With only four weeks left on the 2022 NFL regular season schedule, it's officially OK to start thinking about the playoffs. At least one team is already locked into the postseason, and a few more could punch their tickets in Week 15. But which of the top teams are actual Super Bowl contenders? And which of them is best positioned to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February?
We're glad you asked. Below, we've ranked the 11 teams most capable of making a championship run. Basically, every team with at least eight wins got automatic consideration here, but a few with seven also made the cut.
Not in the running entering Week 14: Giants (7-5-1), Commanders (7-5-1), Titans (7-6), Jets (7-6), Patriots (7-6), Lions (6-7), Buccaneers (6-7), Packers (5-8), Panthers (5-8), Jaguars (5-8), Raiders (5-8), Falcons (5-8), Browns (5-8), Steelers (5-8).
Talented, but not necessarily trustworthy
11. Dolphins (8-5)
Mike McDaniel can scheme his way to the dance, and Tyreek Hill's speed alone guarantees them a touchdown or two. But Tua Tagovailoa, improved as he may be, remains a limited passer when push comes to shove. For employing big names like Bradley Chubb and Xavien Howard, their defense is also more mercurial than you'd like.
10. Seahawks (7-6)
Geno Smith has fallen a bit closer to Earth lately, but he still brings a lot of command to a unit featuring some of the top wideouts in the game; DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are capable of changing a game in a hurry. With the backfield banged up and the run defense still a sieve, however, they're better suited to play spoiler at this juncture.
9. Vikings (10-3)
In the grand scheme of things, they appear to be in good hands with Kevin O'Connell, whose mettle has been tested in tons of close games. They also possess some of the game's best pure weaponry in Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson. But Kirk Cousins' O-line has been inconsistent, and their "D" has played it safe and soft for most of the year.
8. Chargers (7-6)
For all their talent, they should be better, and Brandon Staley is prone to get in his own way on the sidelines. Justin Herbert is a top-10 talent under center, however, with reliable targets to air it out. Staley's "D" also appears to be rounding into form. If they can get healthier, perhaps welcoming back stars like Rashawn Slater and Joey Bosa, they'll be primed to improve.
Super Bowl or bust
7. Ravens (9-4)
It's pick your poison between them and the Bengals in the AFC North: whereas Cincy has the passing acumen, Baltimore owns the ground game, especially when Lamar Jackson is under center. That's a good recipe for January success, and so too is a suffocating "D" anchored by a rejuvenated Roquan Smith. The lingering concern is their utter lack of weapons out wide.
6. Cowboys (10-3)
Like the franchise who employs him, Dak Prescott lacks much of a big-game resume of late. So until their talent actually translates to crunch-time deliverance, they can't be favorites. But the package is all there on paper: Prescott has elite play-makers in the backfield (Tony Pollard), out wide (CeeDee Lamb) and, as a bonus, on "D," where Micah Parsons is a one-man wrecking crew.
5. Bengals (9-4)
Some of their best names have struggled to stay on the field, but Joe Burrow has been as good as ever serving as the point guard for moving parts, and any combo of his receivers, headlined by Ja'Marr Chase, brings fear to opponents. Meanwhile, the D.J. Reader-led defensive line is gaining steam as the catalyst for a borderline top-10 unit.
4. 49ers (9-4)
Robbed of not one but two QBs due to injury, somehow San Francisco is hitting peak form with rookie Brock Purdy taking over as the latest figurehead of Kyle Shanahan's space-creating system. Purdy's inexperience could certainly be an issue down the road, especially if Swiss Army Knife star Deebo Samuel stays sidelined for long. But they've got speed and versatility across the lineup on both sides of the ball, and DeMeco Ryans' unit in particular, headlined up front by the ferocious Nick Bosa, has the nasty streak you often find in title-winning clubs. They've also been there, done that as a collective, advancing to two NFC Championship games in the last three years, even amid the QB uncertainty.
3. Bills (10-3)
The preseason favorites have flaws, to be sure: star QB Josh Allen is inherently a risk-taker, both with his rocket arm and bruising ground game, and the front seven isn't nearly as dangerous without Von Miller flying off the edge. You can move the ball on them through the air. And yet, Sean McDermott's "D" is still surrendering fewer points than everyone except the 49ers. Allen is as capable as anyone of zipping a go-ahead score at the last second. And his No. 1 target, Stefon Diggs, is one of the cleanest route-runners in the game, making for an almost-uncoverable force when it matters most.
2. Eagles (12-1)
For much of 2022, the Eagles have felt almost too good to be true. Jalen Hurts went from being an elite scrambler to legitimate MVP front-runner, emerging as a more accurate, more confident and perpetually unfazed passer with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith shining downfield. His sterling line has once again powered a lane-clearing rushing attack. And every level of the "D" is improved, but particularly up front, where Haason Reddick headlines a timely pass rush; and on the back end, where Darius Slay and Co. have been turnover magnets. The Birds have been gashed on the ground here and there, but they've also outlasted almost every kind of opponent and mastered every fashion of victory this year.
1. Chiefs (10-3)
The contingent of Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce is very comparable to the old Patriots trio of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski in terms of reliability: when working together, they are the standard. Mahomes isn't invulnerable, of course; sometimes his acrobatics lead to giveaways, and Kansas City can sport a boom-or-bust pass "D" on the other end. But as long as No. 15 is under center, the Chiefs simply cannot be written off. With Kelce as a safety valve and everyone else shifted around like speedy chess pieces for Reid, no one is better at consistently coming through with both routine and unorthodox production when it matters most. Mahomes' unmatched feel for the game, which he plays like another sport entirely, is the difference when comparing more balanced rosters in, say, Philadelphia and San Francisco.