NFL Playoff Schedule 2022: Bracket Dates, Picture and Wild-Card Predictions

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2022

NFL Playoff Schedule 2022: Bracket Dates, Picture and Wild-Card Predictions

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    Ellen Schmidt/Associated Press

    The 2021-22 NFL playoff picture is finally clear. Heading into Sunday Night Football, two AFC wild-card spots were all that remained unsettled. Interestingly, there was a scenario in which both the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders could have gotten in.

    Due to the Jacksonville Jaguars' upset of the Indianapolis Colts earlier in the day, the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to remain alive. The winner of the Raiders-Chargers tilt would join Pittsburgh—with a caveat.

    Had the Chargers and Raiders tied, both would have gotten in while the Steelers went home for the offseason. That came close to happening, as Las Vegas kicked the game-winning field goal at the very end of overtime. This left the Raiders and Steelers in, and the Chargers out.

    Here, you'll find a look at the final playoff field, the known postseason schedule and predictions for next week's Super Wild Card Weekend.

AFC Matchups and Predictions

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    Jeff Dean/Associated Press

    Bye: No. 1 Tennessee Titans


    No. 7 Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs

    It's never particularly smart to count out the Steelers. The fact that Pittsburgh is in the postseason is proof positive. However, this is far from the friendliest matchup the Steelers could have hoped for. The last time Pittsburgh played in Kansas City, it lost 36-10.

    The rematch could finish in similar fashion. The Steelers' 22nd-ranked scoring defense can hold off the likes of Ryan Tannehill, an injured Baker Mayfield or Tyler Huntley. It isn't going to contain Patrick Mahomes.

    Yes, the Steelers won three of their last four games and beat the No. 1 seed in the conference along the way. They've also struggled with slow starts and have lost four of their last five on the road.

    I'd feel much better about calling for a close game if this one was at Heinz Field. It isn't, and I'd expect Pittsburgh to get off to another slow start. Ben Roethlisberger may lead more of a rally than in the initial 2021 meeting, but I wouldn't expect this one to be particularly close.

    Prediction: Chiefs 33, Steelers 22


    No. 6 New England Patriots at No. 3 Buffalo Bills

    The Buffalo Bills took care of business on Sunday, knocking off the New York Jets and claiming the AFC East. Buffalo has had some curious losses this season—notably to the Jaguars. With the league's third-ranked scoring offense and second-ranked scoring defense, however, Buffalo will be a tough team to handle.

    The New England Patriots, though, have plenty of experience against Josh Allen and the Bills. The Patriots ran over Buffalo—to the tune of 222 rushing yards—during a Week 13 road victory. Buffalo got revenge in the rematch, though, picking off rookie quarterback Mac Jones twice and rolling to a 33-21 win.

    The play of Jones could be the deciding factor in Round 3. If he turns the ball over repeatedly—as he did in Sunday's loss to the Miami Dolphins—the Bills can hold serve at home.

    However, beating a Bill Belichick team twice in one season is difficult. The Patriots have enough weapons in the backfield to take advantage of a Bills defense that floundered down the stretch prior to Sunday.

    Prediction: Patriots 20, Bills 17


    No. 5 Las Vegas Raiders at No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals

    The Raiders' reward for winning on Sunday night is a rematch with a Cincinnati Bengals team that beat Las Vegas 32-13 back in Week 11. That game was played in Las Vegas, this one will be played in Cincinnati.

    In addition to a long road trip, the Raiders are going to face Joe Burrow and the white-hot Bengals offense. Cincinnati has the firepower to match points against any team in the playoff field, let alone one ranked 24th in points allowed.

    The one wild-card in this wild-card matchup is the status of Bengals running back Joe Mixon. The Bengals' star ball-carrier missed Sunday's finale after a positive COVID-19 test. If he isn't back by the opening round, Las Vegas could catch a break.

    Mixon gashed the Raiders for 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting. The Raiders have scrapped and clawed, winning four in a row to reach the postseason. They'll make a thriller out of the rematch, but Cincinnati simply has too many weapons.

    Prediction: Bengals 28, Raiders 24

NFC Matchups and Predictions

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Bye: No. 1 Green Bay Packers

    No. 7 Philadelphia Eagles at No. 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers crept into the No. 2 position with a win over the Carolina Panthers and a loss by the Los Angeles Rams. They'll now host at least two playoff games—assuming they can get past the Philadelphia Eagles.

    The Eagles may be the last seed in the NFC, but they present a tough matchup. Philadelphia has figured out how to utilize Jalen Hurts as a dual-threat quarterback, and it pairs the league's first-ranked rushing attack with the 12th overall defense. For most teams, the Eagles could be a nightmare of an opening-round draw.

    The Buccaneers, however, feature the league's No. 3 rushing defense. If the Eagles are going to pull the upset, Hurts will have to out-duel Tom Brady on the road.

    Expect a closer contest than the Week 6 Thursday night matchup between these two. A late surge allowed the Eagles to pull within six, but the first three quarters were dominated by Tampa. Expect Brady to lead a late surge in this one to send the Bucs to the divisional round.

    Prediction: Buccaneers 27, Eagles 25


    No. 6 San Francisco 49ers at No. 3 Dallas Cowboys

    The San Francisco 49ers won four of their last five to sneak into the postseason as the No. 6 seed. San Francisco rallied from 17-points down against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, showing that they are postseason ready.

    "Guys came together, guys made huge plays on third down, defense stepped up," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said, per ESPN's Nick Wagoner. "...It was a good night."

    Waiting for the 49ers will be a Dallas Cowboys team that has struggled to match a potent offense with a turnover-heavy defense for much of the season. Dallas' offense rolled against mostly Eagles backups in Week 18 but stumbled against the Arizona Cardinals the previous week.

    If Garoppolo and Co. can avoid turnovers, they can absolutely walk out of Dallas with a win. The Cowboys are 1-3 in games where the defense doesn't force a turnover. It's just hard to trust a banged-up Garoppolo (thumb) playing flawlessly against a defense with 34 takeaways.

    Prediction: Cowboys 33, 49ers 30 (OT)


    No. 5 Arizona Cardinals at No. 4 Los Angeles Rams

    The Cardinals and the Rams limp into the postseason following divisional losses. However, Arizona did more stumbling down the stretch. The Cardinals lost four of their last five, including a Week 14 loss to Los Angeles.

    With star wideout DeAndre Hopkins still recovering from MCL surgery, the Cardinals could struggle to match points with Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and the Rams. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport initially reported that Hopkins would be looking at a late-January return.

    L.A. may or may not be a legitimate title contender, but the Rams were on a five-game winning streak before Sunday's loss to San Francisco. This is a game that could go either way, but I'll go with the squad that has been less mistake-prone as of late.

    If the 49ers were visiting L.A. here or the Rams were on the road, I'd be hard-pressed to take Los Angeles. Kliff Kingsbury hasn't had the success against Sean McVay that Kyle Shanahan has, though. Expect the home team to slip into Round 2.

    Prediction: Rams 26, Cardinals 24

Full Playoff Schedule

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Wild Card Round

    Saturday, January 15

    4:30 p.m. ET: Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals on NBC

    8:15 p.m. ET: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills on CBS


    Sunday, January 16

    1:05 p.m. ET: Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Fox

    4:40 p.m. ET: San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys on CBS, Nickelodeon

    8:15 p.m. ET: Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs on NBC


    Monday, January 17

    8:15 p.m. ET: Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams  on ESPN


    Divisional Round

    Saturday, January 22

    4:35 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

    6:30 p.m. ET on NBC


    Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.

Latest Super Bowl Odds

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    Lon Horwedel/Associated Press

    Green Bay Packers 19-5

    Kansas City Chiefs 9-2

    Buffalo Bills 15-2

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-1

    Tennessee Titans 17-2

    Los Angeles Rams 10-1

    Dallas Cowboys 12-1

    Cincinnati Bengals 18-1

    New England Patriots 20-1

    Arizona Cardinals 25-1

    San Francisco 49ers 25-1

    Las Vegas Raiders 50-1

    Philadelphia Eagles 60-1

    Pittsburgh Steelers 80-1


    Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.

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