The NFL playoffs are set.
It took until the final game of the regular season, but the 14 teams are decided for the postseason. The Miami Dolphins, thanks to their win over the New York Jets — and the New England Patriots’ loss to the Buffalo Bills — clinched the final spot in the AFC on Sunday afternoon.
The last spot in the NFC came down to the final game of the year between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. With the Seattle Seahawks having won earlier in the day, the Packers just needed to win and they would be in. Instead, the Lions relished the spoiler role, denying Green Bay with a win which sent the Seahawks into the playoffs.
With the field set, it is time to rank the 14 teams left standing. Here are the NFL’s playoff teams, ranked by their Super Bowl chances.
The Chiefs are the betting favorite to emerge as the Super Bowl champion for a reason. The 14-3 Chiefs are loaded and look primed for a serious run at the Lombardi Trophy. This team is built for postseason play and, of course, it starts with quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The runaway favorite to win his second NFL MVP award (he’s just 27) has been brilliant this season. Any team that beats Kansas City this postseason will have to find a way to stop Mahomes and that’s a tall task.
It’s not just Mahomes, though. The Chiefs have a seasoned offense with a strong offensive line and a passing attack that starts with future Hall of Famer Travis Kelce and it’s all conducted by offensive maestro Andy Reid. Defensively, the Chiefs have shown improvement, especially in the secondary. Again, this team is built for the big stage and there’s no reason to think they will be denied.
— Bill Williamson
2. Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills began the 2022 NFL season as the favorites in the minds of many, thanks to their talent on the offensive side of the football. That begins, of course, with quarterback Josh Allen. While it has not been the cleanest of seasons from Allen, as he threw 14 interceptions and battled an elbow injury, the Allen we saw in Buffalo’s season finale is the Allen we expected to see in the playoffs, with his 49-yard touchdown to Stefon Diggs as the capper on an emotional day in Buffalo.
But do not sleep on the Bills’ defense. Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier have put together one of the league’s better defenses, as Buffalo ranks second in the NFL in scoring defense, behind only the San Francisco 49ers. Opposing passers have posted an Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt of 5.1 against Buffalo this season, which is the fourth-best mark from a defense this year.
For the sake of comparison, a QB with an ANY/A of 5.1 this season would rank 27th in the NFL, just ahead of Davis Mills.
Buffalo is built to score points, force you into becoming a one-dimensional offense, and then wear you down on the defensive side of the ball. That is often a winning recipe.
— Mark Schofield
The Bengals were a sweetheart pick to be one of the best teams in the NFL in 2023, but after the first few weeks even the most optimistic fan couldn’t be blamed for losing faith. This team struggled to a 3-3 record, losing to the Steelers and Ravens — putting them at the bottom of the AFC North in what appeared to be an epic Super Bowl hangover.
A Week 10 bye really helped this team refocus, and they responded by surging to eight-straight wins, including a signature victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. It told the entire league that not only were the Bengals ready to contend once again, but they had their swagger back.
The offensive core of this team remains as solid as any in the NFL. Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon are as solid a skill position group as you’ll find anywhere in the NFL. On the other side of the ball the defense has stepped up in a big way, allowing 20.1 points per game (6th in the NFL), way up from a year ago when they ranked 17th.
It may have been a slow start, but this team is even scarier than they were a year ago. Now they’re full of belief, talent, and are ready to show the world they weren’t a fluke a year ago.
— James Dator
While not taking anything away from the jobs done by GM Howie Roseman, head coach Nick Sirianni, and quarterback Jalen Hurts, the biggest thing working in Philadelphia’s favor this season is timing thanks to a weaker-than-usual NFC. Despite losing two games late in the year with Hurts sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Eagles kept their heads above the Vikings and 49ers and got the benefit of a bye week and homefield advantage in the playoffs.
That potentially starts with a divisional round game against the Giants, who Philadelphia swept in the regular season by a combined 70-38 score, or the Cowboys, a team that the Eagles beat Dallas 26-17 in October. Dallas won the rematch, but not when Hurts was the quarterback. For those reasons, the Eagles should be the favorites to win the NFC. Having gone 5-0 against the AFC, with a combined score of 145-67, Philadelphia is a sleeping giant with a much easier path to the Super Bowl then their counterparts in the other conference.
— Kenneth Arthur
5. San Francisco 49ers
Many feared the 49ers would take a significant step back with 7th-round rookie Brock Purdy under center. But the 49ers haven’t missed a beat as they’re riding a 10-game winning streak heading into the playoffs. To put into perspective how well Purdy has played, he currently has the fourth-highest Super Bowl MVP odds.
The trio of Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk has made life easy on Purdy. And that’s before we get to Deebo Samuel, Elijah Mitchell, or Jauan Jennings. But it’s the defense that did most of the heavy lifting for the 49ers this season. Led by the Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Fred Warner, San Francisco dominated opposing offenses and had the second most takeaways defensively.
Not only do the 49ers boast arguably the most talented and deepest roster in the playoffs, they have the two best coordinators calling plays in Kyle Shanahan and soon-to-be head coach DeMeco Ryans. The combination of coaching, talent, and style of play give the 49ers one of if not the best chance to win it all.
— Kyle Posey
It’s been a mixed bag for the Cowboys this season. At times they’ve presented themselves as an all-consuming football juggernaut, at others they’ve seemed weak as hell. This is a team who can demolish the Vikings, beat the Eagles — then turn around and lose to the Commanders.
Truth is, Dallas is a very, very good football team if they can stay out of their own way. The Cowboys are at their worst when they overthink the process too much. Defensively the team is incredible with Dan Quinn doing a phenomenal job this season, though it helps when you have Micah Parsons. Offensively is where it’s been more iffy.
If this team can do the small stuff well and focus on simply making plays that move the chains, without getting lost trying to throw deep or make big gains, they win. When they try to get too cute is where Dallas loses. It’s one of the rare cases where playing conservatively is the best path to victory, and we’ll need to see if this can come together in the playoffs.
— James Dator
Your perspective of the Minnesota Vikings depends entirely on whether you’re a fan of the team or not. Vikings fans see this hard-working, no quit, never-say-die team that clawed its way to 14 wins from the jaws of defeat on numerous occasions. There’s an inherent belief that this grit and determination could but them on a path to the Super Bowl.
To the rest of the league, the Vikings are frauds. The only team to win this many games with a NEGATIVE point differential. A team that’s 14-3 by luck, not skill — who managed to scrap by in so many close games that they’re the definition of a one-and-done.
The truth probably lays somewhere in the middle. It’s true the Vikings managed to keep themselves in almost every game they played, and that shows some serious fight — but they also let far too many abysmal teams challenge them to be seen as a serious contender. In the end it comes back to one core idea: Is Kirk Cousins good enough to win you a critical game when it matters? He has the talent around him, he has one of the best receivers in the NFL, now it’s on him to execute.
This team absolutely has the talent to make it to the Super Bowl, they just don’t always show it — and that could expose itself in a major way when the Vikings aren’t squeaking past the Saints, Giants or Colts, but asked to find a way to beat the 49ers or Eagles.
— James Dator
It’s been a fantastic story for the Jacksonville Jaguars, winning the division one year after having the first overall pick. However, they’re more than just a fun story. They’re 14th in total DVOA and riding a seven-game win streak that saw them beat both the Ravens and Cowboys at home. Obviously we have to start with QB Trevor Lawrence, the second year wunderkind who under the tutelage of head coach Doug Pederson has jumped to seventh in DYAR and 10th in DVOA. The offense is extremely difficult to plan for, with multiple players finding ways to shine in different areas.
They’ll be facing the Chargers, a team they beat 38-10 in the regular season. Justin Herbert is always a formidable QB, but if the Jaguars defense can force turnovers and stop the run like they have been this season, they can make some noise in the playoffs.
— JP Acosta
The Ravens have the most volatility of any team in the playoff field. With QB Lamar Jackson healthy and behind center, their run first offense and stout defense can give everyone problems. Without the former MVP, Baltimore is left hoping the defense can get enough turnovers to allow the offense a chance to run the ball 30 or more times to help grind the clock.
The Ravens were top five in time of possession this season and, even if Jackson is able to return after a month and a half off, will need to keep that trend going to have a chance.
Facing off with their AFC North rival, the Cincinnati Bengals, in the first round will make for an interesting matchup. Baltimore squeaked out a home win in Week 5, 19-17, with the defense limiting QB Joe Burrow to 217 yards passing and one touchdown with one interception.
— Jared Mueller
10. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers began the 2022 regular season with sky-high expectations. By Week 3, those expectations plummeted as they lost All Pro left tackle Rashawn Slater and Pro Bowl edge rusher Joey Bosa. With each new week that followed, the list of injuries continued to grow and grow until any realistic chance at a promising season all but ceased to exist … or so they thought.
Behind the team’s young star quarterback Justin Herbert, the Chargers kept fighting week-in and week-out – on top of getting a bit lucky once or twice – only to find themselves winning four of their last five games en route to clinching their first postseason berth since 2018 with two full weeks to spare.
While the season as a whole wasn’t what the Chargers were hoping for, no one will argue with the results. Now it’s time for the Chargers to break the mold and show the entire country that they’re not the same old Bolts anymore.
— Michael Peterson
11. Tampa Buccaneers
The Buccaneers locked up a home playoff game by being the least bad team in a godawful division, finishing the regular season with a sub-.500 record of 8-9 – just one win better than the Saints, Panthers, and Falcons. I don’t think the Bucs have a great chance to make it to the Super Bowl, much less win the thing.
Key injuries and player retirements gave Tom Brady a weaker supporting cast this season, and the Bucs’ depth is thin, as was evidenced by the backups’ performance in the 30-17 loss to the Falcons in Week 18. They may make it past the Cowboys, who look to be losing their edge at the worst possible time, in the Wild Card round. Never count out Touchdown Tom and all that, but I don’t see this Bucs team getting past any Divisional opponent, especially if they’re unlucky enough to lose any key players to injury against Dallas.
— Jeanna Kelley
12. Miami Dolphins
Miami’s stumble in the second half in losing five in a row was preceded with a stretch that saw Tua Tagovailoa, the NFL’s leader in passer rating, win each of the first seven games in which he was able to start and finish a contest. We know that the Dolphins have struggled with Skyler Thompson, but Mike McDaniel has not ruled out a potential Tua return this weekend and backup Teddy Bridgewater was active on Sunday as emergency relief. The Dolphins beat the Bills 21-19 with Tua in Week 3, then blew a nine-point fourth quarter lead to lose 32-29 in Week 15. Jaylen Waddle posted over 100 receiving yards in both contests, but the defense can also keep Josh Allen in check about as well as any.
On one hand, the 8-3 Dolphins we saw at the end of November with Tua were fantastic and they could pull a huge wild card upset. On the other, even Tua lost his last four starts and the Miami team we saw in the last six weeks would have to first upset Allen’s Bills, then Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs, then potentially Joe Burrow’s Bengals–all on the road–just to get to the Super Bowl. It’s been an exciting offense to watch this year, but the Dolphins may have maxed out their 2022 potential.
— Kenneth Arthur
13. New York Giants
How in the world did Brian Daboll manage to take THIS team to the playoffs? If there was ever a swift way to earn the NFL’s Coach of the Year honor, this has to be pretty dang close. Bringing in defensive coordinator Wink Martindale was one of the best hires in recent memory, as well, after watching him build a defense so strong that it helped turn a 4-13 team led by Daniel Jones into a playoff club just a year later with the same lackluster offensive personnel.
At one point, this team was 7-2 and right near the top of the NFC with the Eagles, Cowboys, and Vikings. Unfortunately the magic ran out as they skid through the second half of the season with a 2-5-1 record. Still, that early push helped them weather the storm en route to their first postseason appearance since 2016.
The biggest question for the Giants this offseason will be whether or not they could capitalize on a cheaper extension for Jones to stay as their starting quarterback or move on to one of the fresh-faced passers expected to be available in this year’s draft.
— Michael Peterson
14. Seattle Seahawks
As expected, the Seahawks are picking in the top-5 in this year’s NFL Draft after… wait a minute, that’s Denver’s pick from the Russell Wilson trade? Seattle’s in the playoffs?! With Geno Smith at quarterback?
Yes, Pete Carroll has worked his magic again, outperforming expectations by finishing 9-8, snagging the NFC’s final wild card spot (with a clutch assist from the Lions).
As wonderful as Geno’s career turnaround has been, and as well as the rookie class headlined by Charles Cross, Abe Lucas, Kenneth Walker, and Tariq Woolen has played, they’re in tough against a 49ers team that has held them to 20 points over two meetings. The recent offensive struggles combined with a defense that’s vulnerable against the run and inconsistent at generating pressure make any Super Bowl run highly unlikely. What’s clear is that Seattle is ahead of schedule in its quest to return to the NFL’s elite.
— Mookie Alexander