Chargers, Commanders Among Teams Desperate for 2022 NFL Playoff Push

Justin Herbert Chargers vs. Raiders

The 2022 regular season is rapidly nearing the finish line, but the postseason seeding is nowhere near set on either side. Going into Week 14, only the Texans and the Bears have been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, and no team has clinched a spot.

In the AFC, the Chiefs and Bills are the top two seeds, followed by the struggling Ravens and Titans as the other two division leaders. The 8-4 Bengals and Dolphins are the current fifth and sixth seeds, with the now Mike-White-led New York Jets as the seventh seed. 

In the NFC, the Eagles reign supreme with only one loss, followed by the Vikings, 49ers and Buccaneers, who all face significant questions coming down the home stretch. The Cowboys stand firm in the fifth position at 9-3, with the Giants and Seahawks rounding out the NFC side.

There are some other teams still in the hunt trying to make a furious comeback, and those sputtering to a collapse. We will take a look at some of these teams, both in performance and remaining strength of schedule to see if they have what it takes to make a push for January football or if they should start packing for the links.

Los Angeles Chargers (6-6) 

Playoff Odds: +160

The Chargers enter Week 14 as losers of three out of their last four, all within one score. They have not been the high-powered offense everyone expected them to be, averaging only 22.7 points per game, which is right around the league average. As a passing offense, they rank 28th in yards per attempt (Y/A) and are tied for last in average depth of throw (ADoT) with 6.3. 

In line with the one-score losses, quarterback Justin Herbert is 29th in Y/A and 25th in SIS Independent Quarterback Rating in the fourth quarter among 31 quarterbacks with 50 attempts.  

Defensively, the Chargers have been a sieve on the ground, allowing the third-highest EPA per rush attempt. They also have a bottom-10 pressure rate at 30% and have the 11th-lowest Total Points saved in pass coverage. 

The Chargers have numerous items they need to correct in order to make a postseason push, but luckily they will be facing the fifth-easiest strength of schedule remaining, according to the SIS Total Points Strength of Schedule model.

Las Vegas Raiders (5-7)

Playoff Odds: +680

The Raiders are riding hot. They are winners of two in a row, with two of those on walk-off overtime touchdowns. During that time span, Davante Adams has been the best receiver in football, going for 392 yards and four touchdowns, both league highs. As a complement, Josh Jacobs was also the leading rusher during that timespan with 482 yards. His 355 yards after contact would still be the league leader in total yards during that time period by a whopping 97 yards.

Defensively, Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones each have a few sacks since Week 11. In addition to a dangerous pass rush, the Raiders have locked down run games of their opponents, allowing a fifth-best -0.17 EPA/A since Week 11.

Although running hot, the Raiders have the Rams, Patriots, Steelers, 49ers and then the Chiefs to finish the season. Those quality opponents land them with the hardest path to the postseason, according to the SIS Total Points Strength of Schedule model. 

Detroit Lions (5-7)

Playoff Odds: +520

The preseason hype for the Lions is starting to come into tangible form. They have won four out of their last five games. Detriot’s defensive improvement is the biggest change from its early season struggles. Since Week 9, the Lions are ninth in EPA per pass play allowed and are 11th in pressure percentage. 

On offense, the Lions are humming as a top-10 offense in EPA per play this season. Starting up front, they have the eighth-best offensive line in Total Points. Being kept in good protection, Jared Goff has been one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league. He is eighth in adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) and is 11th in Total Points among those with 100 pass attempts.

Going forward, the Lions are 2.5-point favorites against the Vikings and then face the Jets, Panthers, Bears and Packers to finish the year. They will need to win the majority of those and get some help if they are going to make the playoffs.

Washington Commanders (7-5-1) 

Playoff Odds: -142 

The Commanders enter their bye week winners of six of their last eight and have caught fire due to solid late-game quarterback play and tough defense. Taylor Heinicke has taken charge of this offense and has led them to the thick of the playoff picture. During this timeframe, Terry McLaurin has been one of the best receivers in football. His 18 Total Points and 2.7 yards per route run rank in the NFL’s top 10. The Commanders have also gotten a spark from their run game, as Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson rank eighth and 32nd in rushing yards since Week 6.

Defensively, the Commanders rank seventh in EPA per play and are ranked ninth in early down EPA per play. Their front four has been a menacing force, even without Chase Young, allowing only a 39% positive EPA rate on runs and generating pressure 40% of the time, which is good for fifth and second in the league.

Although they are rolling, things get quite difficult for the Commanders in the home stretch. Games against the Giants, 49ers, Browns and Cowboys put their remaining strength of schedule as the sixth-hardest

Prepared by James Weaver. 

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