NFL Playoff Bracket 2023

NFL Playoff Bracket 2023

After 18 weeks of wild NFL action, the playoffs are finally here. There are 14 teams left standing, but there can only be one champion. The Chiefs and Eagles earned first round byes after securing the #1 seeds in the AFC and NFC respectively. Will they make it all the way to the Super Bowl, or will there be an upset? Here’s how I think it will go down.

Wildcard round: AFC

#5 seed Los Angeles Chargers @ #4 Jacksonville Jaguars:

This is an intriguing matchup between two young teams with young, up-and-coming quarterbacks. The Jaguars clinched their first playoff berth since 2017 by beating the Titans 20-16 in week 18. Their offense struggled for much of the game, but a defensive touchdown with just over three minutes to go made the difference. Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville offense has been explosive at times this year, but they are not always consistent. However, Justin Herbert emerged as a top five quarterback in the league this year, and he has a plethora of playmakers at his disposal. While Lawrence has taken a massive step forward this season, he is not yet at Herbert’s level, plus his receivers are not as talented or explosive. The Jags are a much improved team this year, but I think they might be a year away from being a true contender.

Prediction: Chargers 27, Jaguars 23

#6 seed Baltimore Ravens @ #3 Cincinnati Bengals:

The Bengals enter the playoffs on an eight game winning streak. They got off to a slow 4-4 start, but they made some schematic offensive adjustments, and their defense has gotten healthier throughout the year. Cincinnati made it all the way to the Super Bowl last season, and they bring a very similar roster into these playoffs. The Ravens have dealt with injuries all season, so it is impressive that they still managed to make the playoffs. However, even if they were at full health, Baltimore does not have the talent to beat the Bengals on the road in the playoffs. Lamar Jackson will most likely return from his knee injury to play in this one, but he may not be at 100%. Even if Lamar is at his best, Baltimore’s receiving core is lackluster. Baltimore’s talented, scrappy defense could keep it close, but Joe Burrow and the explosive Bengals offense should be able to make enough plays to get the win.

Prediction: Bengals 23, Ravens 17

#7 seed Miami Dolphins @ #2 Buffalo Bills:

These teams enter the playoffs with their momentum heading in opposite directions. The Bills seemed to be reenergized after rallying behind Damar Hamlin. That energy could give them a needed boost of physicality that could help them against more scrappy teams. The Dolphins have lost six of their last seven games and only snuck into the playoffs by edging the Jets 9-6 in an ugly week 18 matchup. Tua Tagovailoa could potentially be cleared from concussion protocol to play this week, but he was struggling mightily in the weeks prior to suffering the concussion. Even if Tua does play, the Bills have too much momentum and are too talented to lose in the first round at home. Both games between these teams this year were competitive, but I think this one will go differently.

Prediction: Bills 34, Dolphins 23

Wildcard round: NFC

#5 seed Dallas Cowboys @ #4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

The Cowboys are entering the playoffs on the wrong foot. Dak Prescott was horrendous in a week 18 loss to the Commanders, completing a miserable 37.8% of his passes for 128 yards, one touchdown, and a pick-six. Washington also dropped another easy interception. The Buccaneers underwhelmed in the regular season, finishing with an 8-9 record. They dealt with a host of injuries along the way, but they are healthier now than they have been since the season started. All that matters is that they made it to the playoffs. Anything can happen now, especially if Tom Brady is your quarterback. To me, it is inevitable that Tampa Bay wins this one. Dallas always chokes in the playoffs, and they have no momentum after last week’s dismal performance.

Prediction: Buccaneers 31, Cowboys 24

#6 seed New York Giants @ #3 Minnesota Vikings:

These teams faced off just a few weeks ago on Christmas Eve, and it took a game winning 61-yard field goal for the Vikings to get the win. The Giants are extremely scrappy and well coached, and the Vikings are dealing with some major injuries on the offensive line. The Giants biggest strength is their defensive line, so they could very easily put pressure on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins does not have good mobility and is not a good passer under pressure, so there is a perfectly reasonable path for the Giants to stymie Minnesota’s offense and pull off the upset. However, the Vikings have a great home field advantage and are 11-0 in one-score games this year. I think they have enough magic in them to win this one. It will be close and hard fought, but I think the Vikings will pull it out in the end.

Prediction: Vikings 29, Giants 26

#7 Seattle Seahawks @ #2 San Francisco 49ers:

The Seahawks backed their way into the playoffs with an overtime win over the Rams and a Packers loss in week 18. They started the season off hot, but they fizzled down the stretch. The Niners, on the other hand, are on a 10 game winning streak heading into the playoffs. This probably won’t be close.

Prediction: 49ers 30, Seahawks 17

Divisional round: AFC

#5 seed Los Angeles Chargers @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs:

These teams are division rivals and their games are always close. They both have high flying offenses but soft defenses. This one will probably be a shootout. Kansas City won both meetings between these teams in the regular season, but only by a combined six points. This one could really go either way. Picking the Chiefs is the easy decision on paper. They have the better quarterback and have only lost to Los Angeles once in the last three years. However, Justin Herbert is no slouch and he has better playmakers. I think the Chargers would get their revenge and knock KC out of the playoffs if this matchup happens.

Prediction: Chargers 34, Chiefs 31

#3 seed Cincinnati Bengals @ #2 Buffalo Bills:

This, of course, is the Damar Hamlin bowl, but this time it would take place in Buffalo. Both teams were moving the ball on offense before the game in Cincinnati was suspended, and I would expect that to continue in this one. However, the Bills just have a different energy and motivation now, and I think that gives them a slight edge, especially since they will be playing this one at home. It will be a shootout, but I think the Bills will prevail in the end.

Prediction: Bills 37, Bengals 31

Divisional round: NFC

#4 seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ #1 Philadelphia Eagles:

The Buccaneers would enter this one with momentum after knocking off the Cowboys in the wildcard round. On the other hand, the Eagles literally limped into the playoffs while dealing with a host of injuries. Quarterback Jalen Hurts returned from a shoulder injury in week 18, but he and the Philadelphia offense was not sharp, as they only scored 22 points against the Giants’ backups. Their first round bye could help them heal up for the divisional round, but I think Brady’s Bucs will be too much for them to overcome. Hurts has developed by leaps and bounds this season, but facing the GOAT in his first playoff game is not ideal.

Prediction: Buccaneers 23, Eagles 21

AFC championship:

#5 seed Los Angeles Chargers @ #2 Buffalo Bills:

Things are falling perfectly in the Bills’ favor in this scenario. Since the Chargers knocked the heavyweight Chiefs in the divisional round, Buffalo has a much easier path to the Super Bowl. Although Justin Herbert and the Chargers have an explosive offense, I don’t think they are much of a match for the Bills. This will be a shootout, but I think Buffalo gets it done in the end.

Prediction: Bills 34, Chargers 27

NFC championship:

#4 seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ #2 San Francisco 49ers:

In this scenario, Tom Brady gets to face his hometown team with the Super Bowl on the line. The Niners haven’t lost since early November while the Bucs just knocked out the two NFC East heavyweights, so both teams have lots of momentum entering this matchup. However, I believe the 49ers are the most complete team in the league. They are a juggernaut. They demolished Tampa Bay 35-7 back in week 15, and while I think this one will be much closer, I don’t think Brady will have enough magic to overcome San Francisco’s momentum, home field advantage, and superior roster talent.

Prediction: 49ers 26, Buccaneers 23

Super Bowl LVII:

Buffalo Bills vs. San Francisco 49ers:

It all comes down to this. Both teams deserved to make it here, as I believe they are the two best teams in football this year. The Niners have the best coaching in the league, a dominant defense, and a plethora of offensive playmakers. The Bills coaching is great but not elite, and their defense is only slightly above average. However, I think this game comes down to the quarterbacks. Josh Allen is a superstar. He is accurate, fast, and has the strongest arm of any quarterback in football history. Brock Purdy has played admirably for the Niners this year, but he is still a rookie and was the last pick in the draft for a reason. While their defense will keep it close, I think Allen will make just enough big plays to outmatch Purdy and the Niners to win the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Prediction: Bills 27, 49ers 24