Week 9 of the NFL schedule offered plenty of surprising results that affected both the playoff picture and the divisional standings. Now that we’ve reached the halfway mark of the 2022 NFL season, nearly every game has at least some level of playoff implications.
Let’s take a look at the updated NFL playoff picture and assess which teams enhanced or impaired their postseason chances on Sunday.
NFL Playoff Picture for Week 9
Current AFC Playoff Picture
1. Buffalo Bills (6-2)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (6-2)
3. Baltimore Ravens (6-3)
4. Tennessee Titans (5-3)
5. New York Jets (6-3)
6. Miami Dolphins (6-3)
7. Los Angeles Chargers (5-3)
In the Hunt
8. New England Patriots (5-4)
9. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)
10. Indianapolis Colts (3-5-1)
11. Cleveland Browns (3-5)
12. Denver Broncos (3-5)
13. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6)
14. Las Vegas Raiders (2-6)
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6)
16. Houston Texans (1-6-1)
Chiefs Move Into No. 2 Seed After Defeating Titans on Sunday Night
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs took over the AFC’s second seed by beating the Titans on Sunday Night Football, but the game was much closer than the 12.5 pregame point spread suggested. Tennessee, which fell from No. 2 to No. 4 in the AFC playoff picture, leaned into the run and tried to play keep away from Kansas City.
That strategy largely failed. Mahomes attempted 68 passes, tied for third-most in NFL history, and the Chiefs dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 15 minutes longer than the Titans in their overtime victory. And yet, the Titans’ defense largely held strong, forcing the Chiefs to punt five times after KC took a 9-0 lead to start the game.
Meanwhile, Tennessee’s offense scored 17 unanswered points before Mahomes orchestrated a 13-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that included the All-Pro converting a 3rd-and-20 and a two-point conversion with his legs. A field goal and a subsequent defensive stop gave the Chiefs the 20-17 victory in overtime.
The Bills lost to the Jets on Sunday, giving Buffalo and Kansas City matching 6-2 records. Josh Allen and Co. still hold the all-important head-to-head tiebreaker, but the race for the No. 1 seed is wide open.
Jets Take Down the Bills, Who Still Hold AFC’s Top Seed
The Bills still hold the No. 1 seed in the AFC after losing to the Jets, but Gang Green is quickly making up ground in the AFC East. New York’s defense forced Allen into his worst passing performance of the season, and the Jets are now just a half-game behind Buffalo in the division.
Zach Wilson only managed 154 yards and one score through the air, but he didn’t make any back-breaking mistakes. The Jets rushed for 174 yards and let their defense do the rest. Allen found success on the ground, but he threw two interceptions (and could have had at least one more), fumbled twice, and took five sacks.
New York has established itself as a legitimate contender in the AFC, and their tie-breaking win over Buffalo could prove critical down the stretch.
Dolphins Escape in Shootout With Bears
The Dolphins can’t stop anyone on defense, but it might not matter. Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, and Jaylen Waddle represent a lethal combination, and they were the driving forces behind Miami’s 35-32 win over the Bears.
Tua went 21 of 30 for 302 yards and three touchdowns, and the Dolphins remain undefeated in games their top QB has started and finished. Hill went for 7-143-1, the fifth time he’s gone over 140 yards this season. And recent trade acquisition Jeff Wilson Jr. led Miami in rushing and scored his first Dolphins touchdown.
Every team in the AFC East is above .500, so it will be a slog for the Dolphins down the stretch. They’ve proven they can score with any team — but can they get better at preventing points?
Chargers Hang On for Win Against Falcons
The Chargers tried to give away Sunday’s game to the Falcons, but they managed to walk away with the victory. With the score tied at 17 and less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, Atlanta initially recovered an Austin Ekeler fumble, but defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham fumbled it back to Los Angeles.
This game could have turned out to be an incredibly Chargers-esque loss, but a Cameron Dicker field goal gave them the win. There are still problems on LA’s roster — they got gashed again in the run game, allowing 201 yards to the Falcons. But they’re still squarely in the AFC playoff picture.
Bengals Get Back on Track vs. Panthers
The Bengals exploded back onto the playoff scene by demolishing the Panthers, 42-21. After getting embarrassed by the Browns on Monday Night Football, Cincinnati came out firing against Carolina. The Bengals led 35-0 at halftime and had more points than the Panthers had yards (32).
If you played against Joe Mixon in fantasy, you almost assuredly lost. The veteran running back posted the best game of his career, totaling 211 yards and five touchdowns, the latter a Bengals franchise record. Meanwhile, backup quarterback Brandon Allen relieved Joe Burrow before the end of the third quarter. Cincinnati proved it can stay in the postseason race even without Ja’Marr Chase.
Current NFC Playoff Picture
1. Philadelphia Eagles (8-0)
2. Minnesota Vikings (7-1)
3. Seattle Seahawks (6-3)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5)
5. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)
6. New York Giants (6-2)
7. San Francisco 49ers (4-4)
In the Hunt
8. Atlanta Falcons (4-5)
9. Washington Commanders (4-5)
10. Los Angeles Rams (3-5)
11. New Orleans Saints (3-6)
12. Green Bay Packers (3-6)
13. Arizona Cardinals (3-6)
14. Chicago Bears (3-6)
15. Detroit Lions (2-6)
16. Carolina Panthers (2-7)
Buccaneers Reclaim NFC South With Win Over Rams
As he’s proven through multiple Super Bowl victories, Tom Brady is perhaps the most clutch performer in the history of the NFL. Tampa Bay’s struggles have been numerous this season, but Brady stepped up when the Bucs needed it most on Sunday to deliver a 16-13 victory.
Trailing by four points with 44 seconds left in the game, Tampa Bay took over at their own 40-yard line with no timeouts. With the Rams playing incredibly soft defense, the Buccaneers quickly moved the ball down the field, first on a shot play down the middle to Cade Otton, then with a series of short passes that allowed them to get out of bounds and stop the clock.
After a defensive pass interference penalty gave the Bucs 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Brady used play-action and then hit Otton for the game-winning score. Tampa now sits at 4-5, and they’ve retaken the NFC South lead over the Falcons thanks to a head-to-head-tiebreaker.
On the other side of the field, the Rams managed just 206 yards of total offense. Matthew Stafford took four sacks, LA’s run game continued to stall, and the Rams went 4-of-15 in the red zone.
At 3-5, the defending Super Bowl champs are now the NFC’s 10th seed, and they’re 3.5 games behind the Seahawks in the NFC West. The Rams face the Cardinals, Saints, Chiefs, and Seahawks over the next four weeks.
Seahawks Take Commanding Lead in NFC West
The Seahawks cleared up a cloudy NFC West picture by defeating the Cardinals 31-21 on Sunday. Seattle is now 6-3 and holds a 2.5-game lead over the second-place 49ers (although San Francisco retains the tiebreaker thanks to beating the Seahawks in Week 2).
Geno Smith was again efficient, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt while tossing touchdowns to both Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Rookie running back Kenneth Walker III added 109 yards and two scores on the ground. But it was Seattle’s opportunistic defense — which recovered its league-leading 16th fumble against Arizona — that shut the door.
The Seahawks have now won four straight and have solidified their position as the NFC’s No. 3 seed. They’ll face the Buccaneers in Week 10 before heading on bye in Week 11.
Vikings Win Another Close Game, Narrowly Defeat Commanders
The Vikings’ only definitive win came against the Packers in Week 1, but they simply refuse to lose. Minnesota squeaked by the Commanders 20-17, their sixth consecutive one-score victory.
Kirk Cousins and Co. showed resilience on Sunday. The Vikings were down 17-7 early in the fourth quarter, but they scored 10 points in the span of three minutes to tie the game with just under eight minutes remaining. Greg Joseph hit a 28-yard field goal with 12 seconds left, allowing Minnesota to escape.
The Vikings are somehow 7-1. They don’t beat themselves, and they do the little things right. They’ve essentially already won the NFC North, and their easy schedule means they could conceivably take over the No. 1 seed if the Eagles falter.
Packers Lose Fifth Straight, Fall to 3-6
No matter which metric you look at, the Lions field one of the league’s worst defenses. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers put up nine points against Detroit, and it took a lot for them even to reach that threshold.
Rodgers threw three picks inside the red zone and looked eternally frustrated with his receiving options. Rookie receiver Romeo Doubs was ruled out early with an ankle injury, while Aaron Jones headed to the locker room during the game. Nothing is going right in Green Bay, and the Packers have virtually removed themselves from the playoff picture.