NFL Playoff Bracket 2022: Scenarios and Predictions for Postseason Picture

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2022

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) throws the ball against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Justin Rex)
Justin Rex/Associated Press

The Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans are more than familiar with the scenarios in front of them in the NFL playoff brackets. 

Green Bay is the NFC's No. 1 seed for the second straight year. Last year, the Packers waited out the lowest-seeded team remaining from the conference's three games on Wild Card Weekend

Tennessee has not been the AFC's No. 1 seed during Mike Vrabel's tenure, but it has played in the wild-card round in three of the last four postseasons, so it has been on the other end of the divisional-round-opponent equation. 

The Packers and Titans could play five of the six teams entered into their respective conference brackets. Blockbuster matchups with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs must wait until the conference championship round. 

The two brackets could be headed toward No. 1-versus-No. 2 seed showdowns in two weeks. There have been five types of those matchups and at least one in every year dating back to the 2017 season.


Playoff Scenarios

Green Bay and Tennessee will play the lowest remaining seed in their respective conferences in the divisional round. 

The Packers will automatically be locked into a matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles if they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or with the San Francisco 49ers if they win and Tampa Bay defeats Philadelphia. 

Wins by the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay would send the winner of Monday night's contest between the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams to Lambeau Field. 

Tennessee has to wait until Sunday night to find out its first postseason opponent. A Pittsburgh Steelers upset win over Kansas City sends them to Nissan Stadium.

A Kansas City victory puts the lowest-seeded winner of the two AFC wild-card games on Saturday into a matchup with the No. 1 seed. 

Green Bay and Tennessee will host up until the Super Bowl as long as they are still alive. Hosting rights to the conference championship go to the highest remaining seeds in each conference if the top teams were to lose. 


Wild-Card Predictions


No. 2 Kansas City over No. 7 Pittsburgh

No. 3 Buffalo over No. 6 New England

No. 4 Cincinnati over No. 5 Las Vegas

Quarterback play should drive the three home sides to victories in the AFC wild-card round. 

Patrick Mahomes has a distinct advantage over Ben Roethlisberger, who will likely play in his final NFL game on Sunday night. 

The Chiefs won at least one game in each of their last three postseason trips. They are 5-1 in the postseason inside Arrowhead Stadium since 2018. 

Pittsburgh struggled to get into the postseason, and its offensive flaws could be exploited by Kansas City's pass-rush. The defensive pressure could allow Mahomes and Co. to open a double-digit advantage. 

Josh Allen went through the rigors of the postseason twice with the Buffalo Bills. He owns a 2-2 playoff record, and he just beat the New England Patriots on the road in Week 16 to take control of the AFC East race. 

Mac Jones had five touchdowns and five interceptions in his last four games. He needs to cut down on his mistakes to give the Patriots a chance to beat the Bills.

New England defeated Buffalo on December 6, but that victory came in adverse conditions, and Jones only threw the ball on three occasions. 

Jones needs to play mistake-free football in his first playoff game to advance the Patriots into the divisional round. That may be too much of an ask against the Bills. 

Cincinnati holds a few edges over Las Vegas. The Bengals rested all of their starters in Week 18, while the Raiders won an emotional Sunday night overtime clash to clinch a playoff spot. 

The short turnaround and Cincinnati's double-digit regular-season win over the Raiders should give the Bengals enough of an edge to win Joe Burrow's first postseason game. 

If all of the home teams win, Kansas City would face Buffalo in a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game and the Bengals would go to Tennessee.



No. 2 Tampa Bay over No. 7 Philadelphia

No. 6 San Francisco over No. 3 Dallas

No. 4 Los Angeles Rams over No. 5 Arizona

It is not wise to bet against Tom Brady in the playoffs, especially at home in the wild-card round. 

Brady and the Buccaneers beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the regular season, and they should deliver the same fate on Sunday. 

Tampa Bay's defense could provide Brady with the necessary edge to open up the gap on the scoreboard. 

The NFC South champion ranks in the top five in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns allowed. That strength could thwart the Eagles' top-ranked rushing offense. 

The run game could also be the advantage that eliminates the other playoff participant from the NFC East.

Dallas allowed over 100 rushing yards in 10 of its last 11 games. Philadelphia's second-string offense ran for 149 yards against the Cowboys in Week 18. 

San Francisco could use its biggest offensive strength to hurt the Dallas defense and keep Micah Parsons away from Jimmy Garoppolo. 

Dallas' offense has the potential to put up a ton of points in any game, but that could be taken away if the 49ers dictate the time of possession through its rushing attack. 

The final wild-card contest could be the closest. Arizona and Los Angeles played in a tight affair in Week 14. The Rams took that game by seven points. 

Sean McVay's team carries an advantage based on its recent form. The Rams won five of their last six games to land the NFC West title. Arizona fell in four of its last five contests. 

Arizona's end-of-season struggles have to be a concern going into the postseason, and if it does not have an answer for Cooper Kupp, it could go home with a playoff defeat.