Heading into the 2022 NFL playoffs, Hall of Fame selector Paul Domowitch shares his power rankings of the 14-team field. The biggest riser from this week is the AFC’s No. 1-seeded Titans, going from No. 11 to No. 6. Meanwhile, the biggest faller was the Los Angeles Rams, who dropped from No. 2 all the way to No. 7.
1) Packers (13-4) Previous: 1
Seed: NFC No. 1
This week: bye
Record v. playoff teams: 5-1
Streak: Finished with 5 straight wins after November losses to the Chiefs and Vikings.
Noteworthy stat: The Packers have outscored opponents in the second and third quarters, 283-169.
The scoop: Aaron Rodgers is having another prolific season. He hasn’t thrown an interception since before Thanksgiving. Playing on an injured toe, he has 20 TD passes and zero picks in the Packers’ last seven games. The emergence of 247-pound RB AJ Dillon has given the Packers a productive 1-2 running punch with Aaron Jones. Dillon and Jones combined for 1,602 rushing yards and 2,306 yards from scrimmage this season. The defense had the league’s eighth most takeaways (26), but allowed 27.3 points per game in their last 7 games after giving up just 18.0 in the first 10.
2) Chiefs (12-5) Previous: 3
Seed: AFC No. 2
This week: Sunday, 8:15P, v. 9-7-1 Steelers (NBC)
Record v. playoff teams: 6-3
Streak: Won 9 of their last 10
Noteworthy stat: Chiefs have held opponents to 10 TDs on 24 red-zone trips (41.7%) in the last 7 games.
The scoop: Steve Spagnuolo’s defense has played well after a rough start. The Chiefs gave up 163 points in their first five games, three of which they lost. But they’ve won 10 of 12 since and Spagnuolo’s unit has held opponents to 16.7 points per game in those 12 games. Patrick Mahomes still is the straw that stirs the drink for the Chiefs. He had a career-high 13 interceptions and a career-low yards-per-attempt average (7.4). But he’s thrown just three picks in the Chiefs’ last nine games. Versatile RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire has missed seven of the last 12 games with injuries, which has been a blow to both the running and passing game. His status for the playoffs still is uncertain. Getting him back would be a big lift for the Chiefs’ Super Bowl hopes.
3) Bucs (13-4) Previous: 4
Seed: NFC No. 2
This week: Sunday, 1P, v. 9-8 Eagles (FOX)
Record v. playoff teams: 4-1
Streak: Won 7 of their last 8; lone loss during that period was 9-0 to Saints.
Noteworthy stat: Bucs have league’s lowest run-play percentage (33.8). Only the Jets averaged fewer rushing attempts per game (22.3) than the Bucs (22.6).
The scoop: Tom Brady is having another Tom Brady season. His 43 TD passes are the second most of his career. He’s got a 142.0 passer rating, including a 70.7 completion percentage and nine TDs, on third downs of four yards or less. Brady completed 80.9% of his passes in a Week 6 win over the Eagles. But 22 of his 34 completions that day were to people he won’t have available to him on Sunday. That said, TE Rob Gronkowski has stepped up his game again. He has 14 catches for 252 yards the last two weeks. The Eagles have not defended TEs very well this season, giving up 97 receptions and 11 TDs to them. If the Eagles can’t figure out how to slow down Gronk, it’s going to be a long day.
4) Cowboys (12-5) Previous: 5
Seed: NFC No. 3
This week: Sunday, 4:30P v. 10-7 49ers (CBS/ Nickelodeon)
Record v. playoff teams: 3-4
Streak: Won 5 of their last 6.
Noteworthy stat: leads the NFL in scoring (31.2).
The scoop: While the Cowboys lead the league in scoring and Dak Prescott has thrown a career-high 37 touchdown passes, it’s been Dan Quinn and his born-again defense that has been the difference-maker for them. They’ve got a league-high 34 takeaways, including 26 interceptions, 11 of them by cornerback Trevon Diggs. Playmaking rookie linebacker Micah Parsons is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He has 13 of the Cowboys’ 41 sacks and wreaks havoc every down in every situation.
5) Bills (11-6) Previous: 6
Seed: AFC No. 3
This week: Saturday, 8:15P, v. 10-7 Patriots (NBC)
Record v. playoff teams: 2-4
Streak: Won their last 4 games, outscoring opponents, 120-60.
Noteworthy stat: Bills have given up just 12 passing touchdowns all season and only two in their last 4 games.
The scoop: The Bills have won back-to-back division titles for the first time in 31 years and are making their fourth playoff appearance in the last 5 years. Their defense is stout. They finished first in points allowed (17.0) and held opponents to a league-best 65.3 passer rating, including the aforementioned 12 TD passes. They’re averaging the third most points in the league (28.4) behind only the Cowboys and Bucs. Josh Allen has thrown 36 touchdown passes and is one of the league’s most dangerous dual-threat QBs. (763 rushing yards, 6.3 yards per carry, 6 TDs).
6) Titans (12-5) Previous: 11
Seed: AFC No. 1
This week: bye
Record v. playoff teams: 4-3
Streak: Were 6-3 after Derrick Henry got hurt.
Noteworthy stat: Ryan Tannehill has thrown 14 interceptions. An NFL-high 10 have been on third down.
The scoop: After Henry broke his foot in Week 8, many people thought the Titans would crumble without their workhorse back. But that didn’t happen. The Titans managed to win six of nine games without Henry and get the top playoff seed in the AFC. And now, Henry is expected to return for the playoffs. His backup, D’Onta Foreman, played well in his absence. Foreman averaged 4.4 yards per carry over the last six games. Since a four-interception implosion against Houston in mid-November, Ryan Tannehill has played better, throwing just 2 picks in the Titan’s last 6 games. But he’s not a carry-the-team-on-his-back quarterback. With Henry, he doesn’t have to be. The Titans’ defense has been solid. It has held opponents to just 17.7 points per game in the last 9 games.
7) Rams (12-5) Previous: 2
Seed: NFC No. 4
This week: Monday, 8:15P v. 11-6 Cardinals (ABC/ESPN)
Record v. playoff teams: 2-5
Streak: Week 18 overtime loss to 49ers snapped a 5-game win streak and bumped them down to the No. 4 seed in NFC.
Noteworthy stat: Rams have averaged just 2.9 yards per carry in their last 2 games.
The scoop: The Rams went all-in this year, trading their future for Matthew Stafford and adding veterans like Von Miller and Odell Benjamin Jr. to make a Super Bowl run. When Stafford’s been good, he’s been very, very good (8 games with 3 or more TD passes). But when he’s been bad, he’s been very, very bad (league-high 17 interceptions). He’d be toast without Cooper Kupp, who is the league’s best wideout in the league this season and an Offensive Player of the Year candidate. He has 145 catches for 1,947 yards and 16 TDs. His 26 red-zone catches and 13 red-zone TDs both top the NFL. The defense has given up 300 rushing yards the last 2 games, and finished 15th in scoring defense (21.9 points allowed per game), down from 1st (18.5) in 2020.
8) Cardinals (11-6) Previous: 7
Seed: NFC No. 5
This week: Monday, 8:15P at 12-5 Rams (ABC/ESPN)
Record v. playoff teams: 5-2
Streak: have lost 4 of their last 5 games.
Noteworthy stat: Kyler Murray is first in third-down passing with a 119.5 passer rating. He has 11 TD passes and a 64.0 completion percentage on third down.
The scoop: For much of the season, the Cardinals looked like a Super Bowl-bound team, winning their first 7 games and 10 of their first 12. But injuries to some of their skill-position people, particularly wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, has caused the Cardinals offense to sputter. Once a prime candidate for the NFC’s top seed, they lost the NFC West to the Rams and fell to the fifth seed. Kyler Murray has thrown just 5 touchdown passes in the last 5 games. Hopkins was his favorite red-zone weapon, and he hasn’t been able to find a replacement for him. TE Zach Ertz, who was one of the league’s best red-zone weapon when he was with the Eagles, has just four red-zone catches in 11 games with the Cardinals. In their last six games, the Cardinals have converted just 8 of 21 red-zone opportunities (38.1%) into touchdowns.
9) Bengals (10-7) Previous: 9
Seed: AFC No. 4
This week: Saturday, 4:30P v. 10-7 Raiders (NBC)
Record v. playoff teams: 4-2
Streak: won 3 in a row then rested starters in meaningless Week 18 loss to Browns.
Noteworthy stat: The Bengals gave up 55 sacks, the third most in the league. In the last 10 years, no team that has allowed 45 or more sacks has made it to a conference championship game.
The scoop: When Joe Burrow isn’t getting sacked he’s throwing completions down the field to his talented receiving corps. In just his second season, Burrow leads the league in yards per attempt (8.9) and completion percentage. He has 34 TD passes, including back-to-back 4-TD games v. the Ravens and Chiefs in Weeks 16-17. The Bengals were fourth in 20-plus-yard pass plays (63). Rookie J’Marr Chase had 22 and Tee Higgins had 17..
10) 49ers (10-7) Previous: 12
Seed: NFC No. 6
This week: Sunday, 4:30P, at 12-5 Cowboys (CBS/Nickelodean)
Record v. playoff teams: 4-4
Streak: won 7 of their last 9 including 2 wins over the Rams.
Noteworthy stat: Niners have converted a league-high 66.7% of their red-zone opportunities into TDs, but are just 11-for-21 (52.4%) in their last 5 games inside the 20.
The scoop: The Niners overcame a near-disastrous 17-point first-half deficit to beat the Rams in overtime Sunday and earn a playoff spot. Jimmy Garoppolo continues to be somewhat resilient. Playing with a still-injured thumb, he completed 23 of 32 passes for 316 passes. Threw two interceptions, but made the plays that he needed to make down the stretch. Kyle Shanahan continues to maximize Deebo Samuel’s versatility. Samuel rushed for 45 yards and a touchdown against the Rams and also had 95 more yards on four receptions. He has 1,770 rushing and receiving yards this season to go with 14 touchdowns. The Niners’ defense held opponents to 18.1 points per game during the team’s 7-1 finish.
11) Eagles (9-8) Previous: 13
Seed: NFC No. 7
This week: Sunday, 1P, at 13-4 Bucs (FOX)
Record v. playoff teams: 0-6
Streak: won 7 of 9 before resting starters in final game v. Cowboys.
Noteworthy stat: averaged an NFL-high 189.8 rushing yards per game in their last 10 games.
The scoop: After a 2-5 start, Nick Sirianni switched to a run-heavy offensive approach that has taken advantage of one of the best offensive lines in the league. QB Jalen Hurts has been up and down as a passer this season, but is sixth in the league in rushing first downs and first in rushing first downs on third down.
12) Raiders (10-7) Previous: 14
Seed: AFC No. 5
This week: Saturday, 4:30P, at 10-7 Bengals (NBC)
Record v. playoff teams: 3-3
Streak: won their last 4 after losing 5 of their previous 6.
Noteworthy stat: The Raiders have a minus-9 turnover differential, which is the poorest of the league’s 14 playoff teams. Just 2 teams have made it to a conference championship game in the last 10 years with a negative turnover differential.
The scoop: The Raiders have had to deal with a lot this season, including the abrupt departure of their coach, Jon Gruden, and the release of one of their top offensive players, wide receiver Henry Ruggs. But they rallied to win their last four games, including Sunday’s dramatic overtime win over the Chargers, to earn just their second playoff berth since 2002. They will have their work cut out for them against Cincinnati, starting with trying to find a way to stop Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ explosive passing attack. Their own offense has managed to score more than 23 points just twice in the last 10 games. QB Derek Carr was sacked 40 times, 18 of them on third down. Six of his 14 interceptions also were on third down.
13) Patriots (10-7) Previous: 10
Seed: AFC No. 6
This week: Saturday, 8:15P at 11-6 Bills (NBC)
Record v. playoff teams: 2-3
Streak: lost 3 of their last 4 games.
Noteworthy stat: Opposing kickers have converted just 16 of 27 field goal attempts (59.2%) from beyond 30 yards against the Patriots.
The scoop: Since impressive back-to-back wins over the Titans and Bills in Weeks 12-13, the Patriots have fallen back to earth. The only team they have beaten since then is 3-14 Jacksonville. Rookie QB Mac Jones has a 59.8 completion percentage and has thrown six TD passes and five interceptions in the last 4 games. RBs Damien Harris and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson have combined for 1,535 yards and 20 rushing TDs, but both have been battling through injuries. After giving up more than 28 points just once in their first 15 games, the Patriots have allowed 33 in two of their last three games.
14) Steelers (9-7-1) Previous: 19
Seed: AFC No. 7
This week: Sunday, 8:15P, at 12-5 Chiefs (NBC)
Record v. playoff teams: 2-5
Streak: won 4 of their last 6, including a Week 18 overtime victory over the Ravens.
Noteworthy stat: Nine of the Steelers’ games were decided by 7 points or less. They won 7 of those games.
The scoop: The Steelers are a surprise playoff entrant. Sunday’s win over the Ravens figured to be Ben Roethlisberger’s NFL swan song. But the choke job by Carson Wentz and the Colts against Jacksonville extended his playing career for at least one more game. The Steelers played the Chiefs in Week 16. It didn’t go well. The Chiefs scored on their first four possessions and won going away, 36-10. The Steelers have a very good pass rush led by NFL sack king T.J. Watt. But their run defense is a sieve. They are giving up a league-worst 5.0 yards per carry. Opponents had 72 runs of 10 yards or more against them this season. Only Houston gave up more. Their offense is hard to watch as Roethlisberger attempts to dink and dunk his way down the field. He averaged just 4.5 yards per attempt in against the Chiefs last month.