With 11 weeks of the 2022 NFL season on the books, it’s not too early to anticipate the playoffs. The playoff picture is already starting to take shape. Not a single team has been mathematically knocked out of the competition, but several division chiefs are far enough ahead to justify football’s expectations in January.
The NFC in particular is wide open, with eight different teams leaving Week 11 no worse than two games below 0.500. But which of them deserve serious consideration as wildcard contenders? Excluding the current division heads in the East (Eagles9-1), West (49ers6-4), North (vikings8-2) and South (Buccaneers5-5), here’s how we would rank the conference playoff contenders:
They remain fiery, but no Steve Wilks passion can compensate for the fact that they still have one of the worst quarterback situations in the NFL. Sam Darnold will inevitably get his shot (again) following the latest flop of Baker Mayfield replacing PJ Walker, but all are turnovers waiting to happen.
They’ve been more thrilling than competent, which is mostly a testament to Justin Fields’ emergence as the chief — and often unique — playmaker on offense. But now he’s badly hurt, and even if he wasn’t, he still doesn’t have the critical time touch or the supporting cast to elevate a roster in transition. Stay tuned in 2023.
10. Rams (3-7)
Typically, Sean McVay would get the benefit of the doubt. But Matthew Stafford is back in concussion protocol for the second time in as many weeks, his line was already in shambles, and Cooper Kupp is unlikely to return this year. The ‘D’ will always be rambling, but where will the Rams’ points come from? They bought their title; now they are paying the price.
No one should bet on a team led by Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury, two of the most chaotic men in the game – Murray being the ineffective scrambling artist coming out of injury, Kingsbury his streaky strategist. But at least with Kyler throwing it to DeAndre Hopkins and/or Marquise Brown, there’s a possibility of fireworks, which is more than some teams can claim.
Andy Dalton has sandwiched awesome games between horrible games, which describes the Saints perfectly. Dennis Allen’s defense has been disappointing most of the time, and Dalton is far too prone to turnovers to trust in big games. But if they stay healthy, feeding Alvin Kamara and Chris Olave, they have the speed to play the spoiler.
Much like the Falcons of 2021, they don’t register as particularly durable, strongly preferring to run rather than let their QB get the ball in the air, even if they never quite die. Arthur Smith can certainly design a ground attack; Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Mariota give their all. But their “D” is also one of the worst in the NFL.
Too often this year, Aaron Rodgers has been dragged down by his team’s shoddy depth rather than timing and elevating the moving parts. Matt LaFleur’s offense seems stuck in the mud. Still, if Aaron Jones can keep busy and Quay Walker can help Green Bay’s “D” race continue to grow, it’s hard to count a team with A-Rod on the stretch.
Why not? The “D” is a concern, as always, and Jared Goff has a set ceiling when things don’t go in his favor. But Dan Campbell never lost the buy-in, his guys won three in a row after upsetting the Giants, and they took contenders in the Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks and Vikings to the wire with a capable offense surprise in the air and on the ground. ground.
4. Giants (7-3)
If anyone is in a position to drop in this ranking, it’s probably the G-Men, who are so understaffed that it’ll be a bit of a shock if teams don’t stack the box every game against them at the start. ‘coming. Daniel Jones gave his all as the figurehead of Brian Daboll’s renewed ground game, but when you can’t push the ball with confidence, you can’t expect to win big games. Daboll has generally gotten the better of average personnel, but like the Vikings, who have been exposed in matchups with the Eagles and Cowboys this year, their low point differential probably says more than their record.
No matter how much energy he brings, Taylor Heinicke isn’t so sure as his predecessor, Carson Wentz; he was always inclined to put the ball in danger in the name of the hero. But he’s also proven he can win on the sidelines and, more importantly, he’s got a legit supporting cast with Terry McLaurin as the headliner. Ron Rivera’s stingy defense, meanwhile, has quietly climbed the rankings over the past month-plus. They might not be title worthy, but they’re rambling enough to make some noise.
2. Seahawks (6-4)
Geno Smith has never played in a postseason game, but his surprise growth into an authoritative leader for Seattle’s offensive top 10 suggests he’s ready. If they can get Kenneth Walker III rolling again, they’ve got the tough parts — and a quietly upgraded “D” — to win cold-weather matchups. The real deciding factor is probably Pete Carroll, who’s been there, has done that when it comes to sealing the playoff spots.
1. Cowboys (7-3)
It’s been a long time since Dallas reached their potential when the lights turn brightest, but healthier on both sides of the ball, they teased the Vikings what kind of powerhouse they can be. The attacking trio of Dak Prescott, Tony Pollard and CeeDee Lamb is deadly when firing on all cylinders, and Micah Parsons coming off the edge is even scarier for opposing teams. You always worry about a disappointment in January, but until then Mike McCarthy has a well-rounded squad that is gaining momentum at the right time.