The 2022 NFL season has begun in the United States, and along with the start of its 103rd season, a discussion among spectators and fans has arisen to find out who could up the level of their game and take the trophy home. The hype started with the beginning of the first game when reigning Super Bowl LVI champion Los Angeles Rams played against Buffalo Bills on September 8, 2022. The playoffs will begin on January 14 and finish with Super Bowl LVII, the league's championship game, on February 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Last season's playoff was a great example of unpredictable gameplay as a wild card team. San Francisco 49ers came as a surprise and gave a tough competition to the teams in the NFC championship. The 49ers lost to LA Rams in the final of the NFC championship just by 3 points. Later LA Rams faced Cincinnati Bengals to be crowned the 2021/22 NFL champion.
This season is also not an exception; teams from the wild-card could amaze everyone and even win the league. The winner of the 2020 NFL season was a wild card team led by the goat. Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a fairytale journey that season and beat Kansas City Chiefs by 31-9 to close the season. Could there be another wild card team lifting the Lombardi Trophy?
How NFL Playoffs Work?
The playoff system of the NFL is complex and confusing for the new spectators. The American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC) are the two conferences that make up the 32-team National Football League. Each conference comprises 16 teams as of 2002, and the 16 teams are further divided into four divisions, each with four teams.
The wild-card round is the name given to the opening round of the playoffs. The division winner with the second seed hosts the seven-seed wild card in this round, the third seed hosts the sixth, and the fourth seed hosts the fifth. The division champion from each conference with the best record earns a first-round bye, moving them directly to the divisional round of the second round, where they host the team with the lowest remaining seed from the first round.
The higher seed hosts the game between the other two wild-card round winners. The AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, hosted by the higher-seeded club, feature the two teams from each conference's divisional-round playoff games. The victors of those competitions then compete against one another in the Super Bowl, which is held at a pre-selected neutral location.
5 Sneaky NFL Wild Card Teams In 2022 You Should Watch Out For
Many potent wild-card teams could steal the show this season and amaze everyone as Tampa Bay Buccaneers did in the 2020/21 season. Besides Tampa Bay, six more teams managed to steal the show from other giant groups by winning the league on several past occasions.
Despite the vast history of the league, the wild-card system was only introduced in 1970. In nearly half a century of the wild-card system, only seven wild card teams, the Oakland Raiders (1981), Denver Broncos (1998), Baltimore Ravens (2001), Pittsburgh Steelers (2006), New York Giants (2008), Green Bay Packers (2011), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020), have claimed the trophy. However, the game tactics and quality of every team appearing in this season's playoff are very unpredictable, and it is entirely uncertain to predict the league's winner.
On that note, let's do an in-depth analysis of five potent wild card teams that could surprise everyone with their performance in the 2022/23 season of the NFL.
1. Carolina Panthers
Carolina Panthers had high hopes going into the 2021 season as they gave up riches to trade for Sam Darnold, 2018's third overall pick (projected first in almost everyone's draft board). However, the wealthy history of Charlotte city could not include Darnold as their hero as they had hoped.
First 3 games with Christian McCaffrey in the backfield were great, but once he went down with an injury, 'them panthers' started spiraling down. The major problem was constant turnovers and interceptions from Darnold.
In 2021, Sam threw 13 Ints compared to 9 TDS for over 25 hundred yards to end the season 5-12. This kept coach Matt Rhule in the hot seat, and then came former 1st overall pick, Baker Mayfield, in town.
Baker came out of the college as a genuine specimen of leadership and moxy, that 'i am the guy' attitude. However, a roller-coaster career with Browns was enough for them to part ways and instead opt for Deshaun Watson in the forcible future despite all the legal drama.
'Baker is no sludge,' says Stephen A, and he is not if you remember the 2020 season with the Browns when he led the team to the playoff in decades and won against the arch rivals Pittsburgh Steelers.
Panthers QB will have enough weapons at his disposal. As we mentioned, C Mac is a stud, one of the best in the business, DJ Moore Is a bonafide number one receiver, Robbie Anderson is a star himself, Rashard Higgins, Baker's favorite target from the old Browns days, is back in the team.
Besides, they have Laviska Shenault, offseason breakout Shi Smith and tight ends. The offensive line graded last in the league is improved via draft and free agency. So, we see real potential with the panthers this season. It's too early to hop into the Panthers championship train, but it's not crazy to think the Baker and the army will sneak into the playoffs this season and make some noise.
2. New England Patriots
The Patriots had an underwhelming performance last season as Buffalo Bills defeated them in the wildcard playoff. Still, the team's performance has improved this season, and they might surprise everyone by winning the trophy on January 8 2023.
The Bills defeated the Patriots 47-17 in the 2021–22 NFL playoffs, the first playoff meeting between the teams in nearly 60 years. The Bills did this by scoring seven straight touchdowns against the Patriot's defence without punting or attempting a field goal, making it the NFL's first perfect offensive game in league history.
However, this season's look and feel of the New England Patriots squad seem different. They have been training hard to perform well this season, like in the 2018 season when they beat Los Angeles Rams by the score of 13-3. The Patriots' roster is everything but inspirational. Young quarterback Mac Jones performed admirably in his first season, but it's unclear how high he can go. DeVante Parker and Jakobi Meyers are among their top receiving choices.
Most elite teams would use them as their third option. However, you have to keep in mind who their coach is if you start to doubt the Patriots' roster, judgment, and potential. Many people wouldn't consider this squad capable of making waves in the AFC if Bill Belichick weren't leading the way.
Patriots are a club with a decorated history, but the club's performance in the 2020 season was one of the worst to date. After that, The Patriots began their journey to establish their lost charisma once again in the NFL. They signed new free agents for a record $163 million in guaranteed money.
When the season got out to a 2-4 start, they won eight of their next 11 games, finished with a 10-7 record, and qualified for the wild card round. They were beaten 17-47 by the division foe Buffalo Bills in their first playoff game without quarterback Tom Brady since 1998, and they're first as a wild card under Belichick. This alone can boost their confidence by a large margin.
This season, the team is looking strong, and above all, they seem hungry for more wins and accomplishments. Despite a poor pre-season performance, the vision of the New England Patriots is clear, and it is to win the NFL trophy. They haven't reported any injuries, which is also a positive sign for the team to start the season.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
In this NFL playoff, the Steelers are predicted to have a poor result, but head coach Mike Tomlin doesn't do losing seasons. Ben Roethlisberger, a quarterback, managed to avoid one for the entirety of his career, which spanned from 2004 to 2021. The quarterback position is where it all begins, and rookie Kenny Pickett's preseason debut was encouraging in terms of his ability to play fast at the NFL level.
Despite T.J. Watt's outstanding season, the Steelers defence would still need to improve following a poor 2021 season in terms of quarterback pressure. The Steelers will feel confident in their prospects to prevail in both games, which are typically competitive affairs in the AFC North.
Over the years, the Steelers have been performing well in AFC, but the team have failed to deliver in the big competition. However, this season the team is more promising and focused than in the past years and is determined to get their hands on the NFL trophy by any means. Steelers have also performed exceptionally well in this preseason's matches, maintaining 100% win percentages over three games.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will play in their 90th NFL season in 2022, and Mike Tomlin will be their 16th head coach. Tomlin has a total record of 162-94-2 (.632) until the end of the 2021 season, including the playoffs. He is the first Pittsburgh head coach without a losing campaign season.
One of the squad's leading players will not participate in a team victory for the first time since 2003. On January 27, 2022, veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger announced his retirement. As the club advances to secure their 7th NFL victory, other young members of the group will step up to fill the void left by Ben's absence.
4. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans' surprising playoff run in 2021 came to an end as they lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, the number one AFC seed but the underdog. The Titans were in a terrific position to go to the AFC Championship game or maybe the Super Bowl until they suffered the shocking setback.
The Titans have since been attempting to rebuild their team and achieve the same success. The depth chart has seen a lot of movement, and the team is in a similar spot as the previous year.
They secured the bye week by winning the AFC South Division and taking the top place in the league at the end of the regular season. The team's season was unfortunately cut short since they were unable to advance. Without their top player, Derrick Henry, the Titans completed the second half of the season. This club is led by Henry, who ranks among the league's most aggressive running backs.
Henry only participated in eight games during the regular season, but he amassed 937 running yards and ten touchdowns. Despite barely participating for half of the season, he finished as the running back with the 9th most yards and 6th most touchdowns. The Titans won't have trouble moving up the AFC South standings if Henry can regain his full health this season.
This season's NFL campaign is essential for the Titans as they will look forward to clinching the victory from their opponents to end their 23-year-old trophy drought. They had a good preseason winning two out of three games. However, the scenes at their training camp don't seem reasonable as they already had ten players injured before the big event.
Two players from their squad are already out, whereas the other three leading team players are on injured reserve. There are still five players on the party who are questionable to start for the Titans against New York Giants on 12 September 2022.
Despite all the hurdles, the Titans' determination seems strong, and they will try everything in their hand to finish the season as winners. Their fans believe the club will create history by clinching their maiden title this season.
5. Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl Odds haven't altered much from the previous season as the clubs get ready for 2022. This young club had a strong final stretch of the previous season, but their inexperienced performance prevented them from moving on to the postseason. After losing some of its best offensive players, many supporters are concerned this season, but the Cardinals still have a lot of room to improve.
Following the settlement of his internet controversy, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray said he would play for the team again in the 2022 season. He is one of the most adaptable quarterbacks we see heading into the 2022 NFL season. In his three years in the NFL, Murray has passed for 11,480 yards and possesses outstanding rushing ability and speed, making him a dual-threat on the field. However, they lost several key offensive players in free agency, including Christian Kirk and Chase Edmonds at wide receiver and running back, respectively.
Additionally, they failed to re-sign receiver AJ Green, who may be difficult to replace. This lineup alteration might significantly impact the team's offensive performance in the upcoming season.
The Arizona Cardinals will play their 35th season in Arizona, their 103rd in the NFL, and their fourth under head coach Kliff Kingsbury in 2022. The club has seen significant differences in performance after they appointed Kingsbury as its head coach in January 2019. The 2020 season is their comeback season under the new head coach as the team began to perform well in the NFC, finishing 3rd that season.
With a regular season record of 11-6 and a playoff loss against the Rams of 11-34, the squad concluded the 2021/22 season, being placed second in the NFC West. After Kingsbury took over as the club's manager, the team management undoubtedly felt the effects, and as a result, Kingsbury signed a six-year contract until 2027 March 2, 2022.
Despite several issues, the odds of the Cardinals reaching the final are high. Kyler Murray is a dual-threat due to his throwing and running skills, and despite his ongoing inexperience in the NFL, the young quarterback will only get better. DeAndre Hopkins is back and ready for the next season. The relationship between Hopkins and Murray produces outstanding play and has tremendous potential to advance this squad. JJ Watt, one of the league's best defensive players, will remain a captain of the Cardinals' defence.
The Cardinals didn't have the best preseason as the team only won one match out of three, but fans consider that it was just preseason and it won't matter if the team will perform well in this season's NFL playoff. There is depth in the squad of Cardinals, and they seem contenders for the title despite being one of the wildcard teams to participate in the competition.