As we head into Thanksgiving, only 17 NFL teams have a better than 30 percent chance to make the postseason, according to FiveThirtyEight’s 2022 playoff predictions model. The rest of the NFL is hanging on by a hope and a prayer for a shot at the big dance, if not already preparing for the offseason. The top of these power rankings feature the three teams with the best odds to win the Super Bowl, and on the second tier are the four teams I believe are best suited to knock off the top dogs without the aid of first-round bye in the playoffs. From the top to the bottom of these rankings, I’m trying to predict postseason potential, rather than making knee-jerk reactions to each week’s results. That’s why you’ll see the Eagles still at no. 1 despite a loss in Week 10 and a squeaker of a win in Week 11. Now, on to Week 12!
Best of the Best
1. Philadelphia Eagles (9-1 | last week’s ranking: 1)
The Eagles simply can’t turn the ball over like they have over the last two weeks if they want to stay atop the NFC and secure the first-round bye. In weeks 1-9, Philadelphia led the league in turnover differential with 18 turnovers forced while committing just three turnovers of their own. In their last two games, they’ve turned the ball over six times and rank 31st in turnover differential (-3). Philly’s early-season turnover luck was ridiculous and bound for regression, but the Eagles will lose more games than they should to close out the season if they let it regress rapidly all at once.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-2 | last week: 2)
There are teams in the NFL in the same tier as the Chiefs, but there isn’t a quarterback in the league that can hold a candle to Patrick Mahomes. His total expected points added (EPA) on dropbacks this season is 145.7; no other quarterback in the NFL is above 95.1. The Kansas City offense is averaging 1.23 EPA per drive, which is nearly double the second-ranked Dolphins. Mahomes has elevated the offense without Tyreek Hill, arguably the league’s best receiver. He is different; it’s just that simple.
3. Buffalo Bills (7-3 | last week: 3)
Bills head coach Sean McDermott was right when he told reporters that “everyone expects Josh [Allen] to be Superman, every game, all the time, and every throw.” Allen wasn’t Superman out of the gate against Cleveland in Week 11 but rallied the team back from an early 10-3 deficit to stomp on the Browns and improve to 7-3. The offense is no. 3 behind the Chiefs and Dolphins in EPA per drive, and Allen himself is no. 3 behind Tua Tagovailoa and Mahomes in EPA per dropback. That’s Superman enough for the Bills to have their sights set on Super Bowl contention.
Deep Postseason Contenders
4. Miami Dolphins (7-3 | last week: 5)
Tua Tagovailoa, Mike McDaniel, Tyreek Hill, and Jaylen Waddle are the topics of every Dolphins conversation right now, and rightfully so. The offense is electric. But it’s also distracted us from just how much the team’s defense has underperformed this season. Miami ranks 22nd in points allowed per game and 26th in defensive success rate entering Week 12. They blitz a lot but rank just 29th in pressure rate when they blitz. They run a lot of man coverage but rank 25th in yards per attempt allowed in man coverage. The tenets of coordinator Josh Boyer’s defense aren’t hitting, and the Dolphins are giving up points in droves because of it. The Dolphins are fortunate the offense is primed for a shootout every week because they’ll have no choice but to play in them against the top AFC teams in the postseason.
5. San Francisco 49ers (6-4 | last week: 7)
San Francisco moves to first in the NFC West with their win over the Cardinals on Monday Night Football. Somehow, Jimmy Garoppolo is the fourth-ranked quarterback in EPA per dropback (0.15) behind just Tagovailoa, Mahomes, and Allen. Combine that with the top-ranked defense in points allowed and the fourth-ranked defense in yards allowed per game, and you have a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
6. Baltimore Ravens (7-3 | last week: 6)
We’d talk more about just how bad the Ravens’ supporting cast is if Lamar Jackson wasn’t so damn good. We know offensive coordinator Greg Roman isn’t doing him any favors in the dropback passing game, and the offensive weaponry—with J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Rashod Bateman all hurt—is severely lacking. Demarcus Robinson and Kenyan Drake, the team’s leading receiver and rusher on Sunday, respectively, were both cut by the Raiders in the last year. It’s simply unfair that Jackson isn’t second behind Mahomes in MVP odds right now.
7. Dallas Cowboys (7-3 | last week: 8)
The Cowboys took no prisoners in their 40-3 win over the Vikings on Sunday. Dak Prescott completed 22 of 25 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns in an offensive masterclass where he and RB Tony Pollard could do no wrong. Micah Parsons padded his Defensive Player of the Year campaign with two sacks, and CB Trevon Diggs allowed just two catches for 19 yards against Justin Jefferson, according to Pro Football Focus. That kind of game from the Cowboys, especially coming after such a heartbreaking loss to the Packers at Lambeau, is why they’re third in NFC championship odds behind the Eagles and 49ers.
Flawed Postseason Contenders
8. Minnesota Vikings (8-2 | last week: 4)
Losing to the Cowboys by 37 points at home was a shock even for the loudest Vikings doubters. The offensive line couldn’t pass protect, the early-down offense was abysmal, and the defense had no answers for Pollard and Prescott. Minnesota is now tied with the Chiefs for the second-best record in the NFL, but sport a negative-two point differential; 15 other teams have a better mark. They’re now 19th in offensive EPA per drive and 30th in yards per play allowed. Both sides of the ball have to improve significantly if the Vikings are going to win in the postseason.
9. Tennessee Titans (7-3 | last week: 13)
Mike Vrabel has the Titans exceeding expectations again. In 2021, Vrabel led the Titans to the best regular-season record in the AFC and earned NFL Coach of the Year honors as a result. Now, despite entering the season second behind the Colts in odds to win the AFC South and tied for eighth in the AFC in projected win total (9.0), the Titans are in a four-way tie for the second-best record in the AFC at 7-3 and are a heavy favorite to win their division with seven regular-season games remaining.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5 | last week: 14)
The Bucs beat the Rams and Seahawks to get back to .500 before their Week 11 bye, and now go into the last seven games of the season as a considerable favorite (-390) to win the NFC South. It’d be easy to say Tom Brady is back and the Bucs are primed for a run in the playoffs, but we still haven’t seen the offense score over 21 points in more than two games this season. They rank 22nd in offensive EPA per drive and have one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. I’m not buying the Bucs as an NFC title contender over the Eagles, 49ers, Cowboys, or Vikings until we see four-quarter dominance from Brady and the offense.
11. Seattle Seahawks (6-4 | last week: 11)
According to FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictions model, the Seahawks still have a 78 percent chance to make the postseason entering Week 12 despite the loss to Tampa Bay in Germany. The offense is top-10 in EPA per drive, and the defense has slowly climbed up from the depths of the league to 10th in success rate. Expect Geno Smith and the Seahawks to earn one of the wild-card spots in the NFC, especially if they secure a home win over the Raiders in Week 12 as a 3.5-point favorite coming off a bye.
On the Bubble
12. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4 | last week: 9)
The Bengals’ win over the Steelers on Sunday kept their playoff hopes alive, and more good news flooded in Monday with Ja’Marr Chase returning to practice. But nothing is guaranteed for Cincinnati as they prepare for a road matchup with the Titans next week and then host the Chiefs in Week 13. Getting Chase back healthy and ensuring Joe Burrow can get the ball out quickly and cleanly will be necessary for the Bengals to earn a spot in the playoffs. Burrow ranks fifth in EPA per dropback when kept clean and just 28th in the same statistic when pressured.
13. New York Giants (7-3 | last week: 10)
The Giants, like the Jets, have overperformed in the win column all season. They’ve gone into the fourth quarter with a lead in just two games this season and rank 21st in point differential in the first three quarters of games. They haven’t won a game by more than eight points. And now they’re without rookie WR Wan’Dale Robinson, who led the team in receiving yards with 100 on Sunday, for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. They’re still -150 to make the playoffs, but they’re also 8.5-point road underdogs against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
14. New England Patriots (6-4 | last week: 16)
Losing to the Jets on Sunday would have all but killed the Patriots’ chances of making the postseason, so hope lives on after Marcus Jones’s game-winning punt return touchdown. However, there’s no denying that Mac Jones and the offense have been abysmal even in the team’s three-game win streak. Since Week 9, no offense ranks lower in offensive EPA per drive, and Jones ranks 32nd in EPA per dropback. That’s not going to cut it as they face the hardest remaining schedule in the NFL.
15. New York Jets (6-4 | last week: 15)
It’s tough to win in this league when you’re playing a good team and your quarterback plays like shit. Josh Allen said that after losing to the Jets earlier this month. Jets QB Zach Wilson was asked on Sunday if he thinks he let the defense down when New York scored just three points in a loss to the Patriots, and he said, “no.” Wilson has been an Achilles heel for the Jets offense for a lot of the season, but the reluctance to take accountability makes for a new level of concern. Not just because Stephen A. Smith, Kyle Brandt, and others are having a field day with it, but now head coach Robert Saleh isn’t even committing to Wilson as the starter this week against Chicago. Wilson—or whoever starts at quarterback—simply has to be better if the Jets are going to even have a chance at showing off their top-flight defense in the postseason.
16. Washington Commanders (6-5 | last week: 18)
Taylor Heinicke has drawn acclaim as he’s kept the Commanders’ playoff hopes alive, going 4-1 as the starter over the last five weeks, but the offense has still been more bad than good on the Heinicke roller coaster. It’s the defense—which ranks fifth in points allowed per game since Heinicke took over—that is actually keeping Washington in the hunt. Too often throwing the ball into harm’s way or just blatantly inaccurate, Heinicke ranks 29th in EPA per dropback since Week 7.
17. Los Angeles Chargers (5-5 | last week: 12)
The margin for error is all but gone for the Chargers after losing to the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. FiveThirtyEight gives them just a 31 percent chance to make the playoffs as they prepare for a road matchup with the Cardinals on Sunday and then visit the Raiders in Week 13. There’s no questioning Justin Herbert’s brilliance, especially after his effort against Kansas City, but there will be questions surrounding head coach Brandon Staley, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and the rest of the Los Angeles coaching staff if the team misses the playoffs again.
Long-Shot Playoff Hopefuls
18. Indianapolis Colts (4-6-1 | last week: 25)
How much interim head coach Jeff Saturday is responsible for back-to-back competitive performances from the Colts is hard to determine, but it’s safe to say without any qualifiers that veteran QB Matt Ryan has dramatically improved the offense since taking the reins back from Sam Ehlinger. The passing offense ranks 19th in EPA per dropback over the last two weeks with Ryan; it ranked 31st over Ehlinger’s two starts. Ryan gives the Colts a legitimate shot at scoring the football on offense and is keeping Indy’s playoff hopes alive for at least a couple more weeks.
19. Atlanta Falcons (5-6 | last week: 22)
Cordarrelle Patterson, who scored his ninth career kickoff return TD Sunday against the Bears, and the road-grading offensive line are saving the Falcons right now, as the team ranks sixth in EPA per rush and eighth in yards before first contact per attempt. They go as the run game goes, and they’ll be tested this week against Washington and the Commanders’ strong run defense, which is currently ranked second in success rate allowed. The stakes are high for the Falcons: If they beat both the Commanders this week and Steelers in Week 12, their playoff odds jump over 50 percent in FiveThirtyEight’s model.
20. Arizona Cardinals (4-7, last week: 19)
The excuses GM Steve Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury will make after they finish their fourth consecutive season without a playoff win will be entertaining. Injuries are an obvious scapegoat, as the offensive line, Kyler Murray, and Marquise Brown have all missed time this season, and that doesn’t even include DeAndre Hopkins missing six games due to suspension. I’m not buying this broken record, however. Drastic changes need to be made across the board for the Cardinals to return to relevance, and that probably needs to start with Keim and Kingsbury.
21. Detroit Lions (4-6 | last week: 27)
A lot would need to go their way for it to happen, but the Lions aren’t out of the postseason hunt just yet. The offense is top-10 in points per game and offensive EPA per drive since Week 9, and they’ve won each of their last three games. The defense is still abysmal in terms of yards allowed over the same three-week stretch, but they’ve limited opponent scoring drives with seven forced turnovers in those three games. It’s all likely a moot point if the Lions lose to the Bills as a 9.5-point underdog on Thanksgiving, but it’s still been a valiant effort to remain competitive from Dan Campbell and Co.
22. New Orleans Saints (4-7 | last week: 29)
Andy Dalton’s three-touchdown performance in the Saints’ win over the Rams on Sunday is likely too little, too late to save the Saints’ season or help the team make sense of their quarterback situation in 2023. Dalton ranks 10th in EPA per dropback after 11 weeks, and while last week’s performance is encouraging in the short term, he’ll face a big test in the next two weeks against the 49ers and Buccaneers.
We’re Onto 2023
23. Green Bay Packers (4-7 | last week: 17)
Last Thursday’s game against the Titans was essentially a playoff game for the Packers, and they lost. According to FiveThirtyEight, Green Bay had just a 12 percent chance of making the postseason before the game and a 21 percent chance if they won. They’re now given just a 6 percent chance entering Week 12. With games against the Eagles, Dolphins, and Vikings remaining, there’s a world where the Packers are drafting in the top 10 of the 2023 NFL draft, draft capital that would come in handy considering how little cap space they are projected to have in 2023.
24. Cleveland Browns (3-7 | last week: 21)
Mapping postseason scenarios for the Browns even with Deshaun Watson expected to replace Jacoby Brissett as the starter in Week 13 is likely a waste of time. FanDuel is offering 13-to-1 odds for the Browns to make the playoffs right now. According to FiveThirtyEight, Cleveland’s chances of making the postseason won’t clear 10 percent even if Brissett and company manage to beat Tampa Bay this upcoming Sunday.
25. Las Vegas Raiders (3-7 | last week: 31)
Derek Carr, Davante Adams, and Josh Jacobs are all extremely talented starters. And when the offense is fully equipped with a healthy LT Kolton Miller, TE Darren Waller, and slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, Carr and company are among the most talented offenses in the league. The porous defense even has a legit blue-chip talent in Maxx Crosby at defensive end. The issue for Las Vegas was never the talent level of their core players; it’s everything else. The defense, sans Crosby, is bereft of playmakers, and Josh McDaniels, who is the sixth head coach Carr has worked under since he was drafted in 2014, is orchestrating an offense that can’t convert third downs or score in the red zone at a league-average rate. McDaniels and the defense have to improve this offseason if the Raiders are committed to building up from what they have in Carr, Adams, etc.
26. Denver Broncos (3-7 | last week: 20)
Losing to the Raiders at home on Sunday all but secured the Broncos’ position as the league’s most disappointing team in 2022. In their pursuit of Aaron Rodgers, they ended up with Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson. The path forward will be a rocky one after swinging and missing so badly. For the next few weeks, look for Hackett’s seat to get even hotter if the Broncos don’t start showing offensive improvement.
27. Los Angeles Rams (3-7 | last week: 23)
The Rams offense has underperformed all season, but it’s gone from bad to worse with WR Cooper Kupp out with an ankle injury and QB Matthew Stafford in the concussion protocol for the second time in three weeks. With their postseason aspirations all but dead after losing to the Saints on Sunday, the priority for the Rams should shift to getting healthy and keeping any Sean McVay or Aaron Donald retirement rumors from resurfacing.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7 | last week: 24)
The good news for the Jags as they return from their bye is that Trevor Lawrence looks significantly better this year compared to last year. He’s a top-10 quarterback in EPA per dropback and Jacksonville has the same point differential as the 7-3 Dolphins and Titans, both of which have more than a 90 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight. The bad news is they’re just 1-6 in one-score games, are likely to miss the playoffs and won’t have money to spend on free agents in 2023 (they are currently to be $23 million over the cap) because of their 2022 spending spree.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-7 | last week: 26)
Kenny Pickett will have to take a significant second-year leap for the Steelers to return to prominence in 2023. Improving the offensive line in the offseason will definitely help mitigate some of the existing concerns, but Pickett’s development is by far the biggest needle mover for Pittsburgh. The rookie ranks just 34th in EPA per attempt on throws at or beyond the line of scrimmage and 27th in overall dropback efficiency. Games like his 265-yard, one-touchdown performance on Sunday are a step in the right direction.
30. Chicago Bears (3-8 | last week: 28)
The Bears have plenty of problems, but it finally appears QB isn’t one of them, and the only reason the Bears aren’t in the next tier down is because QB Justin Fields has been a sensation of late. Since Week 5, Fields ranks eighth in EPA per dropback and first in EPA per rush. Only Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow have more total offensive touchdowns in the same seven-week period.
Watching Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud
31. Carolina Panthers (3-8 | last week: 30)
It’s wild just how bad Baker Mayfield has been this season. He is the lowest-ranked quarterback in EPA per dropback and the 31st-ranked quarterback in Steven Ruiz’s QB rankings for good reason. It’s hard to imagine a world where he’s projected to start Week 1 anywhere in the NFL in 2023.
32. Houston Texans (1-8-1 | last week: 32)
Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud, the current favorite to be the no. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL draft, plays undefeated Michigan on Saturday. Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. and QB Bryce Young, who are second and third, respectively, in no. 1 overall pick odds on FanDuel, host Auburn in the Iron Bowl right after the Ohio State–Michigan game ends. Watch some college football this weekend, Texans fans, as one of those three players will likely be in Houston next season.