence has only gotten better since.
There will be holes in their game that Justin Herbert may take advantage of, but the confidence should be at full flow in Jacksonville. Whatever happens, the Jaguars should be delighted with their 2022 season.
Up next: vs. Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday 1:15 a.m. GMT
- Baltimore Ravens (10-7)
It’s hard to rank this Baltimore team with the status of Lamar Jackson in the air. With a healthy Jackson this team could push for a top-6 spot, but we don’t know what is going on with him. There’s a presumption Jackson will return for the trip to Cincinnati, but it’s been reported that would happen for the last few weeks now.
By weighted DVOA, the Ravens Defence is the second best in the playoffs, but without Jackson it’s hard to see any way they walk out with a win against the Bengals.
Up next: at Cincinnati, Monday 1:15 a.m. GMT
- Minnesota Vikings (13-4)
The Vikings worked their dark-magic to win 11 straight one-score games, but that doesn’t make them a good team. Their defence is probably the worst defence in the playoffs, as they finished the season 29th in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed. They have Justin Jefferson who looks likely to win Offensive Player of the Year, but even then this offence is ranked 20th in offensive DVOA.
The Vikings have already beat the Giants before in a close event back in Week 16, but that doesn’t change the fact this is probably one of the worst 13 wins and third seed team in recent memory.
Up next: vs. New York Giants, Sunday 9:30 p.m. GMT
- New York Giants (9-7-1)
No one can take away the fact that the Giants have had a spectacular and surprising season. First-year head coach Brian Daboll should be in the conversation for Coach of the Year honours, and both offensive pieces Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley have had great success in contract years.
Yes, this team has had some luck along the way and there are probably better teams that missed out on the playoffs, but New York played good football late in games that has gotten them to this point. The only worry is how far they can go. The Giants are 2-6 against playoff teams and the only team they beat by more than eight points this season was the helpless Colts. They drew the easy straw in Minnesota, as there’s certainly a chance they can get revenge this weekend.
Up next: at Minnesota, Sunday 9:30 p.m. GMT
- Seattle Seahawks (9-8)
It certainly wasn’t pretty, and despite entering the week with a 16% chance to make the playoffs, the Seahawks got it done. The majority of their thanks can go towards the Lions, who had no hard feelings with Seattle who eliminated Detroit an hour before their win in Green Bay.
Now the Seahawks set up a NFC West rivalry matchup with the Niners, that has playoff history in its roots. The two teams last met in Week 15 on a Thursday night game that was not as close as the 21-13 score indicated. Crazier things have happened in the past but Seattle must play the game of their life if they intend to get the last laugh this season with San Francisco.
Up next: at San Francisco, Saturday 9:30 p.m. GMT
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)
If every one of these teams had their starting QB healthy, Tampa would then rank last on this list. Luckily that’s not the case, so they can at least rank one spot higher. In fact their QB, Tom Brady is the Bucs’ only hope of progressing any further in what might be his last game for the team.
Never count out Tom Brady, especially in the playoffs, but this is an offence that has scored more than 23 points just twice all season and a defence that is mightily inconsistent. When you then also put a head coach in charge who looks lost at times, it’s fair to think why Brady may be done with this team.
Up next: vs. Dallas, Tuesday 1:15 a.m. GMT
- Miami Dolphins (9-8)
It’s a shame Tua Tagovailoa has had the concussions he has withstood this season, as a rematch against the Bills would have been electric. But for the player’s safety, it’s the right choice to sit him.
Unfortunately without him, rookie QB Skyler Thompson can’t keep up with Mike McDaniel’s fast playing style and the defence is far too weak to win games for them. The rollercoaster of the Dolphins’ season finished on a high in the regular season, but it’s hard to see anything other than it going back down for the playoffs.
Up next: at Buffalo, Sunday 6 p.m. GMT