2022 Playoff Predictions

By Nick Murray

Super Bowl Favorites

Buffalo Bills – AFC East

The Buffalo Bills are the favorite to win super bowl 57. In 2021 Buffalo finished 3rd in the AFC with the highest scoring offense in the conference and third highest in the NFL. The Bills also allowed the fewest points on defense; 14 fewer than any other team. Projected to land the first seed by Vegas Insider with a win total of 11.5, the Bills look to finally defeat the Chiefs and make it to the super bowl.

LA Rams – NFC West

The defending super bowl champions finished last season 12 and 5. Between weeks 1 and 8 the Rams went 7 and 1 as Matthew Stafford threw 25 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. However, Staffords efficiency dropped drastically in the weeks following as he threw 13 interceptions going 5 and 4 over the remainder of the season. For the Rams to have another run at the super bowl, Stafford has to return to his early season form. Combined with the addition of All Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner and receiver Allen Robinson, the Rams are favorites to win the NFC.

Conference Contenders

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – NFC South

Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are favorites to win the NFC south, leading the NFC in win projection with 11.5 according to Vegas Insider odds. The Bucs finished 2021 with a record of 13 and 4, good for the second seed in the NFC. However, the Bucs offensive line which allowed the fewest sacks last year lost multiple key pieces in the offseason with an injury to Center Ryan Jensen, guard Ali Marpet retiring, and the departure of Alex Cappa in free agency. In addition the Bucs lost Ndamukong Suh, Jordan Whitehead, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski. While the Buccaneers remain one of the best in the NFC, much remains to be seen if Tom Brady performs in his age 45 season with much of his supporting cast gone.

LA Chargers – AFC East

The Chargers are projected to take a big step in 2021. Los Angeles’ third favorite football team went 4 and 1 last season but slowly declined; finishing 1 and 3 in their final four games. Ultimately the Chargers missed the playoffs last season with a record of 9 and 8 good for 3rd in the AFC West. However, the Chargers defense which allowed the 29th most points added multiple upgrades in the form of all pro corner J.C. Jackson and edge rusher Khalil Mack as well as multiple other veterans. Combined with Edge Joey Bosa, Safety Derwin James, and 2nd year corner Asante Samuel Jr., the Chargers defense is expected to improve drastically this season. In addition quarterback Justin Herbert looks to enter the top echelon of quarterbacks as third in odds to win MVP this season. With a projected win total of 10.5 the Chargers look to have a strong playoff run this year.

Green Bay Packers – NFC North

Last year’s NFC champions led by back to back defending MVP Aaron Rodgers intend to prove that the departure of all pro receiver Davante Adams does not doom the franchise. The Packers finished last season with a record of 13 and 4 despite numerous injuries. With elite offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins returning from injury as well as corner Jaire Alexander, the Packers defense is likely to see vast improvement. Green Bay has a projected win total of 10.5 tied for 2nd in the NFL which would make Green Bay NFC north champions for the 3rd straight year.

San Francisco 49ers – NFC west

The San Francisco 49ers lost to the LA Rams in the NFC Championship in 2021. San Francisco finished the season 3rd in the NFC west with a record of 10 and 7. The Niners had the 10th ranked defense in points allowed in 2021 and the 13 ranked offense in points scored per game. If Trey Lance can step up and be the final piece to the puzzle, San Francisco could make a deep playoff run.

Kansas City Chiefs – AFC West

The Chiefs were the 2nd seed in the AFC with a record of 12 and 5 last season. Appearing in 4 straight AFC Championships and 2 straight Super Bowls, the Chiefs have been the team to beat in the AFC since 2018. Last year Kansas City was fourth in points scored with the trio of Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs lost Hill in free agency leading some to question their place in the AFC this year, especially with the flood of pro bowl players joining AFC rivals and Patrick Mahomes favorite target Travis Kelce entering his age 33 season. In addition, the Chiefs have the hardest schedule in 2022 according to PFF strength of schedule. However, the Chiefs win total is still 10.5 according to Vegas insider so the AFC powerhouse is still expected to be well above average in the coming season.

Cincinnati Bengals – AFC North

Last year’s super bowl losers clenched the AFC North with a record of 10 and 7. Winning by 7 or less points through three games in the playoffs, the Bengals defeated the first seed Titans and the Chiefs in the AFC championship before losing to the Rams by 3 in the super bowl. The Bengals added 3 starting offensive linemen to the roster in the offseason in an attempt to protect 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow. Burrow combined with running back Joe mixon, and wide receivers Jamarr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd represent one of the league’s youngest and most explosive offensive groups and should lead the Bengals through another playoff run.

First Round Exits

Philadelphia Eagles – NFC East

The Eagles finished last year 9 and 8 with the twelfth ranked offense in points scored and led the league in rushing touchdowns and rushing attempts per game. To improve in 2022, the Eagles traded for wide receiver AJ Brown to pair with 2021 first round pick DeVonta Smith and Tight End Dallas Goedert. They also acquired James Bradbury from the Giants creating an elite cornerback duo between Bradbury and Darius Slay. Vegas Insider projects the Eagles to have 9.5 total wins with the 2nd easiest schedule according to PFF’s strength of schedule model. If quarterback Jalen Hurts can improve his passing game, the Eagles stand to have a strong 2022 season, potentially winning the NFC East.

New OrleansSaints – NFC South

Before Jameis Winston’s season ending ACL tear in week 8 against the Buccaneers, the Saints were 5 and 2. In weeks 9 through 18 the Saints went 4 and 6 ultimately finishing 9 and 8; missing the playoffs. The Saints defense allowed the fourth fewest points in 2021. With the addition of safety Tyrann Mathieu combined with cornerback Marshon Lattimore and linebacker Damario Davis, the Saints have one of the strongest defenses in the NFL. The Saints offense is expected to see improvement with the return of  all-pro receiver Michael Thomas, veteran Jarvis Landry, and rookie first round pick Chris Olave. With massive potential improvement on both sides of the ball, New Orleans look to return to the playoffs; potentially clinching a wildcard spot behind the projected division leader Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Dallas Cowboys – NFC East

The Cowboys won the NFC East in 2021 with a record of 12 and 5. Quarterback Dak Prescott led the highest scoring offense in the league, before losing in the wildcard round to the 49ers. The Cowboys offense is dealing with numerous injuries to receivers in addition to the departure of pro bowl receiver Amari Cooper. In his absence, 2020 first round pick Ceedee Lamb is expected to fill the wide receiver one roll. The 7th ranked defense is led by offensive rookie of the year Micah Parsons and all pro cornerback Trevon Diggs. PFF ranks the Cowboys the 10 easiest schedule in 2022 offering them the potential to claim either a wildcard spot or a divisional title for the 2022 season.

Indianapolis Colts – AFC South

The Colts finished second in the AFC south, missing the playoffs in 2021 with a record of 9 and 8. Despite not clenching a playoff spot, the Colts had the most players elected to the pro bowl of any team. Led by Defensive Tackle DeForest Buckner and Linebacker Shaquille Leonard, the Colts defense ranked ninth in points allowed in 2021. The offense was only sixteenth in points scored but hope remains that new quarterback Matt Ryan can unlock the full potential of the offense. The Colts have struggled in the quarterback realm since the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck but with the right person under center, Indianapolis has potential to make a strong push in the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens – AFC North

The Baltimore Ravens started last season 8 and 4 through week 13. However, after Lamar Jackson’s injury in week 14, the Ravens lost their remaining 5 games, ending the season 8 and 9: last in the AFC North. In the offseason, the Ravens traded wide receiver  Marquise Brown, thrusting 2nd year receiver Rashad Bateman into the starting role. The Ravens defense was nineteenth in points allowed in 2021 but with the return of all pro cornerbacks Marlon Humphery and Marcus Peters as well the addition of rookie safety Kyle Hamilton, Baltimore’s defense looks to return to its former elite status. A healthy Ravens team in 2022 will look vastly different from last year and likely clench a playoff wildcard spot, perhaps a division title depending on the performance of Burrow and the Bengals.

Denver Broncos – AFC West

In 2021, the Broncos finished last in the division with a record of 7 and 10. Since the retirement of Peyton Manning, the Broncos have  struggled to find a franchise quarterback as the final piece to a playoff team. With the acquisition of Russel Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks, the Broncos believe they have found the necessary piece. Denver’s defense in 2021 was elite, allowing the third least points in the league. The only barrier to a playoff run by the Broncos is a stacked AFC West division. During the offseason the Raiders and Chargers traded for multiple all-pro and pro bowl caliber players creating what is anticipated to be the most competitive division in football. If Russel Wilson can lead the Broncos offense to success and the defense continues to play at its best, the Broncos could potentially claim a wildcard spot as long as they aren’t stopped by division rival, the Las Vegas Raiders.