These 6 Teams Will Make the NFL Playoffs in 2022
Every year, there are surprise teams that make the NFL playoffs. Last year, the biggest shock was the Cincinnati Bengals emerging not only as a playoff team, but as the team to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. With the 2022 regular season fast approaching, here are six teams that missed the playoffs in 2021 but will make it to the dance in 2022.
First and foremost, we have to put the Minnesota Vikings on this list. Last year went disastrously in Mike Zimmer’s final year as the head coach, and yet, if Greg Joseph had not missed the game-winning kick in Arizona, or if the defense did not allow a game-winning 75-yard touchdown drive to the Detroit Lions, this team would have made the playoffs last year.
Kevin O’Connell should revitalize the offense with stars in place like Justin Jefferson, and the addition of Za’Darius Smith makes the defense much scarier as long as he stays healthy. The schedule is much more favorable in 2022 as well with the AFC and NFC East divisions on the docket. I’ve predicted that the Vikings will go 11-6 this year to make the NFL playoffs, and I’m sticking to it.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints were one of the teams that got hit with the injury bug so badly last year that they had to default to their QB3 and QB4 for large portions of the season. They also saw injuries to Terron Armstead, Alvin Kamara, Ryan Ramcyzk, and Michael Thomas on the offensive side of the ball.
Even with all that, the Saints defense carried the team to a 9-8 record, and if it wasn’t Trevor Siemian starting against the Eagles, they would have made the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Not only does this team make the playoffs in 2022, but if their offensive stars stay on the field, the Saints will win the NFC South division to make the NFL playoffs.
For the Baltimore Ravens last year, if it could go wrong, it did go wrong. They lost both Gus Edwards and JK Dobbins before the season started, and Lamar Jackson was in and out of the lineup with injuries of his own. They were one of the worst teams in terms of third down conversion rate, and an MVP quarterback and a starting caliber running back probably would have helped that. Finally, they lost their final six games after starting 8-3, and five of them were by three or fewer points.
This year, their defense is going to be one of the top-five units in the league, and Lamar Jackson is in a prove-it contract year. They have a dynamic tight end duo in Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely, and that should make things so much easier for Jackson to work. With Pittsburgh and Cleveland taking steps back this year, the Ravens will step up in the AFC North.
In Denver, it’s rather simple: they’re replacing Drew Lock, who couldn’t even beat out Geno Smith for the starting job in Seattle, with a rejuvenated Russell Wilson. This team has been solid in every facet of the game other than the quarterback position, but they’ve fixed that.
Throw Nathaniel Hackett in at head coach, one of the better offensive minds in the game, and Denver should be much better at moving the football this year. Assuming the defense remains elite, and there’s no reason to believe otherwise at this point, this team should compete to be a Super Bowl team in this year’s NFL playoffs.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers were a missed Daniel Carlson kick away from making the playoffs last year, and with additions to their defense in Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson, Los Angeles is a terrifying foe heading into the 2022 season with an improved defense on top of a prolific offense. The AFC West is a gauntlet this year, but the Chargers are going to come out on top, edging out Denver and Kansas City. Keep an eye on Justin Herbert as the MVP, too.
The AFC South might be the worst division in the NFL this year, especially if the Tennessee Titans take a step back. The Colts have replaced Carson Wentz with Matt Ryan at QB, who may not be the MVP-level QB that he used to be, but he can still be a game-manger for a winning team. With Jonathan Taylor being a workhorse RB, that’s all the Colts need their QB to be.
On top of that, they’ve added Stephon Gilmore and Yannick Ngakoue to their defense. Indy was a Jaguars win away from a wild card spot last year, and this season they will right that wrong by winning the AFC South and making the 2022 NFL playoffs.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing as well as minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh can often be found training for a marathon, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his takes, NFL and otherwise, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken