The No. 1 seed is hanging in the balance, with the Chiefs also in the mix depending on that outcome.
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1. San Francisco 49ers (11-4 SU, 10-5 ATS)
- On the road at Raiders
- Betting Edge: +2
The hottest team in the NFL has now won eight straight games by at least six points each. No NFL team has done that since the 2019 Chiefs, who beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl during that run.
The 49ers have not trailed past the 13-minute mark of the second quarter in any of their last six games. The 49ers have yet to trail during Brock Purdy’s first three starts, and he has thrown two touchdowns in every game.
Purdy joins Kurt Warner (1999 Rams) as the only two quarterbacks in NFL history to go 3-0 with at least two touchdown passes in each of their first three starts.
The 49ers continue to rank No. 1 in points and yards allowed on defense, with Nick Bosa the odds-on favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year. With only the Raiders and Cardinals left on the schedule, nothing seems like it will stop the 49ers from entering the playoffs on a 10-game winning streak, and possibly the No. 2 seed if the Vikings slip up.
2. Buffalo Bills (12-3 SU, 7-7-1 ATS)
- On the road at Bengals
- Betting Edge: +1
The Bills did a great job in Chicago of beating the Bears at their own game by winning the rushing battle 254-80. It was the best job any defense has done against Justin Fields’ running the football since he decided to make that the focal point of his attack.
The Bills still rank as the top team in the AFC thanks to having a better defense than the Chiefs and Bengals, and their offense has more versatile ways to beat you as they can throw, they can run, and even Josh Allen can run productively from the quarterback position.
But they have another huge road test if they want to be the No. 1 seed by going into Cincinnati on Monday night against a hot Bengals team. If the Bills win in Cincinnati after winning in Kansas City in Week 6, then it is impossible to say this team hasn’t solidified itself as the worthy favorite in the AFC.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (12-3 SU, 5-9-1 ATS)
- At home vs. Broncos
- Betting Edge: +5.5
Against Seattle, the Chiefs had a season-low 14 first downs and were held under 300 yards for the first time all year, but it may have been the team’s best defensive performance of the season.
That made up for the spotty offensive day as the Chiefs won 24-10 in a rare cover and comfortable, low-drama win for the team this year. They’ll hope to have similar performances on defense against the Broncos and Raiders to close the season, and if the Bengals happen to beat the Bills on Monday night, then the Chiefs can still be the No. 1 seed by winning out.
But regardless of which seed they finish with, chances are this team will have to overcome the Bengals or Bills (or both) in the playoffs if they want to get back to the Super Bowl.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (13-2 SU, 8-7 ATS)
- At home vs. Saints
- Betting Edge: +4
It appears the winning formula against the 2022 Eagles is to make them turn the ball over four times in a division game. That’s what Washington did in Week 10, and that’s what the Cowboys did on Saturday, including converting a third-and-30 in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles lost a tough one, 40-34, in Dallas, so they have still not clinched the No. 1 seed. However, it is hard to say the Eagles looked bad with Gardner Minshew at quarterback as he threw for well over 300 yards and gave the teams multiple leads. Most of the turnovers were not his fault either.
But the Eagles do need to protect the ball better after seven giveaways in the last two games. The Eagles had three turnovers total when they were 8-0, but they have 14 giveaways in the last seven games.
Jalen Hurts may play this Sunday, or the team may just let him rest another week. They can beat the Saints with Minshew at home. But with Lane Johnson also suffering a significant injury at right tackle, the turnovers and injuries are starting to pile up at the wrong time for the Eagles, and you can see why people have flocked to the 49ers as the new team to beat in the NFC.
5. Dallas Cowboys (11-4 SU, 9-6 ATS)
- On the road at Titans
- Betting Edge: -1
After Dak Prescott threw another pick-six and the Cowboys trailed their hated rival Eagles by 10 points, it could have gone sour in a hurry. But Prescott rebounded and played one of his best games yet, leading the Cowboys to 40 points and a big win.
It likely is still not going to be enough to move the Cowboys past the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, but it was reassuring that they could score a lot on a good defense and pull out a win in the fourth quarter that required a lot of difficult plays to be made like a third-and-30 pass conversion and a stop in the red zone by the defense.
The Cowboys do not need Odell Beckham Jr. at wide receiver for the playoffs. They just need to clean up some mistakes with turnovers and get the defense back on track as it is allowing too many points in recent weeks. But the Cowboys are going to be a tough out in January.
It’s A Long Way to the Top
6. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4 SU, 12-3 ATS)
- At home vs. Bills
- Betting Edge: -1
Like last week in Tampa Bay, the Bengals played one incredible half and one terrible half before still coming away with a win. Not bad when you can do that to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, though their best days are behind them. The Bengals nearly blew a 22-0 lead in New England after Joe Burrow threw a pick-six, the defense allowed a tipped Hail Mary touchdown on a third-and-29, and Ja’Marr Chase fumbled Burrow’s 40th pass completion of the game.
Burrow is the first quarterback in NFL history to complete 40 passes in a wire-to-wire win, but the Bengals had to rely on a late fumble by Rhamondre Stevenson on first-and-goal to put away the Patriots.
The Bengals are going to have to be much sharper in this big game with the Bills on Monday night. The No. 1 seed is still a possibility for the Bengals if they win out and the Chiefs lose a game. But we cannot see another poor half from this team against a team that is playing well like Buffalo.
7. Green Bay Packers (7-8 SU, 7-8 ATS)
- At home vs. Vikings
- Betting Edge: +3.5
With the Minnesota Vikings winning the division title and the Detroit Lions surging towards the playoffs, it felt like a new year for the NFC North. But here come the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers with a playoff scenario as simple as beating the Vikings and Lions at home while seeing Washington lose one of its last two games.
It absolutely can happen with the way the Packers are taking the ball away with eight takeaways in the last three games. Rodgers is not playing great, with three touchdown passes during the three-game winning streak, but we know he can win home games against the NFC North teams, especially when he’s getting the help from his run game and defense.
It will be an interesting finish in Green Bay, but rookie receiver Christian Watson needs to stay healthy. A hip injury knocked him out of action in Miami on Sunday.
8. Baltimore Ravens (10-5 SU, 6-8-1 ATS)
- At home vs. Steelers
- Betting Edge: +4
The 2022 Ravens are 5-1 when they fail to score 20 points in a game. If that holds up, it would tie the 1986 Giants and 2004 Steelers as the best record since 1930 (min. 5 games). Even the 2000 Ravens did not post such a good record like that given their scoring difficulties.
The Ravens may not score 20 again the rest of the season if the last month is any indication. The team has clinched a playoff spot with its 10th win over Atlanta, but that may only give the Ravens a reason to rest Lamar Jackson a few more weeks as he recovers from a PCL injury to his knee.
Run the ball and play defense works against the 2022 Steelers, Falcons, Panthers and similar teams, but it probably won’t do the Ravens much good in the playoffs against the Bills, Chiefs, or Bengals. They also are in real danger of losing the division to the Bengals, but we’ll just see how it goes with Jackson’s health.
9. New England Patriots (7-8 SU, 7-7-1 ATS)
- At home vs. Dolphins
- Betting Edge: +2.5
The Patriots have only turned the ball over three times in the last six games, but the last two fumbles are threatening to destroy the team’s season. There was the ill-advised lateral in Las Vegas in Week 15, but then in Week 16 Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled on a first-and-goal just when it looked like the Bengals would blow a 22-0 lead.
The only reassuring news is that the Dolphins may not have Tua Tagovailoa (concussion) this Sunday, meaning it will be Teddy Bridgewater in a must-win game for both teams.
Tua is 4-0 against the Patriots, but more than anything they need to find a way to score points in these matchups.
And stop fumbling the ball with the game on the line.
10. Los Angeles Rams (5-10 SU, 5-8-2 ATS)
- On the road at Chargers
- Betting Edge: +5.5
If you entered a competition to write the oddest headline of the season back in September, then “Baker Mayfield Leads Rams to 51-14 Rout of Broncos on Christmas, Leading to Firing of Nathaniel Hackett” would be a strong contender for first place.
How checked out were the Broncos that Mayfield could complete 24-of-28 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns without Cooper Kupp? But that happened, and Aaron Donald wasn’t even active to harass Russell Wilson, who threw three more interceptions.
The Rams clearly had too many injuries down the stretch this year, but even before that point, they were a disappointment. Some big changes will need to be made on the offensive line and the receiving corps after Kupp, but Sean McVay’s Rams have a chance to showcase Mayfield these last two games and see if they have an asset there or not.