Key Matchups in Every Remaining Week of 2022 NFL Season
Six weeks remain in the 2022 NFL regular season. While each player and coach will continue to focus on the next matchup, we can't help but peek ahead at remainder of the schedule.
There are plenty of circles left on the calendar.
Division titles, wild-card races and playoff seeding will all be decided in this final stretch. All six upcoming weeks have marquee games that should have a substantial impact on the AFC and NFC standings.
The choices are subjective, and a potential Week 17 contest might not be as important then as it seems today. That's the inherent risk of looking a month into the future.
However, the list is focused entirely on postseason storylines and the teams in best position to create them.
Week 13: Can You Catch KC?
As a whole, the Week 13 slate is loaded.
There are several cross-conference matchups worth watching, including the New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers.
Among that group, every team is currently on the good side of the playoff cut. Also, though, the Cincinnati Bengals host the marquee game of the weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game.
The rematch isn't the lone major storyline, though.
Kansas City (9-2) is standing atop the AFC, and Cincinnati (7-4) is KC's lone remaining AFC opponent with a winning record. While a division foe potentially could defeat the Chiefs later, the Bengals are effectively the last great option to prevent Kansas City from earning the AFC's No. 1 seed.
If the Chiefs win in Cincinnati, the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will likely run through Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City.
Week 14: Giants' Big Chance
Two contests jump off the schedule in Week 14: Philadelphia at the New York Giants and Miami at the Los Angeles Chargers.
The latter is important because the Dolphins (8-3) are seeking an AFC East crown, along with a possible first-round bye if Kansas City stumbles. Meanwhile, the Chargers (6-5) are fighting for their playoff lives.
But the Giants are starting to slip.
After a 6-1 start, they've lost three of the last four games to drop to 7-4. Their remaining schedule is brutal, too. Two outings against the Washington Commanders (7-5) bookend the Giants' home date against the NFL-leading Eagles (10-1).
New York has no better chance to earn a statement win than at home opposite the Eagles. Conversely, a loss here with trips to Washington, Philly and the Vikings (9-2) still remaining could put the Giants in an unfavorable spot to make the playoffs.
Week 15: AFC East Showdown
Do you like division smackdowns? If so, Week 15 has a pair of enormous clashes on the docket.
First up, the 49ers (7-4) and Seattle Seahawks (6-5) get the Thursday night treatment for a key NFC West tilt. San Francisco convincingly won the earlier meeting, 27-7, but Seattle hosts this contest, and a victory here would have enormous implications for its division hopes.
Sunday afternoon brings an even stronger game within the crowded AFC East.
Miami stunned the Buffalo Bills (8-3) earlier this season despite mustering only 212 yards to 497 for the Bills. Aiming for revenge, Buffalo also has home-field advantage in this showdown.
Given each team's record today, there's no questioning the importance of this result for both AFC East and playoff-hosting storylines.
Week 16: Back to the NFC East
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good Week 16.
The holiday slate features games on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the subsequent Monday night. Seattle's journey to Kansas City is notable, along with the Giants in Minnesota. But the spotlight is already warming for a major NFC East showdown on Saturday, Dec. 24.
Philadelphia. Dallas. Need we say more?
The Eagles currently boast the NFL's best record, while the Cowboys are 8-3. Philly largely controlled their first matchup, soaring to a 20-point lead against a Dallas squad without starting quarterback Dak Prescott. But the Cowboys responded with 17 straight points before the Eagles ultimately slammed the door in a 26-17 win.
Dak will presumably be healthy for this contest in Texas. The Eagles might just about wrap up the NFC East with a road victory, though.
Week 17: Midweek Mayhem
Week 17 has a perfectly fine Sunday slate. There are a few games between two playoff hopefuls—such as Miami at the New England Patriots and Jets at Seahawks—and plenty of rivalries.
The best matchups, though, are the midweek games.
On Thursday night, the Cowboys travel to face the Tennessee Titans (7-4). Tennessee will likely have secured the AFC South by then, but playoff seeding—and, more specifically, avoiding the No. 1 seed in the divisional round, will be at stake. Dallas may be fighting for a playoff spot, though seeding could also be the primary storyline for the Cowboys.
Then, the Bills and Bengals square off Monday night in Cincinnati.
At this moment, both the Bills and Bengals are tied for the lead of their respective divisions, but they're on the wrong side of the tiebreaker. No matter the context when Week 17 arrives, this game will likely have serious postseason implications.
Week 18: Hello, AFC North
What a great finishing weekend.
Although the NFC South is subpar this season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons may be vying for the division crown in Week 18.
Beyond that tilt, there are five showdowns between teams that currently have winning records. But as New England's jaunt to Buffalo and the Giants' trip to Philadelphia are among the alternatives, score one more for Joe Burrow and Cincinnati.
Similar to games against KC and Buffalo, the Bengals are the hosts here. This time, they'll be preparing for the Baltimore Ravens (7-4).
The AFC might already be decided by this point considering Cincy's tough schedule and Baltimore's favorable slate. Both teams might have already locked up a playoff spot, too.
However, this game could also dictate where the Bengals and Ravens finish in the division, which would impact their playoff seeding as well. It wouldn't be a surprise if Sunday Night Football snagged this matchup as the final game of the regular season.