• Ethan Copeland

2022 NFL Playoff Preview

The 2022 NFL playoffs are right around the corner, and I don’t know about any of y’all, but I am truly fired up and ready to watch some amazing football games. Expect to see many replicas of last Sunday’s shootout between the Chiefs and the Bengals. What a game from Joe Burrow and Ja’marr Chase…. I have split this article up into NFC and AFC standings with each team’s ceilings, floors, key factors, and my thoughts. I hope you enjoy it.


NFC Standings: 1. Green Bay Packers (13–3) Week 18 Matchup: @Detroit Lions Level of Importance: Irrelevant- Packers clinched a playoff spot, division, and #1 seed. 2. Los Angeles Rams (12–4) Week 18 Matchup: Vs San Francisco 49ers Level of Importance: Significant- Rams clinched a playoff spot but are currently in a battle with Arizona for NFC west division throne. 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12–4) Week 18 Matchup: Vs Carolina Panthers Level of Importance: Somewhat- Bucs already made the playoffs, won their division, and could potentially face an easier matchup in the first round with a win at home in week 18. 4. Dallas Cowboys (11–5) Week 18 Matchup: @Philadelphia Eagles Level of Importance: Somewhat- Dallas already clinched a playoff spot, the NFC East, and could utilize a week 18 win to avoid playing the Cardinals in the first round. 5. Arizona Cardinals (11–5) Week 18 Matchup: Vs Seattle Seahawks Level of Importance: Significant- Arizona already made the playoffs however, this week 18 matchup is significant because they could potentially clinch the division with a week 18 win and a Ram’s loss. 6. San Francisco 49ers (9–7) Week 18 Matchup: @Los Angeles Rams Level of Importance: Crucial- San Fran didn’t clinch a playoff spot last week, due to the Saints, however, the 9ers could clinch a playoff berth with a week 18 win against the Rams or a New Orleans loss against the Falcons. 7. Philadelphia Eagles (9–7) Week 18 Matchup: Vs Dallas Cowboys Level of Importance: Somewhat- Philly has already clinched a playoff berth with their win over Washington last Sunday, however, this matchup could still be relevant in terms of seeding if the 49ers lose and the Saints win…. The Philly Dallas football games always tend to be eventful, and this is a completely different Philly team than it was back in week 4. NFC Hunt: New Orleans Saints (8–8): Face the Atlanta Falcons (7–9) at home. If they win, and the 49ers lose, they are in. According to ESPN, they have a 40% chance to make the playoffs. Playoff Predictions Based on Team NFC: Green Bay Packers: Ceiling: Super Bowl Champs Floor: Lose in the NFC Championship Key Factors: Secondary, Play Calling, Aaron Rodgers The Packers have made the playoffs, clinched the division, and earned the #1 seed in the 2022 NFL playoffs. What’s left? A ton. Veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers is seeking only his second super bowl ring in his career. This Green Bay team is truly something else, and they have been near impossible to stop throughout the regular season. They could potentially slip and lose to another team in the NFC like the Bucs, Rams, or even the Cowboys but anything goes with Rodgers, he has been phenomenal this season! Los Angeles Rams: Ceiling: Super Bowl Champs Floor: Lose in the Divisional Key Factors: Eliminating Turnovers, OBJ, Matt Stafford Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams are in a very good position, and Matt Stafford couldn’t be happier that he is out of Detroit. I think that this Los Angeles team has what it takes to win a Super bowl. They have the perfect blend of talent, composure, and experience; it’s just a matter of putting it all together and playing their way. I could see the Rams losing in the divisional, however, I would love to see them make a deep run. Matt Stafford has a real shot at his first-ever championship, which would be awesome to witness. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ceiling: Super Bowl Champs Floor: Lose in the Divisional Key Factors: Wide Receiver Depth, Run Game, Avoiding Injury The Bucs escaped a close one last week against the Jets, in typical Tom Brady fashion. I don’t think the Bucs have the offensive arsenal to get the job done this season. However, with Tom Brady at QB 1, you never know. This team has a great defense, and with Fournette back, their run game could solve the wide receiver depth issue. Time to see how elite Mike Evans is because the Bucs are without Godwin and AB for the remainder of the season. Dallas Cowboys: Ceiling: NFC Championship Floor: Lose in the Wildcard Key Factors: Dak Prescott, Secondary, Micah Parsons The Dallas Cowboys have been very good throughout the regular season with some bumps along the way. Dak has shown promise, struggles, and has established a powerful rapport when the offense gets going. What concerns me about Dallas, is what happens when their offense doesn’t get going…. Their defense is very good, but they will not be able to win big games with their offense going dormant. I am a big believer that their loss to Arizona last week will benefit them in their playoff push. The loss gave this team experience playing from behind, putting something together out of nothing, and stepping up when needed. Although they did not win the game, they strung together a respectable effort that could deem beneficial in the playoffs if their back is ever against a wall. Arizona Cardinals: Ceiling: NFC Championship Floor: Lose in the Wildcard Key Factors: James Connor, Kyler Murray, Pass Defense The Cardinals have been in a slump in these past few weeks after starting the first part of the season on an absolute tear. Although the Cardinals have cooled down, this is still a team that can do some damage and should concern opposing coaches. Arizona has a lot to figure out, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but they could make a deep push if Kyler gets going. I do not think this team has the experience to win the Super bowl, starting with their head coach Kliff Kingsbury, but I could see them winning one in the future years to come. San Francisco 49ers: Ceiling: NFC Divisional Floor: Lose in the Wildcard Key Factors: Deebo Samuel, Nick Bosa, Jimmy G The 49ers are still not 100% in the playoffs just yet; however, they could clinch with a win against the Rams on Sunday, or a Saints loss to the falcons. I think the 49ers are better than the Saints, so I’d rather write about them… When Jimmy G is on, this team has the weapons to compete with anyone. I worry about their defense, especially their cornerbacks, and I just can’t see them going far. There are too many teams who are better, but I do credit the 49ers for battling hard this season and establishing a respectable playoff push after a bumpy start. Philadelphia Eagles: Ceiling: NFC Divisional Floor: Lose in the Wildcard Key Factors: Jalen Hurts, Devonta Smith, Big Plays The Eagles have battled hard this season and officially clinched a playoff spot with their win over Washington last Sunday. The Eagles are a solid team and have a few holes to fill before they become an elite team. I love Jalen Hurts and Devonta Smith and believe they will utilize this playoff experience to build for the future. However, I can’t see this Eagles team going far this year. Simply put, some teams are flat out better than Philadelphia. Philly has a big game ahead against Dallas where they could prove themselves to haters, however their 9 victories this season are against subpar teams.


AFC Standings: 1. Tennessee Titans (11–5) Week 18 Matchup: @Houston Texans Level of Importance: Crucial- Although the Titans have clinched the playoffs and their division, they need to beat the Texans or pray that the Chiefs, Bengals, and Patriots lose to clinch their first-round bye. 2. Kansas City Chiefs (11–5) Week 18 Matchup: @Denver Broncos Level of Importance: Crucial- Like the Titans, the Chiefs are all set but are fighting for the first-round bye. The odds are a lot less likely because the Chiefs would need to not only defeat the Broncos but pray that the Texans defeat the Titans; hey, it’s happened before…. 3. Cincinnati Bengals (10–6) Week 18 Matchup: @Cleveland Browns Level of Importance: Somewhat- The Bengals have made the playoffs and earned their division with their huge win over Kansas City last Sunday. They are not ruled out for the first-round bye, however, they would need both the Titans and the Chiefs to lose to their respected opponents, very unlikely but a win against the Browns would certainly help. 4. Buffalo Bills (10–6) Week 18 Matchup: Vs New York Jets Level of Importance: Crucial- The Bills are in, however, New England is still fighting for the division title, although unlikely. The Bills’ task is quite simple: defeat the Jets at home and win the AFC East. 5. New England Patriots (10–6) Week 18 Matchup: @Miami Dolphins Level of Importance: Somewhat- The Patriots have already clinched a playoff berth, led by rookie QB Mac Jones and a forceful defensive unit. Although it is extremely unlikely, the Patriots could clinch their division and maybe even the 1st round bye. I want to add an emphasis on how unlikely clinching either would be, but you never know with Bill Belichick and New England. 6. Indianapolis Colts (9–7) Week 18 Matchup: @Jacksonville Jaguars Level of Importance: Crucial- The Colts still have a solid shot to clinch the playoffs regardless of the outcome of their matchup on Sunday. The good news is they play the Jaguars, so their chances of making the playoffs are high however it is still a must-win game for Wentz and the Colts. T7. Los Angeles Chargers (9–7) VS Las Vegas Raiders (9–7) Level of Importance: Crucial- This matchup is a win and you’re in a situation for both teams. However, if the Raiders lose, and the Colts lose, both teams will advance kicking Indianapolis into the offseason. AFC Hunt: Pittsburgh Steelers (8–7–1):Face the Baltimore Ravens on the road. If they win, and the Colts lose, they could clinch, although it is extremely unlikely. Baltimore Ravens (8–8):The Ravens face the Steelers at home this Sunday in a must-win with a miracle on top to get into the playoffs. 4% chance according to ESPN. Playoff Prediction Based on Team (AFC): Tennessee Titans: Ceiling: AFC Championship Floor: Lose in the Divisional Key Factors: Derrick Henry, 1st round bye, Turnovers Mike Vrabel and the Titans have battled through a lot of adversity this season, and Vrabel’s ability to lead this team to potentially clinching the 1st round bye is extremely impressive and shows his ability as a coach. With Vrabel as a coach, anything can happen. However, I think that the Titan’s ceiling this season is losing in the AFC championship. A lot of this depends on Derrick Henry’s return, whether he is the same Derrick Henry or not, and whether their offense can step up and cut down on turnovers. I could see the Titans losing in the AFC divisional round as well, but I would like to see them prove me wrong. Kansas City Chiefs: Ceiling: Super Bowl Champs Floor: Lose in the AFC Championship Key Factors: Defense, Cornerbacks, Pat Mahomes The Chiefs are coming into week 18 with their first loss in 9 weeks to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Chiefs had a sloppy start but figured it out quick and went on an impressive winning streak, where they won games on both sides of the ball, not just Pat Mahomes and their impressive offense. I think that the Chiefs have what it takes to win another Super bowl. I worry about some of their imperfections on defense, especially in the secondary, but with Pat Mahomes and Andy Reid, a Ship is always up for the taking. Cincinnati Bengals: Ceiling: AFC Championship Floor: Lose in the Wildcard Key Factors: Joe Burrow, Injuries, Momentum The Bengals have clinched the AFC North after an impressive and hard-fought win against the Chiefs last Sunday. Joe Burrow and the Bengals have stayed healthy, battled hard, and have pivoted at a crucial point in their season to display big wins. I think that the Bengals have amazing talent and are dangerous, however, I fear that their lack of playoff experience will hold them back. I could see a Super bowl coming their way in years to come, but I don’t think that this is the year. I would love to see nothing more, and boy is that Joe Burrow to Ja’marr Chase connection something special! Buffalo Bills: Ceiling: Super Bowl Champs Floor: Lose in the Divisional Key Factors: Consistency, Offensive Efficiency, Josh Allen The Buffalo Bills have had a good turnaround and have battled their way back into the playoffs for the 3rd consecutive season. I love the Bills, always have. I think the Bills are either going to be a boom or a complete bust in the playoffs this season. We have seen the Bills play great, and the Bills play horrible, only time will tell…. New England Patriots: Ceiling: AFC Championship Floor: Lose in the Wildcard Key Factors: Defense causing Turnovers, Mac Jones composure, Run game The Patriots started slow, but surely enough has had quite the bounce-back season after a rebuilding year in 2020. I feel like the Patriots have the talent, especially on defense to make it to the AFC championship. However, I fear their inexperience regarding their rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who has gone downhill since their win streak has come to an end. Indianapolis Colts: Ceiling: AFC Championship Floor: Lose in the Wildcard Key Factors: Jonathan Taylor, Carson Wentz, Efficient Defense The Colts are having a great season and have utilized Carson Wentz to the best of their ability. The team has a solid defense, a powerful offensive line, and arguably the best running back in the NFL. They had a rough loss to the Raiders in week 17, which exposed their many imperfections, however, they could beat any team in the NFL on any given day. They are not the most talented, but with a running game like theirs, defenses better watch out for two-eight in blue. PS: He won me my league championship, the first time in my 6-year fantasy career, love that guy…. Los Angeles Chargers: Ceiling: AFC Divisional Floor: Wildcard Key Factors: Eliminating Turnovers, Run Defense, Composure The Chargers are still not in just yet, although they have a 50/50 shot with the Raiders on Sunday. I think out of all the teams left in the hunt; the Chargers are by far the best. They are in a little bit of a slump, but Herbert is a baller, and they have a bright future ahead. I don’t see them going super far in the playoffs, but the experience will help them in the years to come. This is all I got. To all my readers out there, if any, thank you! I hope you had a happy holiday and wish a great new year to all…

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