2022 NFL playoffs: Ranking all AFC wild card contenders, with Bengals and Jets on the rise

The NFL playoff picture is beginning to take shape, as we are now 12 weeks through the regular season. The AFC is going to be fun to watch down the stretch. The Kansas City Chiefs have just about wrapped up the AFC West and the Tennessee Titans are in control of the South, but the North and East are totally up for grabs. 

There are several teams jockeying for wild card spots. Could all four AFC East teams make the postseason this year? Will the Cincinnati Bengals put together another amazing run? Let’s talk about this playoff picture as it stands now. Below, we will list the current AFC division leaders, and then rank the current wild card contenders:

Current AFC division leaders

These can change, but here are the top four seeds at the moment:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)
  2. Miami Dolphins (8-3)
  3. Tennessee Titans (7-4)
  4. Baltimore Ravens (7-4)

AFC wild card contenders, ranked

1. Buffalo Bills (8-3)

The Bills share a record with the current AFC East leaders, and are still the heavy favorites to win the division (-230 at Caesars Sportsbook). However, the Bills were passed over by the Chiefs this week as favorites to win Super Bowl LVII.  

The Bills did not have a great showing against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, and Josh Allen missed several throws. His elbow injury seems like something that won’t hold him out of games, but at the same time, won’t allow him to be the same MVP candidate he was earlier in the year. With that being said, the Bills are still one of the best teams in the NFL on both sides of the ball, and are going to have a chance to make a run.  

2. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)

Anyone else having deja vu? The Bengals are once again sitting at 7-4 entering Week 13, having won two straight games following their bye. Just like last year. The 20-16 victory over the Titans wasn’t flashy, but Joe Burrow stepped up in the second half, Samaje Perine recorded 93 yards from scrimmage and Tee Higgins “big-boy’d” Tennessee’s secondary — catching seven passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. Shoutout to the defense as well, as they held Derrick Henry to just 38 rushing yards.

It feels like this Bengals team is ramping up — just like they did last year — and Ja’Marr Chase is on his way back as well. They are the reigning AFC champions for a reason, and may steal the division from the Ravens.  

3. New York Jets (7-4)

Are the Jets Super-Bowl bound? OK maybe not, but they are much better with Mike White at quarterback. I understand the Chicago Bears aren’t known for their defense, but White completed 22 of 28 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns in the pouring rain. Zach Wilson has never thrown three touchdowns in a single game. White has done it in two of his four career starts. Garrett Wilson caught five passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns, while Elijah Moore caught two passes for 64 yards and a touchdown. The wide receivers have been unlocked, and it’s because of Mr. White. 

I don’t want to overstate the quarterback White is, but he can be an effective game manager — which is what the Jets need at this point. New York’s defense is already a top 10 unit, so I’m pretty intrigued with what this team is capable of after the quarterback change. I even have them over the Patriots at this point.

4. New England Patriots (6-5)

The Patriots’ 33-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings was … weird. On one hand, Mac Jones shut up the detractors with 382 passing yards and two touchdowns, but on the other, the defense gave up more points than they usually do. Many see the Patriots as a team that will go on a run at the end of the regular season, but they have to play the Bills twice, along with the Bengals and Dolphins. We’ll see if New England sneaks in. This upcoming Thursday night matchup against Buffalo feels important. 

5. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5)

Brandon Staley’s two-point conversion gamble paid off against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. “Smooth like chocolate milk.”

Justin Herbert’s captains an interesting team. I think they are live to beat anyone, but I don’t view them as a legitimate contender. Their winning formula isn’t tough to figure out. The Chargers are 6-2 when they don’t lose the turnover battle, and 0-3 when they lose the turnover battle. Injuries have hurt this Chargers team, which limits their ceiling, but they have a pretty easy schedule down the stretch. If they can take care of business against teams like the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis Colts, the Chargers are going to be in that playoff mix until the very end. L.A. is -150 to make the playoffs over at Caesars. 

Not quite good enough

These teams are not “dead” just yet, but may be soon. 

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