As we exit Week 10 of the NFL Season, the dividing line between ‘contenders’ and ‘pretenders’ becomes more apparent. You have a good chance at gauging who are really playoff teams and who are just going to be there because of a weak schedule or even a subpar division.
So, let’s analyze the playoff picture and see how each team might fare and what they may look like come the final game of Week 18. Will their current ranking remain as is? Will they shoot up? Or will they collapse and fall out of postseason contention? Let’s find out as we take a look at each team currently in the playoff picture.
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(1) Kansas City Chiefs (7-2) – Rather unsurprisingly, the Chiefs sit atop the AFC as the best team in the conference, sporting a 7-2 record. Some thought their offense might struggle without Tyreek, but the wide receivers they signed and picked up have made up for his absence. Juju has been a solid WR1, posting 615 yards and a pair of touchdowns through nine games. MVS was fortunate enough to move on from one future HOF quarterback to another and is currently on pace for the best season of his career. Their running attack could be better, but just being serviceable is enough (for now) when you have Patrick Mahomes running the offense, who leads the league in passing yards and touchdowns. Some thought the AFC West would be a dogfight, but the only other team in the division that looks like it could make the playoffs is the Chargers. More on them later.
(2) Miami Dolphins (7-3) – I’m sure everyone is surprised to see Miami leading the AFC East after 10 weeks over the Bills. I don’t think anyone expected Tua and the rest of the team to be as good as they are. Better than last year? Sure. Making the playoffs? Probably. But leading the division, and beating who everyone thought would easily take the AFC East crown. The Dolphins put themselves on the map this season, and a lot of that can be thanks to the 2020 5th-overall pick, Tua Tagovailoa. He has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league this season, even getting himself into MVP discussion. While a lot of that can be attributed to the newly acquired Tyreek Hill and 2nd-year wideout Jaylen Waddle, Tua has proven he can spread the wealth around. Whether they will stay atop the AFC East is to be determined, but you can definitely expect them to make some noise in the postseason.Embed from Getty Images
(3) Tennessee Titans (6-3) – Conversely, while many are surprised that Miami is leading their division, the Titans leading theirs is something that was probably a given to most people. They’re a good team, no doubt, but their division is among the weakest in the NFL. Excluding the Titans, the AFC South’s combined record is 8-19-2 (0.27). As for the Titans themselves, they’re a solid team but not that one other teams are looking out for. In terms of passing offense, they’re terrible. 2nd-worst in passing yards and tied for 3rd-worst in passing touchdowns. Worse yet, Derrick Henry hasn’t been able to completely carry the load like he usually does, as they are only 12th in rushing yards. Where they really shine is their defense, which, according to Pro Football Reference, is a top-10 unit in the league. Will they be able to carry them to greatness? Or will Titans fans be disappointed yet again come playoff time?Embed from Getty Images
(4) Baltimore Ravens (6-3) – Again, I don’t think many are too surprised that the Ravens are leading the division 10 weeks into the season. The general consensus was that it’d either be them or the Bengals and so far they have proven to be the better team. That’s not to say they don’t have their drawbacks, the biggest being their inability to finish off opponents up big. All 3 of their losses are a result of them choking a 10+ point lead, the most egregious being against the Dolphins in week 2. Still, while they may struggle, they are still a good team and, while he has also struggled as of late, this team is always in contention to win the division with Lamar Jackson at the helm. Even last year the Ravens were in first place in the AFC North up until he injured his ankle vs. the Browns. The question isn’t about their regular season performance, but how they will do in the post-season. Lamar Jackson and John Harbaugh have a lot of demons to overcome when it comes to the playoffs, let’s see if they can do it this season.Embed from Getty Images
(5) New York Jets (6-3) – No, your eyes are not mistaken, the New York Jets are well within playoff contention in the year 2022. Mostly thanks to a top-10 defense, which is going to need to continue to play as well as they have been if this team wants to keep pace in the AFC, because their offense is inconsistent at best, as they sit 20th in both passing and rushing yards. As they say, defense wins championships. While I don’t think that will be the case for the Jets this year, this defense is most certainly capable of leading them to the playoffs.
(6) Buffalo Bills (6-3) – Need proof the Bills’ division and AFC as a whole is tight this year? One loss and the Bills tumble all the way from first down to sixth. Josh Allen shoulders a lot of the blame, as he has looked pedestrian the last couple of games after starting the season looking like the MVP frontrunner. I don’t think a few rough game stretch from their otherwise elite quarterback should worry Bills fans too much, but if he continues to look like this moving forward and the team racks up more losses, I’d definitely start to get a little nervous. Thankfully for you Bills fans reading this, your defense is good enough to make up for Allen (most of the time) in those games where he struggles, as the Bills arguably have the best in the league. This impressive unit sits sixth in yards allowed and second in takeaways, as well as being third-best at preventing touchdowns when the opposition enters the red zone. Once Allen gets it going again, the Bills should find themselves at the top of the division and top of the conference.Embed from Getty Images
(7) New England (5-4) – Even the worst team in the AFC East would solidly be in the playoffs right now if the season were to end today. Like the Jets, their defense is legitimately good, but the whole QB fiasco they’ve had going on down there distracts from their heroic performances. Their offense isn’t one of the very worst in the league, but it’s on the bottom tier of offenses. Again, their defense is doing most of the heavy lifting, as they are currently a Top-5 unit in the league, and it seems that’ll need to continue if they want to make the playoffs. Even then, it might not be enough as the Chargers and Bengals, who share the same record as the Patriots, could easily be here in New England’s place. Worse yet, they have the 4th-hardest remaining strength of schedule, so they’ll really need to step it up after their week 10 BYE.
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(1) Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) – While everyone knew the addition of A.J Brown would help, I don’t think anyone could have predicted it’d have this impact. With a receiving core of him, Devonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert, it’s no wonder that Jalen Hurts has skyrocketed to MVP candidate level after a season where Eagles fans were questioning whether or not he should stick around for this team’s future. It also helps that Hurts has an elite running ability to pair with his passing attack, which, also tacking on the likes of Miles Sanders at running back, is enough to make this a Top-5 offense. However, don’t forget about their defense. Adding C.J. Gardner-Johnson and James Bradberry, as well as Darius Slay having his career resurgence with Philadelphia, makes this unit a nightmare for any QB to go up against. Besides their lockdown corners, they have other studs along the defensive lineup, including longtime vet Fletcher Cox. Still, some people have their doubts, mostly because they have one of the easiest schedules in the league. Personally, I think their impressive wins over the Vikings, who have the same record as them, and a Cowboys squad riding a five-game win streak dispel any doubts, but I see where people are coming from.
(2) Minnesota Vikings (8-1) – A team led by Kirk Cousins is well above .500? It really must be the end of times. Seriously though, the Vikings are a sneakily good team. I had to do a double take when I was watching their game against the Bills because I did not think they were this good, yet here they are, not only with the second best record in the conference, but the league as a whole. Justin Jefferson continues to make catches that make my eyes cartoonishly pop out of my head, Dalvin Cook is a good running back who can take pressure of the passing game, and the defense, while not shutdown, is a solid unit that’ll always keep their offense in the game. All-in-all, the Vikings are an extremely well-rounded team that have all but secured a spot in the playoffs by this point- and could very well go the distance. If they are lucky enough, they may even get a first-round bye this year.Embed from Getty Images
(3) Seattle Seahawks (6-4) – Okay, raise your hands if you thought the Seahawks would be leading their division by this point in the year. You can put your hands down now, no one saw this coming. In fact, the Seahawks were projected to be one of the worst teams in the league this season after it was apparent their QB battle would be between Geno Smith and Drew Locke. Well, Geno Smith won that battle and never looked back, quietly making a case for himself to be MVP. While he probably won’t win it, the fact you can bring out Geno in an MVP discussion and not sound crazy proves he has come a long way. Their 2022 draft class might just be the best out of anyone’s, as in October cornerback Tariq Woolen and running Kenneth Walker II were named Defensive and Offensive Rookies of the Month respectively. As long as they stay ahead of the 49ers, who are really the only other team in the NFC West that’s in the running, they’ll win the division. Fortunately for them, their schedule to round out the year isn’t too difficult, aside from dates with the Chiefs and Jets, so they could very well finish the season with an 11-6 record. If that’s not enough to win the division, it’ll definitely be enough to earn them a Wild Card spot.Embed from Getty Images
(4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) – Tom Brady and the Bucs leading a weak NFC South is not surprising in the slightest. What is surprising is how much this team has struggled, only recently getting things together, somewhat, after managing to win two ugly games in a row and reasserting dominance (if you can call it that) over the rest of the division. The defense is a legitimately good unit, but that offense can be horrendous at times and Brady has looked far from his usual self. They’ll win their division, because luckily for them everyone else in the NFC South is a dumpster fire and doesn’t pose much of a threat. The Falcons had control for a little bit but wasted an opportunity to establish a real footing last Thursday when they lost to an (at the time) 2-7 Panthers squad who were coming off a beatdown at the hands of the Bengals. In short, the Bucs will almost certainly make the playoffs, but don’t expect a vintage Tom Brady-lead playoff run. They’ll maybe win one game- if they’re lucky.Embed from Getty Images
(5) New York Giants (7-2) – Both New York teams are good. Embrace chaos. Remember all those memes about the Giants not having a winning record since 2016? Yeah, well, the Giants are shoving that in everyone’s face this season as they have stormed out to a 7-2 start. They’ve looked shaky at times, even in wins, as they have trouble finishing off opponents- especially ones that are far inferior (*cough* Jaguars *cough* Texans), but the important thing is they just keep finding ways to win. Saquon Barkley is the main catalyst for the offense, but Danny Dimes actually hasn’t been too bad. He hasn’t been great or MVP-caliber, mostly a game manager, but he’s largely been mistake-free, only responsible for five turnovers in all this season. Jones doesn’t need to be incredible, he just has to not cost the Giants games, and he’s done a good job of avoiding that. New hire Brian Daboll has also been a great decision and deserves a lot of the credit for their success this season. I believe the G-Men will keep this up and find their way into a Wild Card spot. Honestly, they have a solid chance of winning the division, though I’d still put money on the Eagles to take the NFC East crown.
(6) Dallas Cowboys (6-3) – Like many teams, the majority of the Cowboy’s success can be pinned on an outstanding defense, that leads the league in sacks. When you have an athletic, dominant freak like Micah Parsons on the roster, it’s easy to see why. Parsons is currently in the running for DPOY odds, and he’s only one facet of this great defense. However, unlike many teams with great defenses doing most of the heavy lifting, their offense isn’t completely horrible. It’s more middle-of-the-road, exactly number 16th in total offense according to Pro Football Reference. The only reason they’re such a low seed is that their division is a dogfight this season, for the first time in a long time. This team will be in the playoffs, but that’s usually where the troubles start for them. Pair that with the fact they’ll very likely be on the road for all their matches, and it’s shaping up to be a tough postseason for the Cowboys.Embed from Getty Images
(7) San Francisco 49ers (5-4) – I’ll admit it, before checking the standings I had no idea the 49ers were in the playoff picture. I for sure thought they were in the hunt and someone else was here, but I was wrong. They share the same story as a lot of teams, their defense is top tier, one of the best and most cohesive units in the league, but the offense is inconsistent at best. They’ll only score 14 against a pitiful Atlanta Falcons squad, then score 31 against a decent Rams defense. They’re a hard team to gauge, I can’t tell if they’re actually good or not. That defense definetly is, but the rest of the team is just confusing. They’ll probably squeak into the playoffs and get one or two upset wins, like they did last year.
Those are all the teams that are currently in the playoffs if the season were to end today. Is there any you believe will fall out of this picture frame? Leave them in the comments below!