NFL Playoffs 2022-23: AFC and NFC Predictions for Postseason

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBAFeatured Columnist IVDecember 12, 2022

NFL Playoffs 2022-23: AFC and NFC Predictions for Postseason

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 11: Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles carries the ball during the first half of the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 11, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    With the 2022 NFL season approaching its final turn, the playoff picture grows clearer with each contest.

    On Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles became the campaign's first team to secure a playoff berth. On other side of the coin, the Denver Broncos became the third team to be eliminated from postseason contention.

    These playoff tickets and eliminations will become more common going forward, but who wants to wait for that to happen? Let's speed up the process by breaking out the old crystal ball and using it to craft a couple of playoff predictions.

Latest NFL Standings

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    SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 11: Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after passing for a touchdown during an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium on December 11, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
    Michael Owens/Getty Images

    American Football Conference

    AFC East

    Buffalo Bills: 10-3-0

    Miami Dolphins: 8-5-0

    New York Jets: 7-6-0

    New England Patriots: 6-6-0


    AFC North

    Baltimore Ravens: 9-4-0

    Cincinnati Bengals: 9-4-0

    Cleveland Browns: 5-8-0

    Pittsburgh Steelers: 5-8-0


    AFC South

    Tennessee Titans: 7-6-0

    Jacksonville Jaguars: 5-8-0

    Indianapolis Colts: 4-8-1

    e-Houston Texans: 1-11-1


    AFC West

    Kansas City Chiefs: 10-3-0

    Los Angeles Chargers: 7-6-0

    Las Vegas Raiders: 5-8-0

    e-Denver Broncos: 3-10-0


    National Football Conference

    NFC East

    x-Philadelphia Eagles: 12-1-0

    Dallas Cowboys: 10-3-0

    Washington Commanders: 7-5-1

    New York Giants: 7-5-1


    NFC North

    Minnesota Vikings: 10-3-0

    Detroit Lions: 6-7-0

    Green Bay Packers: 5-8-0

    e-Chicago Bears: 3-10-0


    NFC South

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-7-0

    Carolina Panthers: 5-8-0

    Atlanta Falcons: 5-8-0

    New Orleans Saints: 4-9-0


    NFC West

    San Francisco 49ers: 9-4-0

    Seattle Seahawks: 7-6-0

    Arizona Cardinals: 4-8-0

    Los Angeles Rams: 4-9-0


    *e: eliminated from playoff contention

    *x: clinched playoff berth

AFC Prediction: Bengals Edge Ravens to Win the North

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    CINCINNATI, OHIO - DECEMBER 11: Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals warms up before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Paycor Stadium on December 11, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    The AFC North race is shaping up to be perhaps the best in football.

    Both the Ravens and Bengals sit at 9-4 on the season, and each is currently too hot to touch. Cincinnati is riding a conference-best five-game winning streak at the moment, while Baltimore has won six of its last seven contests.

    The Ravens have a few legs up on the Bengals. For starters, Baltimore won the first matchup 19-17, giving it an early edge in the most critical tiebreaker, although Cincinnati could even the score in the final game for both clubs. The Ravens also have a 3-0 record in division play, while the Bengals sit just 2-3 against their AFC North foes.

    The remaining schedule also favors Baltimore. The Ravens' next three opponents have a combined 15-24 record. For the Bengals, that record is 22-16.

    All of that said, though, our crystal ball backs the Bengals.

    Why? Two reasons.

    One, they have a healthy Joe Burrow under center, while the Ravens are down two quarterbacks after Sunday. Tyler Huntley, starting for the injured Lamar Jackson, landed in the concussion protocol, which forced undrafted rookie Anthony Brown to close out the contest. Baltimore still clawed out a 16-14 triumph over Pittsburgh, but its quarterbacks had just 11 completions for 104 yards and zero scores.

    Two, the Bengals also have more playmakers around their passer. For the Ravens, it's basically Mark Andrews or bust in the aerial game. Their next most productive pass-catcher after their tight end, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, has 38 receptions for 390 yards. The Bengals have three different receivers with better than 650 receiving yards—Tee Higgins, Ja'Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd—and their own tight end, Hayden Hurst, has 400.

NFC Prediction: The Lions Land a Wild-Card Spot

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    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 11: Jared Goff #16 of the Detroit Lions throws the ball during the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on December 11, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    In the not-so-distant past—even last month—merely suggesting a playoff trip for the Lions might have gotten you laughed out of Detroit.

    The team trudged into November with a 1-6 record, and it might have been even worse than it sounded. There were some narrow losses in the mix, but there also a 29-0 defeat to New England and a 24-6 loss to Dallas sandwiched around Detroit's Week 6 bye. Even the front office seemed focus on the future, as it traded away top tight end, T.J. Hockenson, to a division rival in Minnesota.

    Improbably, though, the Lions have become basically unbeatable ever since.

    They reeled off three consecutive wins, lost by three points to the Bills on Thanksgiving and have since won back-to-back contests. Their most recent outing may have been their best yet, as they dumped the division-leading Vikings by a 34-23 count. Quarterback Jared Goff threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns, giving him 910 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last three outings.

    "I feel as comfortable as I've ever felt," Goff told reporters Sunday.

    The Lions are getting healthier, seeing rapid development from their young players and are simply playing better. This club looks legitimately scary, and these good times can keep rolling. The 7-6 Jets, Detroit's Week 15 are opponent, are the only .500-or-better team left on the its schedule.

    If our crystal ball is right, Detroit can ride this wave into its first playoff appearance since the 2016 season.

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