Ranking all 14 NFL playoff teams as Super Bowl LVII contenders

The 2022 NFL playoffs are set! Fourteen teams vying to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Glendale, Arizona on February 12th. I’ve ranked my Super Bowl contenders from 14 to 1, with one being the team I trust the most this postseason. 

14. Seattle Seahawks

Seattle snuck into the postseason after the Lions upset the Packers late Sunday night. The Seahawks played so well in the first two months but have tapered off down the stretch. They were not supposed to win this much in 2022, and their lack of overall team talent has shown up over the final six weeks. Quarterback Geno Smith has regressed mightily and the Seahawks offense has suffered. Seattle hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record since before Halloween. I don’t see them making much noise in the postseason. 

13. Minnesota Vikings

Before the Vikings’ win against a Bears team hoping to lose on Sunday, they’d won 11 of 12 games by eight or fewer points. They’ve been blown out in all their losses, including a 41-17 drubbing to the Packers and 40-3 defeat to the Cowboys. The Vikings entered this weekend ranked 28h in team efficiency while sporting 12 wins. They are not a good football team. What do they do well? If you’re a Vikings fan, can you say “I trust this part of their game in the playoffs?” If the answer is “Justin Jefferson is good”… well that isn’t winning many playoff games. There’s a reason the Vikings opened up only 2.5 points favorites against the Giants on wild-card weekend.

‘I’m proud of the way we finished’ — Kirk Cousins on the Vikings’ Week 18 win

'I'm proud of the way we finished' — Kirk Cousins on the Vikings' Week 18 win

Kirk Cousins discusses the Vikings’ 29-13 win over the Bears. about what his team needs to do better as they head to the playoffs.

12. Miami Dolphins

Well, someone had to be the seventh seed in the AFC. With a Patriots’ loss Sunday, the Dolphins eeked into the playoffs with an 11-6 win over the Jets. The Dolphins started third-string quarterback Skyler Thompson, so a pretty win was not expected. Just like the Ravens, the health of their starting quarterback will determine how deep in the playoffs they can go. If Tua Tagovailoa is ready, the Dolphins can at least give their division rival Bills a run in the wild-card round. The Dolphins beat the Bills in Miami and lost a narrow game in the cold and snow in Buffalo just a month ago. If the Dolphins do win, I expect their playoff run to end in Kansas City against the Chiefs. The Dolphins are ahead of schedule with first-year coach Mike McDaniel and should be happy with their season, even though injuries wrecked most of it.

11. New York Giants

The Giants are not winning the NFC, but they are going to beat the Vikings next weekend. I can not heap enough praise on what Giants head coach Brian Daboll has done this season with a team they did not expect to win. The Giants play a brand of smart, tough and physical football. They do not beat themselves, and despite having limited skill position talent around Daniel Jones, the coaching staff has schemed an offense that works. The Giants defense has seen an uptick in their pass rush but outside of that, they aren’t a particularly good defense. They are still beating the Vikings before losing to the 49ers or Eagles. I will bet on it.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars

Our worst-to-first playoff participant in 2022 is this young Jaguars team.  They are a testament to coaching, belief and development of a quarterback. Trevor Lawrence is firmly in the second tier of NFL quarterbacks after his second season and he’s the reason the offense is most efficient. The Jaguars are eighth in passing and 19th in rushing. They have a defense that’s poor against the pass but good against the run. The Jaguars won six of their last seven games, so the confidence is there while hosting a wild-card game. However, I think they are a feisty team that might give a better opponent a good game for a while, but probably not good enough to do much damage in their first playoffs under Doug Pederson.

9. Dallas Cowboys

There is no good team I trust less than the Cowboys. Dallas has lost five games in a season that includes such: A close win against the hapless Texans. A loss to the Jaguars after being up 27-10 in the third quarter. A close win against the Eagles without Jalen Hurts. A 27-13 win against a Titans team resting their starters where the Cowboys struggled for more parts of that than acceptable and finally, a pathetic loss to the Commanders on Sunday. The Cowboys played their starters long enough to play well on Sunday, and they did nothing well in a 26-6 loss. Is the good or bad Dak Prescott going to show up? Are key players getting healthy? Is the defense going to rush the passer or not? Will they get run on or will they stop the run? Is Mike McCarthy going to have a brain fart at some point against the Bucs? If everything goes right, or even 90% goes as planned, the Cowboys are talented enough to make a deep playoff run.

‘Cowboys have their entire season ahead of them’

'Cowboys have their entire season ahead of them'

Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen discuss the Cowboys’ 26-6 loss to the Commanders in the regular season finale.

8. Los Angeles Chargers

I don’t know how you ever have faith in this team and coaching staff. In a game that meant absolutely nothing, the Chargers were locked into the AFC’s fifth seed before kickoff Sunday, and this squad played their starters most of the game. With those meaninglessly game reps come the threat of injury, and unfortunately for the Chargers some of their key players got injured. Receiver Mike Williams needed help to walk to the team bus and Joey Bosa left the field with a limp. The Chargers appear to be the team everyone was promised at the start of the season, as Herbert’s offensive weapons got healthy. Same for the defense, as Bosa was out for weeks. Well now they are less healthy, and I’m not sure what to expect from the offense without Williams.  Herbert is fantastic and his best game should be enough for the Chargers to beat the Jaguars in a wild-card game. If the Chargers travel to Kansas City next, we know that game will be close. The Chargers play their best games of each season against the Chiefs. The Chargers can be dangerous, I’m just not sure if they can be trusted.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs defense is good and the Bucs offense can be good. If the Bucs offense performs at a high level, the Bucs can beat anyone in the NFC because of Tom Brady. Heck, even in bad offensive games, Brady cannot be counted out. The Bucs have overcome multiple double-digit deficits late in games when Brady becomes the focal point of the offense. And no matter how behind the team is, everyone will believe Brady can win it for them. That confidence can be powerful. I’m fearful of the coaching staff making decisions out of fear, like punting when they should be using Brady to convert. The offensive play calling can be boring and predictable. Nonetheless, they have Tom Brady, who is the most trustworthy of all quarterbacks. He brings out the best in this team during this time of the year.

6. Baltimore Ravens

This one is simple. Is quarterback Lamar Jackson playing or not? If he’s not playing, the Ravens have no shot at beating the Bengals, let alone anyone afterward. The Ravens have scored under 17 points in every game without their MVP quarterback and 17 points is not beating the Bengals. Now, if Jackson plays, I do believe the Ravens have a shot to beat a division rival they know well. The Ravens will need a complete effort from their entire team, plus a Jackson who’s not rusty. Also, my respect for Ravens coach John Harbaugh gives them a nudge up. This team will be ready to play and we will see their best effort.

5. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers have won 10 in a row to end the season, with rookie Brock Purdy starting the final five games of the win streak. Entering the postseason on a large win streak, like the 2020 Bucs or 2019 Chiefs, has propelled those teams to Super Bowl wins. The only question I have for the 49ers is their quarterback on the road against the Eagles in the NFC championship game. We’ve seen him execute everything less. He’s played well from behind and in the two-minute drill, both against the Raiders. But how will he handle those moments for the first time on the road in the playoffs? We don’t know. We do know those situations tend to overwhelm players in those situations. If the Niners offense is spurting, their defense can handle the extra work. Their pass rush is scary, and I’m glad I’ll watching from the couch and not playing against them. There are only a few offensive lines, the Eagles and Cowboys, that could mildly stop this pass rush over the course of a game. If the Niners had home-field advantage, they’d be ahead of the Eagles for me.

‘George Kittle is the MVP of the game’

'George Kittle is the MVP of the game'

Robert Smith and Chris Meyers break down the 49ers’ win over the Cardinals and explain why George Kittle is MVP of the game despite Brock Purdy’s three touchdown passes.

4. Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Hurts is back and the vibes in the facility should be trending upwards as the Eagles get a week to rest. The Eagles were in need of some good vibes after back-to-back losses without their MVP candidate quarterback. Hurts returned Sunday and looked good considering the circumstances and vanilla game plan. It was clear the ball needed to be out quickly and Hurts was not part of the rushing attack. The Eagles need right tackle Lane Johnson to return for the playoffs. His loss would be less than ideal when facing some of the rushers in this conference. I think the Eagles defense has shown some holes in the back half of the season, especially in the middle of the field. However, if the pass rush is humming the Eagles defense should be good enough.

3. Kansas City Chiefs

I’m a Chiefs fan. This is the team I watch closely. It’s impressive they went 14-3 with a new receiving core and a bunch of rookie contributors on defense. We know the Chiefs offense is fantastic. They are No. 1 in the NFL in almost every important offensive category. However, their defense is not good. They have moments where they shine, especially when Chris Jones is going strong from the inside. But outside of Jones, the pass rush isn’t trustworthy. The secondary plays a bend-but-don’t-break style of ball that has broken too often against good offenses. Their defense is also poor at tackling, and it’s most noticeable when they play the two teams directly above them. The biggest concern for the Chiefs is their special teams, which for years under Dave Toub was fantastic: one of the best in the NFL. It’s fighting to be average this season. Too many muffed punt catch attempts. Too many missed field goals. Their special teams could cost them a game. I need to see the Chiefs beat the Bengals before they are ranked ahead of them.

2. Cincinnati Bengals

Yes Bengals fans, you got no favors from the NFL. You have to go through Buffalo to make the AFC Championship game. However, you’re the most complete team in the conference. Your offense has gotten more diverse this season, not needing the home-run pass to be a major part of the ball is moved on offense. The defense is tough and physical, rarely giving up points easily. The Bengals best quality is they don’t beat themselves. They do not make crippling mistakes. No dumb penalties. No unfortunate turnovers. Rare busted coverages on defense. These are important qualities when it comes to the postseason. However, just like Buffalo, you need to go through the two best teams in the NFL, both on the road to return to the Super Bowl. Also, the offensive line seems shaky with injuries and that could pose an issue this postseason.

1. Buffalo Bills

The Bills were my preseason pick for the Super Bowl and I will stand by that pick right here. I think when the Bills are playing their best, they are the top squad in the AFC. Josh Allen can be the most dynamic quarterback in the league when he’s using his legs, something he saves for the most important games of the year. The Bills defense is without Von Miller, but still strong nonetheless. They enter the postseason top five in efficiency and eighth in third-down defense. The Bills do not have the top seed in the conference and would have to beat the Bengals at home, followed by playing the Chiefs at a neutral site to win the conference. It’s a tough task, but something they are built for. I expect the best from Buffalo this postseason.

Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @GeoffSchwartz.

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