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Saturday, March 2, 2024

NFL Playoff Preview

The NFL’s best teams are set to compete for a chance to win the Super Bowl


By PATRICK FIGUEROA — sports@theaggie.org


With the 2022 NFL regular season finished, the playoff picture is set with 14 teams ready to compete. There are seven teams from each of the respective conferences, the AFC and NFC. They will compete among conference opponents, and the last two remaining teams from each conference are set to face off against one another for the Lombardi trophy. 


AFC No. 1 Seed: Kansas City Chiefs (14-3)

Finishing with the best record in the AFC, thus granting them a first-round bye week, are the Chiefs. Led by MVP-favorite quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have one of the best offenses in the league, despite trading away star wide receiver Tyreek Hill this past offseason. With a team that features tight end Travis Kelce and defensive lineman Chris Jones, they have the talent to win their second Super Bowl in five years. 


AFC No. 2 Seed: Buffalo Bills (13-3)

The Bills lived up to their preseason expectations, finishing with one of the best records in the NFL. Quarterback Josh Allen accounted for over 5,000 scrimmage yards, while wide receiver Stefon Diggs had over 1,400 receiving yards. They are a must-watch duo for this postseason as the Bills look for their first Super Bowl appearance since 1993.  


AFC No. 3 Seed: Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)

The Bengals won the AFC championship last season and will now have a chance to repeat this year. Quarterback Joe Burrow has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, throwing for 4,475 yards and 35 touchdowns this season. The Bengals also have two wide receivers who account for over 1,000 receiving yards — Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. The well-rounded team is definitely in the running for another Super Bowl appearance. 


AFC No. 4 Seed: Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)

After having the first overall pick in the NFL draft last offseason, the Jaguars went from worst to first this season as they won their first division title since 2017. Their young quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, bounced back in his second season as he threw for 4,113 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. The Jaguars will need Lawrence to play at a high level if they want to win games this postseason. 


AFC No. 5 Seed: Los Angeles Chargers (10-7)

Even thought the Chargers lost several key players to injury this season, they still managed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2018. Quarterback Justin Herbert will make his playoff debut after having the second-most passing yards in the NFL (4,739) this season. The Chargers will also get players back from injury, including as edge rusher Joey Bosa and potentially offensive tackle Rashawn Slater


AFC No. 6 Seed: Baltimore Ravens (10-7)

The Ravens made the playoffs after a one-year hiatus, but it is questionable whether quarterback Lamar Jackson will play. Jackson suffered a knee injury in week 13, and has not played a game since then. The Ravens have a great defense that features linebacker Roquan Smith, but they will need Jackson to play if they want to make it to the Super Bowl. 


AFC No. 7 Seed: Miami Dolphins (9-8)

The Dolphins are another team whose quarterback situation is up in the air. It was an impressive season for first-year head coach Mike McDaniel, but quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered three concussions this season. With rookie-quarterback Skylar Thompson preparing to start, it will be difficult to win a playoff game — even with star wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. 


NFC No. 1 Seed: Philadelphia Eagles (14-3)

With a roster full of star talent, the Eagles clinched a first-round bye and home-field advantage for the postseason. Their quarterback, Jalen Hurts, is one of the top MVP candidates, despite missing two games this season due to a shoulder injury. With many talented players, such as center Jason Kelce, wide receiver A.J. Brown and cornerback Darius Slay, the Eagles have an opportunity to win their second Super Bowl since 2017. 


NFC No. 2 Seed: San Francisco 49ers (13-4)

Despite two of their starting quarterbacks — Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo — suffering season-ending injuries, the Niners still had one of the best records in the NFL. Seventh-round rookie quarterback Brock Purdy helped out by throwing for 1,374 yards and 13 touchdowns in seven regular season games. Defensive end Nick Bosa was also a key contributor for the team, as he led one of the best defenses in the NFL with 18.5 sacks. 


NFC No. 3 Seed: Minnesota Vikings (13-4)

In a season where the Vikings had the greatest comeback in NFL history, they also won their first division title since 2017. In addition, star wide receiver Justin Jefferson broke the Minnesota Vikings’ single-season receiving yards record, previously held by Randy Moss. The Vikings look to carry this momentum throughout the postseason. 


NFC No. 4 Seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9) 

There are three inevitable things in life: death, taxes and quarterback Tom Brady making it to the postseason. The Buccaneers are the only team with a below 0.500 winning percentage to make it to the playoffs, likely due to their weak division, the NFC South. However, with Brady and other talented players like wide receiver Chris Godwin, defensive tackle Vita Vea and safety Antoine Winfield Jr., they can make some noise in the postseason. 


NFC No. 5 Seed: Dallas Cowboys (12-5)

The Cowboys have returned to the postseason after losing in the wild-card round last year against the 49ers. Despite some injuries earlier in the season, such as losing quarterback Dak Prescott from week two through six with a finger injury, they still finished with one of the best records in the NFL. With star linebacker Micah Parsons and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, the Cowboys have a chance to make a run. 


NFC No. 6 Seed: New York Giants (9-7-1)

Despite hiring a new head coach and general manager earlier this year, the Giants made it to the postseason for the first time since 2016. Running back Saquon Barkley, who had over 1,600 scrimmage yards this year, is one of the reasons why they reached the playoffs. Even if the Giants do not win a playoff game this year, the organization is moving in the right direction with their new staff. 


NFC No. 7 Seed: Seattle Seahawks (9-8)

The Seahawks snuck into the playoffs after winning their week 18 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams and the Green Bay Packers losing to the Detroit Lions. This season, long-time NFL backup quarterback Geno Smith stepped in as the starting quarterback and played the best football of his career. In a season where he threw for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns, Smith and the Seahawks are fan favorites this postseason.


Written by: Patrick Figueroa — sports@theaggie.org