A chance to start over for 14 NFL teams begins this weekend — the playoffs

Steve Brownlee

This crazy 2022 regular season is over and what do we have to show for it?

Neither the Packers nor the Lions are in the playoffs.

Still, though, these playoffs should prove to be interesting even as most of us will only be interested observers.

Who will prove to be the best quarterback and the best team — don’t they go hand in hand nowadays? — in the AFC?

Will it be Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow or will the Damar Hamlin story continue to inspire Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills?

Or will it be an upstart team like the Jacksonville Jaguars or Los Angeles Chargers?

In the NFC, can Jalen Hurts regain his sensational form after an injury and lead Philadelphia to the Super Bowl?

Or will it be San Francisco with its third-string QB, Brock Purdy, who’s known as “Mr. Irrelevant” since he was the last player taken in the 2022 draft?

Can Dak Prescott and Dallas find a consistent form, which is the same thing that can be said about Tom Brady and Tampa Bay.

Or will Minnesota keep figuring out ways to win even as everyone — EVERYONE — dismisses their chances?

Just about the same thing can be said about Seattle and the New York Giants, too.

I’m really interested in seeing how these questions get answered. And the only way to figure it out is to watch the games. Now if I can only find the time to do that with my night work here at the paper. This weekend, though, is going to let me watch five of the six games for sure.

And remember, this weekend the No. 1 seeds, KC and Philly, get a bye and won’t be part of the action.

So let’s see what we have on tap this weekend, listing the games chronologically, with seeding, record and TV network:


NFC No. 7 Seattle (9-8) at No. 2 San Francisco (13-4), 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Fox — San Fran’s won what, nine or 10 in a row, but if this Seahawks team was the one that was playing well about midseason, I’d still give them a chance.

But they aren’t that good Seattle team as evidenced in the overtime the Seahawks needed last weekend to dismiss a Los Angeles Rams team that had completely broken down since last year’s Super Bowl championship.

Gotta go with the 49ers, 31-17.


AFC No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers (10-7) at No. 4 Jacksonville (9-8), 8:15 p.m. Saturday, NBC — Jacksonville almost became the second winner of a division this season with a losing record. But to me, these Jaguars are far different from the playoff team that really is a “loser” — 8-9 Tampa Bay.

These Jaguars have been on a tear late in the season, and unlike Detroit and Green Bay, were fortunate to play in a weak enough division that allowed their late rush to pay off with a playoff berth.

If it wasn’t the Chargers they were playing, I’d have a knee-jerk reaction to take Jacksonville.

But the Chargers have also started playing well as of late, mainly because they’re getting healthier.

However, Los Angeles head coach Brandon Staley I see as a real liability if push comes to shove in a close game.

Just based on that, I’ll take the Jaguars, 28-26.


AFC No. 7 Miami (9-8) at No. 2 Buffalo (13-3), 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS — The second of three divisional rivals meeting in the playoffs’ first round.

Unfortunately, just about every star is lining up against the Dolphins in this one.

First off, Miami is down to third-string QB Skylar Thompson, or if they get lucky, second-string Teddy Bridgewater, with starter Tua Tagovailoa already ruled out.

Secondly, this game is being played in upstate New York — in JANUARY. And this is a South Florida team that has to play there. Brrrr!

And lastly, the Damar Hamlin factor may just propel Buffalo all the way to and through the Super Bowl, now that he’s been discharged from the hospital.

Give me the Bills, 37-20.


NFC No. 6 New York Giants (9-7-1) at No. 3 Minnesota Vikings (13-4), 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Fox — This is the opposite of the Jaguars-Chargers game — here we have two under-the-radar teams not really going anywhere, so I figure whoever wins this one is done next week.

But how to figure this one? With the Vikings at home, I think their talent for pulling out close ones can work here as it was only juggernauts like the Eagles and Cowboys that could steamroll Minnesota.

So I’ll take the Vikings, 31-29.


AFC No. 6 Baltimore (10-7) at No. 3 Cincinnati (12-4), 8:15 p.m. Sunday, NBC — Another underdog made more “doggy” with a distinct possibility that the Ravens may have to call on their No. 3 QB, who I think is Anthony Brown.

Even if starter Lamar Jackson were to play, I don’t see a way for Baltimore to win this one. Bengals, 34-21.


NFC No. 5 Dallas (12-5) at No. 4 Tampa Bay (8-9), 8:15 p.m. Monday, ABC and the ESPNs — Maybe the Cowboys will rediscover some of that magic that made them looks like a Super Bowl shoo-in for about two games this season.

But if you look at the percentages, two out of 17 is not quite 12%, about the chance I give Dallas of becoming dominant again.

Shouldn’t matter too much against the Bucs, though. What I’d say about them is, to quote Bill Parcells, “you are what your record says you are” or something close to that. Cowboys, 27-20.


Last week — 13-3, 81 percent. Season — 165-104-2, 61 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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