First Look at the NFL Playoffs How do the 14 qualified teams get into contention for a spot in the Super Bowl?
Week 18 concluded and as expected, the closing of the regular season had the drama that serves as an appetizer for the Playoffs.
Let’s take a first look at how the 14 qualified teams make it to the Postseason.
Kansas City Chiefs
1a. Sowing | AFC West Champion
The Chiefs closed the regular season with a victory in Las Vegas that leaves them with a positive attitude towards their participation in the Playoffs, but that does not put an end to the uncertainty created in the last month of the regular calendar by performances with ups and downs from the offense and defensive against inferior teams.
Despite everything, the Chiefs have learned to win ugly, without the spectacular style of past years and without being explosive and in the Playoffs, that’s what counts. On offense, Patrick Mahomes generates yards and touchdowns with his ability to improvise and with a varied arsenal, and on defense, anchored by Chris Jones, he has responded when needed.
2a. Sowing | AFC East champion
The Bills’ offense closed the regular season not being as productive as it was in various periods of the season, but its explosive ability was on display in the win over the Patriots with two kickoff returns for touchdowns and two extra touchdown passes. Josh Allen’s 40-yard kick. Defensively, without being the best, they also do what is necessary to keep their rivals at bay.
The Bills couldn’t achieve their goal of playing the playoffs at home, but if they reach the AFC Finals and face the team that has knocked them out on the road the past two seasons, at least they won’t have to travel to Kansas City. to face the Chiefs again because if that duel occurred, it would be played at a neutral venue.
3rd Sowing | AFC North Champion
It is no longer news, because they did it last season, but the Bengals closed the regular schedule from less to more, just as they did in 2021, but with the difference that their defense plays at a higher level than a year ago and the victory over the Ravens in Week 18 is proof of Cincinnati’s good momentum.
In the win over Baltimore, Joe Burrow extended his streak of games with at least one touchdown pass to 23, while defensive end Trey Hendrickson added two sacks and forced a fumble that was recovered by teammates.
4a. Sowing | AFC South champion
The Jaguars’ season is already a success with their unlikely postseason run as division champions, but the prospect of going deep in the playoffs is real and will be a great experience for the immediate future of Trevor Lawrence and company.
Los Angeles Chargers
5a. Seeding (Wild)
Injuries were a serious problem that the Chargers managed to overcome during the season to get to the Playoffs, but coach Brandon Staley tempted fate and decided to play his starters for almost three full quarters in an already inconsequential duel for Los Angeles in Denver and the result was that receiver Mike Williams left the game injured. This season, Williams and Keenan Allen only played together in four games, and the Chargers won those games.
6a. Seeding (Wild)
The Ravens’ defense has allowed 15.8 points per game in the last five games of the season and only in the last one, in Cincinnati, has it allowed more than 20. This group did everything they could during Lamar Jackson’s absence, but it’s clear that Baltimore’s luck will depend on whether their quarterback plays.
7th Seeding (Wild)
The good news for the Dolphins is that they finished the regular season with a victory in which their defense stepped up to earn them a playoff berth.
The bad news for Miami is that not even having Tua Tagovailoa is a guarantee of winning.
WILD CARD ROUND GAMES IN THE AFC
Chargers vs. Jaguars — Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Dolphins vs. Bills – Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Ravens vs. Bengals — Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Rest well: chiefs
1a. Sowing | NFC East Champion
Having Jalen Hurts on the field seems to be the difference between winning or losing for an Eagles that looked like a team ready to go far in the Playoffs.
The question is how capable the Philadelphia offensive line is of taking care of the NFL Most Valuable Player candidate, because if something distinguishes Hurts it is his ability to escape pressure, run and throw on the run, but in the bag of protection is another. Against the New York Giants, Hurts completed just 2 of 7 passes for 20 yards under pressure and suffered his second straight game with an interception in that circumstance and when he had more than 2.5 seconds to throw, he was also ineffective (0-of-7 with an interception). .
san francisco 49ers
2a. Sowing | NFC West Champion
Perhaps the best thing that could happen to the 49ers was not winning the first seed in the NFC and resting in the first round of the playoffs, so they can maintain the dominant pace on defense and efficient attack that led them to close the regular schedule with 10 consecutive wins.
The defense is performing very similarly to what it was when San Francisco reached the Super Bowl three seasons ago, and on offense, rookie Brock Purdy plays with the confidence that comes from having top-level players on his side (Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk) and as a veteran.
3rd Sowing | NFC North Champion
They won 11 games by one score difference (NFL record) and although Kirk Cousins had one of his best seasons in the NFL and his defense brought out the caste when necessary, the Vikings enter the playoffs without a clear identity.
Minnesota knows how to win close matchups, they were even able to mount the biggest comeback in NFL history, but when they got past them, they didn’t even get their hands on it.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4a. Sowing | NFC South Champion
The Buccaneers gave importance to the last game of the season against the Atlanta Falcons to try to get into rhythm, especially offensively, but the objective was not met and the best thing was to rest the starters ahead of the game against Dallas in the Wild Card Round.
Tampa Bay is the fourth team to reach the Playoffs with a losing record as divisional champion in a full season and of the previous three, two won a postseason game (Seahawks in 2010 and Panthers in 2014).
5a. Seeding (Wild)
Against the Washington Commanders, the Cowboys showed some improvement on defense, a unit that had carried the team before falling in the second half of the schedule, but it is clear that this team will go as far as its quarterback will allow it.
Dak Prescott suffered an interception against the Commanders that was returned for a touchdown, and the Texan quarterback has had at least one interception in the past seven games. Also, although they ultimately used backup players, Dallas’ offense was inefficient: They had 182 total yards, their lowest total in 10 years, and had 11 drives with no firsts and 10, the most for the Cowboys since 2001.
new york giants
6a. Seeding (Wild)
The Giants did their best to spoil the Eagles’ hopes for the No. 1 seed, but in the end, the team with the most talent on the roster won.
This does not mean that New Yorkers do not have something to do with in the Playoffs, but it is a reality that, although Daniel Jones significantly raised his performance in 2022, the luck of this team depends on the production of Saquon Barkley: the Giants won all four games in which the running back passed 100 yards and were 5-6-1 when he didn’t.
7th Seeding (Wild)
The Seahawks did their homework, beat the Los Angeles Rams in overtime and are in the playoffs thanks to the Detroit Lions’ win at Lambeau Field. This is one more reason for Geno Smith to win the Comeback of the Year award.
In what was shaping up to be a year of reconstruction, Seattle seems to have a good base for the future in the short term and although in the victory over the Rams they showed they have elements to compete as they did all year with an efficient offense and an average defense , perhaps this is only enough to say that they reached the Playoffs earlier than they planned.
WILD ROUND GAMES IN THE NFC
Seahawks vs. 49ers — Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET
Giants vs. Vikings – Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET
cowboys vs. Buccaneers – Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN Deportes)
Rest well: eagles
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.