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NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Predicting the 2022 Playoff field

Examining who’s got an inside track on the postseason after 14 weeks.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Man, that was tough. The Steelers Week 14 loss to the Ravens likely spells the end of the Steelers slim playoff hopes. Mike Tomlin’s well-documented streak of non-losing seasons is also in jeopardy, with the team now sitting at 5-8. But the loss means more than that for the 2022 Steelers. It exposed major issues resurfacing in what fans hoped was a fixed rush defense. It exposed personnel issues on both the offensive and defensive lines and at linebacker, which are starting to jump out as bigger problems than maybe we had even thought before.

For Pittsburgh, finishing the year strong when it comes to execution and game-planning for opponents is critical to building culture for this young team moving forward. For a bunch of other NFL squads, the 2022 season still has a lot to offer. Fourteen teams make the playoffs, and 13 of those spots are still up in the air with 4 weeks to play. With that in mind, here are my playoff predictions, Power Rankings style. Let’s dive into it!

Tier 1: Playoff Locks

1. Philadelphia Eagles (clinched)

2. Buffalo Bills

3. Cincinnati Bengals

4. Kansas City Chiefs

5. San Francisco 49ers

6. Dallas Cowboys

7. Minnesota Vikings

These 7 teams have separated themselves from the rest of the league as the true Super Bowl contenders of a whacky 2022 season. Even if the shakiest unit of this bunch is the Minnesota Vikings, you’re still looking at a team that can lock up it’s division as early as this week with a win or tie over the Indianapolis Colts. For each of these squads, anything less than a Conference Championship appearance should feel like a letdown.

Tier 2: Wild Cards You Don’t Want to Face

8. Miami Dolphins

9. Los Angeles Chargers

10. Detroit Lions

11. Baltimore Ravens

The Dolphins lead a group of intriguing teams that have proven they have the ability to play with any of the teams in Tier One on any given Sunday. This group should scare the powerhouses ahead of them. However, each of these squads has a significant flaw that should make their fans wary when January comes. For three of them, the issues are on defense. Miami’s secondary has often been a big liability, and the Chargers struggle mightily stopping the run. The Lions had the NFL’s worst defense for 9 weeks, and one wonders whether their recent improvement is more fluky than real. The Ravens are the total opposite, boasting a superior defense, especially against the run, while struggling with an offense that can just disappear for long stretches.

Tier 3: Sneaking In the Back Door

12. Tennessee Titans

13. Seattle Seahawks

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rounding out the playoffs, unfortunately, will be a couple teams that stumble in as the best of bad divisions. The Titans might be just a little better than that when they play their best football, but we haven’t seen that version of Tennessee for several weeks now. They’re fortunate that the rest of their division consists of the Jaguars, Colts, and Texans. The Buccaneers situation is even uglier. Atlanta, Carolina, and New Orleans are all within one game of them in the division race and all have at least 8 losses in 13 games played. Of that group, I think you still have to ride with the team that’s Quarterbacked by Tom Brady. For Seattle, they haven’t been playing their best football the last month, and a tough remaining schedule means earning a Wild Card berth would be a victory in and of itself.

Tier 4: Just Missed the Dance

15. New York Jets

16. Washington Commanders

17. New York Giants

18. New England Patriots

The “just missed” group includes a couple of division rivals that still have a shot at sneaking into the playoff field. For the Jets and Patriots, the issues on offense and tough schedules down the stretch feel like too much to overcome, despite enjoying relatively successful seasons to date. The Week 13 tie between the Commanders and Giants will contribute to a wild finish to the season, and both teams should be in the hunt as it comes down to the wire. The Giants are already proving they are likely worse than their record would indicate, and the Commanders reliance on late-game Taylor Heinicke heroics can’t last forever, right?

Tier 5: The Best of the Rest

19. Las Vegas Raiders

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

21. Cleveland Browns

22. Jacksonville Jaguars

23. Green Bay Packers

24. Carolina Panthers

25. Atlanta Falcons

Every team in this group can look back on their season and pinpoint a myriad of missed opportunities that could have changed their playoff outlook in Week 15. The Raiders, Steelers, and Browns specifically can point to 2-3 close games early in the season that didn’t go their way, but if they had, these units could even have shots at division titles by season’s end. The Jaguars have shown flashes of dominance, specifically on offense, but have struggled mightily with weekly consistency. The Packers just haven’t been able to overcome the loss of talent on offense and an underperforming defense. For Carolina and Atlanta, the playoffs are still well within reach, despite both teams having serious issues on both sides of the ball. Nailing the upcoming offseason could turn any one of these teams into a real contender in 2023.

Tier 6: 2023 Can’t Get Here Fast Enough

26. Indianapolis Colts

27. Los Angeles Rams

28. New Orleans Saints

29. Denver Broncos

30. Arizona Cardinals

31. Chicago Bears

32. Houston Texans

This tier contains a moribund cast of also-rans and cellar dwellers that have a ton of work to do to make 2023 a better experience for these organizations and their fans. The fact that this group includes the Defending Super Bowl Champs (Rams), a 2021 playoff team (Cardinals), and two AFC squads that had “playoff contender” written all over them in the leadup to 2021 (Broncos, Colts) is mind-bending, and one of the things that makes the NFL the best reality show on television each and every week. It’s going to be a long final 4 weeks for these seven squads.

So what do we think, Steelers Nation? Anybody need to move up or down a tier? What is your playoff prediction after Week 14? Let’s keep the conversation rolling in the comments below, and as always, go Steelers!