NFL Playoff Bracket 2022: Picks and Predictions for AFC, NFC Wild Card

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2022

NFL Playoff Bracket 2022: Picks and Predictions for AFC, NFC Wild Card

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    16 games are all that remain to decide two division titles and three playoff spots. Welcome to the final week of the 2021-22 NFL season, football fans.

    While most of the playoff picture has been filled in, there are plenty of reasons to check in with Week 18. Adding an extra week always had the potential to make the final slate a bit meaningless, but the playoff race has been tight all year, and 18 of the league's 32 teams are either in the playoffs or remain alive.

    The odds are longer for some teams than others, of course, but roughly half of the league will have something to play for in the final week.

    Here, you'll find a look at this week's playoff scenarios and some predictions for the opening round of the postseason. We'll also run down the complete playoff schedule.

Week 18 Schedule

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    Saturday, January 8

    Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos, 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

    Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN


    Sunday, January 9

    Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. ET on Fox

    Washington Football Team at New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET on Fox

    Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET on Fox

    Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET on Fox

    Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. ET on CBS

    Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans, 1 p.m. ET on CBS

    Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. ET on CBS

    San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m. ET on Fox

    Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m. ET on Fox

    New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, 4:25 p.m. ET on Fox

    Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS

    New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS

    New York Jets at Buffalo Bills, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS

    Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders, 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

Week 18 Scenarios

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Arizona Cardinals

    The Arizona Cardinals are in the playoffs and can claim the NFC West with a win and a loss by the Los Angeles Rams.


    Baltimore Ravens

    The Baltimore Ravens have an outside chance of making the postseason, but it's incredibly unlikely. The Ravens need a win plus losses by the Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers and a Miami Dolphins loss or tie.


    Buffalo Bills

    The Buffalo Bills already own a playoff spot. However, they can clinch the AFC East with a win, a New England Patriots loss or ties by both teams.


    Cincinnati Bengals

    The Cincinnati Bengals have won the AFC North. They can still earn the AFC's No. 1 seed, but they'll need help. They need a win plus losses by the Tennessee Titans, Kansas Chiefs and New England. Cincinnati, though, won't play quarterback Joe Burrow against the Cleveland Browns.


    Dallas Cowboys

    The Dallas Cowboys have clinched the NFC East. They cannot claim the NFC's No. 1 seed and will be playing for seeing only in Week 18.


    Green Bay Packers

    The Green Bay Packers have clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They have no reason to play starters against the Detroit Lions but plan to do so. 

    "If somebody goes in there and gets injured then, 'Well, why'd you play your guys?' But if you go out there in that first playoff game and you lay an egg, 'Well, why'd you rest your guys?' So there's not a right answer," head coach Matt LaFleur said, per Mike Spofford of the team's official website.


    Indianapolis Colts

    The Colts will be playoff-bound with a win or a Chargers loss paired with a tie between the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. Beating the Jacksonville Jaguars will end the playoff hopes of the Ravens and the Steelers.

    Kansas City Chiefs

    The Chiefs have already won the AFC West. They can claim the AFC's No. 1 seed with a win and a loss or tie by the Titans. 


    Las Vegas Raiders

    The Las Vegas Raiders face a win-and-in scenario against the Chargers on Sunday night. They can also get in with a tie and a Colts loss or tie. Losses by Indianapolis and Pittsburgh would also send Las Vegas to the playoffs.

    Los Angeles Chargers

    The Chargers are in with a win or a tie.

    Los Angeles Rams

    The Rams are in the postseason and can claim the NFC West with a win or a Cardinals loss.


    New England Patriots

    The Patriots have clinched a playoff berth. They can win the AFC East with a win or tie and a Bills loss. They can take the No. 1 seed with a win and losses by the Titans and Chiefs, plus a loss or tie by Buffalo.

    New Orleans Saints

    The New Orleans Saints can claim the NFC's final wild-card spot with a win and a loss by the San Francisco 49ers.


    Philadelphia Eagles

    The Philadelphia Eagles are in as a wild-card team. They will be the No. 7 seed if the 49ers make the postseason and the sixth seed if New Orleans gets a playoff spot.


    Pittsburgh Steelers

    Like the Ravens, the Steelers need help, and a lot of it. The Steelers need a win, a Colts loss and a Raiders-Chargers outcome that is not a tie.


    San Francisco 49ers

    The 49ers are in with a win or a loss by the Saints. A tie or a New Orleans tie would also put San Francisco into the dance.


    Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Tom Brady and the defending-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers have already clinched the NFC South. They'll only have seeding to play for in the final week.


    Tennessee Titans

    The Titans currently control the AFC's No. 1 seed. They'll claim it with a win or with losses by Cincinnati, New England and Kansas City. One interesting note for the Titans: Star running back Derrick Henry has been designated to return from injured reserve.

Predictions for Wild Card Weekend

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    Jeff Dean/Associated Press

    Predictions for Wild Card Weekend Matchups


    Bye: 1. Tennessee Titans

    No. 7 Los Angeles Chargers at No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs

    No. 6 Indianapolis Colts at No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals

    No. 5 New England Patriots at No. 4 Buffalo Bills



    Bye: No. 1 Green Bay Packers

    No. 7 New Orleans Saints at No. 2 Los Angeles Rams

    No. 6 Philadelphia Eagles at No. 3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    No. 5 Arizona Cardinals at No. 4 Dallas Cowboys

    *Projected winners in bold.

NFL Postseason Schedule

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Wild Card Round

    Saturday, January 15

    4:35 p.m. ET: TBD

    8:15 p.m. ET: TBD


    Sunday, January 16

    1:05 p.m. ET: TBD

    4:40 p.m. ET: TBD

    8:15 p.m. ET: TBD


    Monday, January 17

    8:15 p.m. ET: TBD on ESPN


    Divisional Round

    Saturday, January 22

    4:25 p.m. ET: TBD

    8:15 p.m. ET: TBD


    Sunday, January 23

    3:05 p.m. ET: TBD

    6:40 p.m. ET: TBD


    Championship Weekend

    Sunday, January 30

    3:05 p.m. ET: AFC on CBS

    6:40 p.m. ET: NFC on Fox


    Super Bowl LVI

    Sunday, February 13 at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBC