Playoffs? Are You Kidding Me?
Will your favorite team make the NFL playoffs this year? The magic eight ball reveals the answer.
I hope you all have been enjoying my recent posts. It’s been a while since I’ve written an NFL blog, but I’ve decided to give it another try. We are almost a third of the way through the 2022-23 NFL season and so far, there have been a handful of teams that did not make the postseason last year but have showed some noticeable improvement and/or displayed flashes of upside that seem to indicate they could be contenders when January arrives. I’ve identified seven such teams and consulted my (imaginary) magic eight ball to seek answers to the question… will (insert team name here) make the playoffs this season?
Disclaimer… I don’t really have a magic eight ball; these are hypothetical answers I’d expect to see and just for fun.
Also, if you read to the end, I have a bonus segment in which I’ll pick the winner of Thursday night’s game between the Chicago Bears and Washington.
New York Giants
Current record… 4-1 (3rd place, NFC East)
Will the Giants make the playoffs this season?
The magic eight ball says… “Signs Point To Yes.”
The Giants currently sit at 4-1 and are 3rd place in the surprisingly competitive NFC East division. They’ve already matched their win total of last year with their only loss coming to division rival Dallas (also 4-1) with both clubs one game behind Philadelphia who, at 5-0, are the only remaining undefeated team in the league.
When I took a look at all the NFL teams’ schedules late this summer… the one thing that stood out to me was the remarkably soft schedule the Giants were given. It occurred to me then… that they might have a chance to make a playoff run, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to pull the trigger and put down the bold prediction. But with perhaps the easiest schedule in the entire league, and the fact that they’ve already beaten two of their tougher opponents in the Titans and Packers… I think I can confidently say they are a legitimate playoff contender, despite the fact that they play in possibly the toughest division (this year) in the NFL. They still have another game with the Cowboys and two with the Eagles… but a fast start to the season and a favorable schedule means they may not have to win all or even any of those three divisional games to qualify for a wild card spot. With upcoming games against Washington (twice), Detroit, Jacksonville, Houston, Seattle, and a Minnesota Vikings squad that tends to let opponents hang around late in games (the way Green Bay did last week in London)… 10 or 11 wins is not an unrealistic goal. That should be good enough in an NFC race that projects to have a cluster of teams hovering right around the .500 mark well into the month of December.
Current record… 4-1 (1st place, NFC North)
Will the Vikings make the playoffs?
The magic eight ball says… “Reply Hazy. Try Again.”
The Vikings find themselves at the top of the standings in a rather weak NFC North division heading into week 6. They opened the season with a dominating win over division rival Green Bay at home before getting blown out themselves the following week in a loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia. The three game winning streak they’re on now appears promising, but there are some concerns. In each of those three wins, they’ve failed to put the game away and have allowed sub .500 teams (New Orleans, Detroit, and Chicago) to hang around in the second half and come too close to pulling out the win.
This is going to be a problem for them when they move into the tougher part of their schedule and begin competing against some of the better contenders in the league, if they can’t fix this issue. The upcoming mid-season stretch includes games against Miami, Buffalo, Dallas, New England, and then (later in December)… the Giants and then the Packers (at Lambeau). Minnesota has enough talent on both offense and defense to win the division and even go deep into the playoffs, but they must stop falling asleep in the second half of these contests if they are to take that next step.
Current record… 2-3 (Tied for 2nd/Last, NFC West)
Will the Seahawks make the playoffs?
The magic eight ball says… “My Sources Say No.”
The Seahawks are one of the clubs on this list because their surprisingly dynamic offense has made them one of the most exciting teams to watch through the first five weeks. In an NFC West division race that appears (early on) to be rather wide open, it wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable for football fans in the Emerald City to expect great things in December and January. But there is just one big problem.
As great as their offense has looked in games against Detroit and New Orleans, the defensive unit has looked equally bad. Seattle can put a plethora of points on the board; but they haven’t been able to stop their opponents from doing the same. They can’t rely on their offense to carry them in shoot-outs every week, particularly when they square off against the better defensive units in the league such as their own division rival Rams (twice), Tampa Bay, and the Giants. Not to mention another one of their division rivals in the Arizona Cardinals (twice), who are vastly improved defensively compared to a season ago… and (in the final week of the regular season), the same 49ers who shut them down just a couple weeks ago.
Seattle will be in the middle of the pack in what projects to be a very tight NFC race, but the playoffs are still at least a year away.
Current record… 3-2 (3rd place, AFC East)
Will the Dolphins make the playoffs?
The magic eight ball says… “It Is Decidedly So.”
Miami’s fast 3-0 start ran into a bit of a stumbling block when third year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was starting to really hit his stride, was sidelined with a concussion. Never the less, Tua is expected to be back in the starting line-up soon and the Dolphins will combine a dangerous offense with a good enough defense (although there is some room for improvement on that side) to propel them into the playoffs and even compete with the preseason Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills for the division title. They’ve been knocking on the door to the postseason over the course of Tua’s first two years and if they can stay healthy, with an upcoming schedule that leans towards favorable… there’s no reason to believe they can’t, at the very least, earn a wildcard spot.
Current record… 3-2 (1st place, AFC North)
Will the Ravens make the playoffs?
The magic eight ball says… “Outlook Good.”
Five weeks into the 2022 season, Baltimore finds itself alone in first place… in an AFC North that is not nearly as competitive as it was just a couple years ago. The Steelers are in full rebuild mode, the Browns have a suspect defense not to mention a star quarterback acquired in an offseason trade currently serving a lengthy suspension, and the Bengals are apparently the latest team to fall victim to the “Super Bowl hangover.”
The Ravens’ quarterback Lamar Jackson is having arguably the best season of his career, and it’s always handy in close games to have perhaps the greatest field goal kicker in NFL history on your side. Weaknesses in the pass coverage unit may keep games closer than they should probably be… but as long as Lamar stays healthy, all signs point to Baltimore returning to the top of the division standings.
Current record… 2-3 (3rd place, AFC South)
Will the Jaguars make the playoffs?
The magic eight ball says… “Don’t Count On It.”
Jacksonville finds itself on this list because a strong defense has paved the way for two early season wins, one short of their total number of wins from all of last year. Their defense shut out the Colts at home before going out to the west coast and making an even greater statement in stifling the explosive (albeit injury-plagued) Chargers offense in a 38-10 beat down.
The Jaguars made a great move in hiring a Super Bowl winning coach in Doug Pederson to lead them back into playoff contention, and their defense will keep them in just about every game they play. But they still need to add some better talent on the offensive side of the ball, and second year quarterback Trevor Lawrence will have to cut back on the turnovers if they want to take the next step. A tough schedule, which includes games against Kansas City, Baltimore, Dallas, Tennessee (twice), the New York Giants, and a Las Vegas Raiders team that is much better than their 1-4 record would indicate… means the playoffs are at least another year away.
Los Angeles Chargers
Current record… 3-2 (2nd place, AFC West)
And finally… will the Chargers make the playoffs this season?
The magic eight ball says… “Ask Again Later.”
While the preseason expectations of the AFC West dominating in all games played outside of their division haven’t exactly panned out (yet!), they should still be considered among the league’s best. Unfortunately for the Chargers, currently in second place, they might not be able to keep their heads above water if the injuries don’t stop piling up. Kansas City (4-1) is still one of the AFC’s elite contenders and the Raiders (1-4) have had some extraordinarily bad luck in the early going but they may just be the best 1-4 team in NFL history. The Denver Broncos, too, can turn their season around in a heartbeat if/when Russell Wilson, the veteran quarterback they traded for in the offseason, manages to hit his stride… which he has been known to do in the second half of a season, and is virtually unstoppable once he does.
The Chargers have the talent, if they can stay healthy, to make the playoffs. But playing in the division that they do… it’s going to be an uphill battle, and it might require a little good luck too.
Thursday Night Football… Chicago Bears (2-3) vs. Washington (1-4)
As I'm writing this now on Wednesday afternoon, the over/under for this contest is set at 38 and the line is… well, it’s being projected at this time to end in a tie. Both the Bears and Washington have struggled offensively, although this was expected to be the case with the Bears. Not so much with a very disappointing Washington club. Although coach Ron Rivera recanted some comments about the quarterback play that he made to the media following the loss to the Titans… the writing is on the wall. Dare I say… we may have a quarterback controversy brewing in Landover?
I think this game plays out to be a very low-scoring one, but not quite as bad as the Broncos vs Colts of last Thursday. A defensive touchdown scored by the Bears (off another one of Wentz’s turnovers) will be the difference in the game, as Chicago builds a sizable first half lead and holds off a late rally led by Washington’s backup quarterback Tyler Heinecke (coming off the bench to start the second half) to even their record to 3-3.
My pick (final score)… Chicago Bears 20, Washington 15
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed!