NFL gears up for star-studded postseason

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | Jalen Hurts led the 14-3 Philadelphia Eagles to the NFC’s top seed in the 2022-23 postseason.

Jack Morgan | Staff Writer

Jan. 12, 2023

After a 2022 NFL regular season filled with storylines and drama, 14 teams remain alive in their pursuit of a Super Bowl title. Postseason action kicks off Saturday during the league’s Super Wild Card Weekend, and there’s plenty of reasons to watch the league’s best teams and brightest stars over the course of the next month-plus.

American Football Conference

(5) Los Angeles Chargers (10-7) at (4) Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)
(Saturday, 8:15 p.m.)

This game is a toss-up. The Chargers have looked very good to end the season. After being 6-6 at one point, they reeled off four-straight wins to secure a postseason berth for the first time since 2018. Justin Herbert has also come on strong to end the year. He finished the regular season with 4,739 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. The anchor of Los Angeles’ defense is Derwin James Jr. Across just 14 games, he had two interceptions, four sacks and 115 total tackles. He will have to continue his amazing campaign this Saturday to give his team a chance at moving on.

As for the Jaguars, they will host this game as a result of being the AFC South winner. At 9-8, they have a worse record, but are one of the league’s hottest teams. They’ve won five games in a row, including a thrilling victory over the Tennessee Titans in a win-and-in scenario last week. Jacksonville linebacker Josh Allen forced a fumble and ran it back for what would be the game-winning and division-clinching touchdown with just 2:51 left in the game. The Jaguars have tons of momentum, and the Chargers will have their hands full.

(7) Miami Dolphins (9-8) at (2) Buffalo Bills (13-3)
(Sunday, 1 p.m.)

The Dolphins are one of the most-talented teams in the NFL. That is, when they are healthy. Star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is out in this contest. He came onto the scene in his third season, throwing for 3,548 yards and 25 touchdowns. However, he’s also suffered a back injury and two concussions, all of which were scary to watch and have sparked a lively debate regarding the state of the league and how safe football is.

The Dolphins will have to rely on Teddy Bridgewater or Skylar Thompson in his place, and the Bills will surely be licking their chops. Quarterback Josh Allen has put together another superb season, throwing for 4,283 yards and 35 touchdowns. Buffalo’s aerial attack is arguably the best in the entire league.

The Bills love to sling it across the field whenever they can. Stefon Diggs is a guy that seems to be on the receiving end of these long balls from Allen quite often. Diggs accumulated upward of 1,000 yards for the fifth-straight year, and Gabe Davis has also been a solid secondary receiver. The Bills defense has been solid, and will be inspired to win it all for teammate Damar Hamlin, who is still recovering after suffering from cardiac arrest Jan. 2. This is a team with a chip on its shoulder after having been knocked out by the Kansas City Chiefs in back-to-back seasons.

(6) Baltimore Ravens (10-7) at (3) Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
(Sunday, 8:15 p.m.)

Baltimore is at a crossroads right now. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is nearing the end of his contract, and tensions are high. He has been out for over a month while dealing with a sprained knee. His return was delayed this past week after his knee started swelling up again. Last week, they were bullied by the Bengals 27-16 at Paycor Stadium, which is where the two squads will meet again on Sunday. If the Ravens have any shot, they’ll likely need their franchise quarterback to return in time for Sunday’s game.

As for the Bengals, their AFC title defense begins at home. After a 4-4 start to the campaign, the Super Bowl runner-up has won eight games in a row, due in large part to the lethal offensive connection between quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Burrow threw for 4,475 yards, 35 touchdowns and achieved a 100.8 passer rating, while Chase snagged 87 passes for 1,046 yards and nine touchdowns. Cincinnati is shaping up to be a scary team to go against for the second-consecutive postseason.

Bye: (1) Kansas City Chiefs (14-3); will play lowest-remaining seed in Divisional Round

For the Chiefs, it’s the same cast of main characters, minus wide receiver Tyreek Hill this time around. Head Coach Andy Reid, quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce will look to grab their second Super Bowl title together.

National Football Conference

(7) Seattle Seahawks (9-8) at (2) San Francisco 49ers (13-4)
(Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)

The Seahawks came into this season with no expectations whatsoever. After trading away franchise quarterback Russell Wilson, they turned to Geno Smith to guide them through the 2022 campaign. Smith was the right man for the job, throwing for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns. Expected to be one of the league’s worst teams entering this season, Seattle is clearly not a team that should be taken lightly.

The 49ers have been the hottest team in football since Week 8, winning 10-straight games to close out the regular season. They’re led by quarterback Brock Purdy, a third-stringer filling in after season-ending injuries to both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. Alongside Purdy are wide receiver Deebo Samuel and running back Christian McCaffrey, who have helped contribute to San Francisco’s dominance. San Francisco has all the pieces to make a deep postseason run.

(6) New York Giants (9-7-1) at (3) Minnesota Vikings (13-4)
(Sunday, 4:30 p.m.)

The Giants went from one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2021 (4-13) to one of the best in 2022. Give first-year Head Coach Brian Daboll credit where it’s due. New York played Minnesota on Christmas Eve, and it took a 61-yard field goal from Vikings kicker Greg Joseph as time expired to put the Giants away. New York is a sneaky opponent for any NFC contender.

The Vikings are one of the most-interesting teams in the league. Their offense is prolific, featuring Pro Bowlers like quarterback Kirk Cousins, wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, running back Dalvin Cook and tight end T.J. Hockenson. While offensive talent is in abundance, Minnesota’s defense allowed the second-most yards in the entire league this season. Since the defense can’t be depended on, the Vikings’ offense will need to show up in order for them to have a shot.

(5) Dallas Cowboys (12-5) at (4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)
(Monday, 8:15 p.m.)

The Cowboys seem to do this so frequently. They look impressive in the regular season, only to have an early exit come postseason time. Will this year be different? Quarterback Dak Prescott boasts just a 1-3 postseason record in his career, and he threw a league-high-tying 15 interceptions this season. If Dallas has any shot, the tide will need to turn quickly.

For the Buccaneers, this was probably the worst matchup possible. The Giants and Seahawks pale in comparison to the Cowboys in terms of talent. However, everyone pales in comparison to the legend of Tom Brady. He owns the playoffs, and you can never count him out. Monday night could be the end of a storybook career, but Brady is someone that always gives his team a shot to win.

Bye: (1) Philadelphia Eagles (14-3); will play lowest-remaining seed in Divisional Round

The Eagles are one of the most-complete teams in the NFC, led by second-year Head Coach Nick Sirianni and MVP-caliber quarterback Jalen Hurts. Although Philadelphia lost back-to-back games in his absence during Week 16 and Week 17, they lost just one contest the entire season with Hurts under center.


The Eagles are playing like the best team in the NFC. However, the playoffs are single-elimination, and anything can happen. The 49ers are the hottest team in football right now, and they look unstoppable. I think the Eagles and 49ers meet in the NFC Championship Game, where San Francisco narrowly edges Philadelphia on the road.

The Bills will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Buffalo will get its revenge on Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game.

In the title game, the Bills will get the best of the 49ers en route to lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history.