The NFL playoff race is heating up, and with two weeks left in the regular season, there are still many teams fighting for position in the playoffs. Of course the teams like Kansas City and San Francisco have clinched already, but the battles for the final spots are going to be fun to see, with most teams playing division rivals in the next couple of weeks.
Logically, there are teams we think will make the playoffs just based on math and how much they need to actually clinch a playoff berth. However, at SB Nation we like fun, and using FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictor, we’re going to rank the teams that are still fighting for a playoff berth by how much fun they’d be in the playoffs, in each conference.
2022 AFC Playoff picture
Ryan Tannehill might be out for the rest of the season. The Titans’ offensive line is drastically injured and can’t get push. The defense is missing key players. The Titans’ title window is closing fast and this year might be the end of it. Please don’t put this team in the playoffs.
Look, I love their defense. But geez that offense is ROUGH. Nothing ever looks like it makes sense, and Mac Jones has spent more time yelling at others than anything else this season. Making the playoffs might actually be detrimental to the long term health of the Patriots franchise, because then they’ll convince themselves that Matt Patricia is actually good as an OC. Help us help you, New England. We want you to be better.
Their defense is cool, and if you let guys like Cam Heyward, TJ Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick into the playoffs they’ll cause problems for any opposing offense. However, a Matt Canada offense is an affront to God, and their offense goes through lulls where they look like a local varsity football team. Yuck.
Yes, I know the Raiders just lost to the Steelers on Saturday night. I also know that they’re a Josh McDaniels coached operation with no idea who they are or what they want to be defensively. However, when you have Davante Adams, Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow all healthy on offense, it makes it a fun watch. Plus, Maxx Crosby is having the best season of his career. McDaniels takes this team down a lot, though.
The Dolphins could be anywhere between 3 or 1, honestly. This ranking is very contingent on the health of QB Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins’ signal caller suffered another concussion on Sunday and is in concussion protocol. It’s unclear whether he’ll play in either of the last two games, but if Tua isn’t healthy, this Dolphins team is not fun to watch. The defense doesn’t perform relative to the talent on the roster, and the offense’s rhythm takes a dip when Tua doesn’t play.
If he does, then Miami has the offense to make things fun in the AFC.
The Jets starting QB being healthy puts them over the Dolphins for now. Mike White is back in the saddle, and while he is limited, he’s an adult who knows how to run an offense and can operate under pressure. White has shown a good rapport with WRs Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore, and they could be fun in the playoffs.
However, this is about the defense. The Jets defense is among the toughest in the NFL, with the aggression they play with at all levels combined with the play of their young guys. DT Quinnen Williams is a star, CB Sauce Gardner is among the leagues’ best and they can shut down any offense if they get the opportunity.
Of the teams on this list, the Jaguars have the best QB of the bunch and are getting the best play of his career at the best time of his career. He’s 10th in EPA per play this season, and has only thrown one interception over the Jaguars win streak. Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson has also given the Jaguars offense rhyme and reason, and with that execution has gotten the best out of players like Evan Engram and Zay Jones.
The Jaguars will be fun and dangerous in the playoffs, and the league should want them in.
2022 NFC Playoff picture
7. Washington Commanders
Taylor Heinecke plays QB like how I would play QB when I was 12, and I mean that as a compliment. His fearlessness throwing the ball downfield is fun to watch, and it’s clear that Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson are both better with Heinecke throwing them the ball.
Too bad, you get Carson Wentz.
Despite beating Miami on Christmas Day, I’m still not sold on the Packers as a playoff threat. The offense still seems like it’s lurching ahead slowly instead of attacking (save for two amazing Aaron Rodgers passes), and the defense is fun at times but still struggles to defend the run. Of course, playoff Rodgers is terrifying, but it just doesn’t feel the same this year.
Saquon Barkley is the leading receiver for the Giants, yet they’re close to clinching a playoff berth. Brian Daboll has the Giants offense working really well despite not having a viable threat at wide receiver, and New York’s defensive line can certainly make things fun. However, their lack of receiving depth just makes the offense not fun at all on occasions, and is an easy target for opposite teams.
I just wanna see what weird stuff Daboll draws up given the time and the stakes of a playoff game.
Playoff Brady is always fun to watch, and the defense can still cause havoc for opposing offenses...that’s about it.
I want to be higher on this Bucs team I really do. But the amount of games they’ve lost or come close to losing due to poor management and playcalling by coaching is holding me back. The Bucs should be better, they should be the first team up that I want to see in a playoff environment.
They just aren’t though.
I’m being 100 percent serious when I say I’d rather see the Panthers in the playoffs than the Bucs or Packers. The offense has found what works for them, and the defense is also playing very well. It’s clear to see that Steve Wilks has won this locker room and they’re playing with nothing to lose.
Give me that energy in the playoffs.
PLAYOFF GENO, BABY.
While Geno Smith’s efficiency has dropped off since his hot start to the season, there’s a lot of belief in Smith and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron to get the offense turned around. The health of RB Kenneth Walker will also play a large role in their playoff run and how fun they’ll be, but I want Geno Smith in the playoffs.
The People’s Favorite NFL team once again takes the top spot, and mainly because that offense is extremely fun and can create looks for themselves out of any personnel grouping or formation. OC Ben Johnson has gotten the best out of Jared Goff and is getting him to play even more aggressively than he ever has in his career. Amon-Ra St. Brown is a budding superstar, and with that offensive line they can create anything they want.
Now, about that defense...