NFL 2022 Playoffs: Which bubble team can sneak onto the field?

Let's put our feet up and cast our eyes on the fringes of the playoffs. Which team currently in the bubble can lock in a final postseason invite?

This is the most beautiful time of the year. It's snowing. Frost bites. Playoff football is in the air. Let's put our feet up and set our sights on the fringes of the playoffs.


1. Buffalo Bills (11-3); 2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3); 3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-4); 4. Tennessee Titans (7-7); 5. The Baltimore Ravens (9-5); 6. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6); 7. Miami Dolphins (8-6)

New England Patriots (7-7)

After a disastrous late game last week, the Pats are back at . 500. Their offense remains broken. Their defense remains the best in the league – since Week 5, Bill Belichick's group have comfortably outperformed the league in the EPA per game, a measure of down-to-down performance. Belichick and company would be deluding themselves, however, if they thought they could qualify for the postseason and cause any disruption to the offense's current state. Mac Jones barely made it in time. No rhythm. The recipient makes no separation. Apart from running games, they were unable to come up with any kind of explosive play. They have had a scary last three games: home to the Bengals and Dolphins; in Bills. At this point, avoiding the playoffs altogether sounds better than sneaking in and being shelled by the Bills or Chiefs in the first round.

The Opportunity: It's time to move on to the draft

New York Jets (7-7)

If you squint close enough, you'll see that the Jets and Patriots are not too far apart. Both have the best defense in their class. Both had problems going off-guard: One was broken by shrewd quarterback design and play; others have been plagued by injuries... and shrewd quarterback play.

The Jets have lost three straight, failing to score more than 20 points in two of the three losses. The backbone of this Jets roster is good enough to go deep in the AFC postseason. They have pace on all three levels of defense. They create pressure with four. Sauce Gardner came into the league as the game's top cornerback – and continues to (somehow) get better every week.

The problem: Who lines up at the quarterback? Mike White will miss this week's game with the Jags due to a rib injury, meaning a fresh start for Zach Wilson's wild style. New York's offense functioned smoother, more efficiently, with more rhythm, with White at the helm than it had with Wilson. In an ideal world, the Jets would ask Wilson to play it safe for the following weeks. Sacrificing the opportunity to play wow in exchange for order and certainty. To limit turnovers and put the ball in the hands of one's own defense to decide the game. But that's like asking Mr. Blobby to bring up Hamlet.

With the Jaguars, Seahawks, and Dolphins remaining on the schedule, it's not going to be an easy approach to the season. But the Jets have a chance. They go into every fight knowing that with their defensive line up they have the top overall unit on the field – which can create enough chaos to lead the team to nine wins.

Odds: Predestined by the quarterback room

Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8)

You may not realize it, but the Jags still have a shot at winning an incredible AFC South. And they should! The Jags are the best team in the division, record be damned.

They are young, explosive and wildly inconsistent. Close your eyes and you can picture it now: The Jaguars slipped into the playoffs with the mighty arm of Trevor Lawrence and a frenzied team defense and lost in the wild card round by a score of 40. There's also a world where defenses come together, Lawrence continues his rise to superstardom, and Jacksonville went on a Cincy-inspired run all the way to the AFC title game. No other team has had such a varied level of results.

This is what young teams should do. They lost big. They lost close. They win close. They win big. Jaguar has shifted to a third point along the timeline. It wouldn't be surprising to see them reach a landmark fourth before the season ended. They close out with a game at the Jets, in Texas and home to the Titans, in what could be a winner-takes-all showdown.

We know this for sure: No playoff team wants to see Lawrence and the Jags' uber-athletic defense run onto the court in January.

Chances: Not great, but could be worse

Las Vegas Raiders (6-8)

The Raiders have found their footing over the past month. Some of the gruesome offensive executions have disappeared. The one-score game fortunes have turned in their favor after some brutal bouncing, rigid coaching decisions and refereeing errors cost them earlier in the year. Over the last five games, they have averaged 27 points, going 4-1, with the only losses coming on Thursday night against Baker Mayfield and the Rams.

Something has clicked. Offense has more flow. They beat people by running. The defense, outside of Maxx Crosby, has shown a pulse. They are not a complete team – they may not even be a good team – but they have enough difference makers on both sides of the ball to beat anyone.

Their next schedule is quite light. The first is the beatable Steelers team. Then they hosted the Brock Purdy-led Niners, a tall order but not entirely daunting. Then it's a late season showdown with the Chiefs, who may already be locked in to a playoff team and therefore resting their starter.

Opportunity: Crawling all the way up


1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-1); 2. Minnesota Vikings (11-3); 3. San Francisco 49ers (10-4); 4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8); 5. Dallas Cowboys (10-4); 6. New York Giants (8-5-1); 7. Commander Washington (7-6-1)

Detroit Lions (7-7)

Only once in league history has a team made the playoffs after starting 1-6, but Detroit is well on its way to joining the club.

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