2022 Playoff Picture: Cowboys, Bills, Dolphins, Ravens have had toughest schedules

Strength of schedule is always an interesting conversation during the offseason, but the gaze is often focused in the wrong direction. 2022 crystalizes this more than other recent years. Any fan looking at their team’s schedule this offseason would’ve circled the Los Angeles Rams as one of the toughest games on the itinerary.

But the Rams are 3-7 and look miserable just a year after hoisting the Lombardi trophy. Offseason strength of schedule based on what happened the prior year means very little. But who a club has faced on their journey in the current season? Well that’s something worth sticking a feather in a cap. Based on whom they’ve faced through 11 weeks, the Dallas Cowboys are the only NFC team that has played 50% of their schedule against other playoff teams. They are 3-2 in those games and their record is even more impressive when considering they’ve played 50% of their games without their starting quarterback.

Here’s a look at how each of the current 14 teams in the playoff race have gotten there considering these two key factors.

NFC No. 7: Seattle Seahawks (6-4)

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The Seahawks traded away Russell Wilson and got better with Geno Smith. Who saw that coming? Smith has started all 10 games for Seattle this year.

In just three games against other teams currently in the playoffs, Seattle has lost to the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and defeated the New York Giants. Three games against other playoff squads is the second-lowest among the 14 teams.

AFC No. 7: Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)

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The Bengals have had Joe Burrow for all 10 games thus far in 2022. They’ve only played against three playoff-spot clubs themselves, losing to the Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens and taking down the Miami Dolphins (who lost their QB midway through).

NFC No. 6: New York Giants (7-3)

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The Daniel Jones experience has been a real thing for all 10 games the Giants have played so far, including the four against other teams currently in the picture. New York defeated the Titans and Ravens and lost to their two NFC opponents the Cowboys and the Seahawks.

AFC No. 6: New England Patriots (6-4)

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Mac Jones has started seven of the Patriots 10 games, with two other QBs getting starts. Still they sit above .500 but are probably the most fraudulent of the 14 teams in this exercise.

The Patriots have only played two of these 14 teams, losing to both the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens, both by double digits.

NFC No. 5: Dallas Cowboys (7-3)

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Dallas has missed their QB more than any other club here, clearing the field by a couple games. Dak Prescott has only suited up for five games, however the team is 3-2 against these other 14 clubs, tied for the most games against this group.

Dallas lost to the Eagles without Prescott and the Buccaneers with him, but took down the Bengals and Giants without him. They also curb stomped Minnesota with him, in the most impressive win over one of these 14 teams, 40-3 on the road.

AFC No. 5: Buffalo Bills (7-3)

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Josh Allen the gunslinger has been under center for all 10 games thus far this season. The Bills have also faced five of these 14 teams, taking down the Titans, Ravens and Chiefs but losing to the Vikings and Dolphins.

NFC No. 4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)

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The only .500 team here, the Bucs are in a weak division but they have had Tom Brady for all 10 games despite all the drama surrounding him and his home life. Tampa has beaten the Cowboys and Seahawks, but fallen to the Chiefs and the Ravens.

AFC No. 4: Baltimore Ravens (7-3)

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Lamar Jackson keeps on winning despite what the haters keep on claiming he isn’t. Losses to Miami and Buffalo are offset by wins over New England Cincy and Tampa in their five games against this group.

NFC No. 3: San Francisco 49ers (6-4)

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The 49ers gave Trey Lance the starting job and he looked bad before a horrific injury. Jimmy Garoppolo has started eight games and they’re hot, but haven’t really played the toughest of competitions.

The 49ers beat Seattle, but lost to the Chiefs by 21 points in their only two contests against this list.

AFC No. 3: Tennessee Titans (7-3)

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The Titans have had Ryan Tannehill for eight games which is good because rookie Malik Willis clearly isn’t ready as shown in his two starts. The Titans might be pretenders, only facing three teams on this list and losing to all of them; the Giants, Bills and Chiefs.

NFC No. 2: Minnesota Vikings (8-2)

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Minnesota has had Kirk Cousins for all 10 of their games and all four against teams on this list. The Vikings have lost to the Eagles and Cowboys but they won against the Bills and Dolphins.

AFC No. 2: Miami Dolphins (7-3)

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Tua Tagovailoa has one of the scariest injury slates on this list, but is 7-1 as a starter, missing just two games. The Dolphins started off with four straight games against these 14 teams, winning the Patriots, Ravens and Bills before losing to the Bengals. They later lost to the Vikings, making them 3-2 against this group.

NFC No. 1: Philadelphia Eagles (9-1)

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The Eagles were the final undefeated team in 2022, and Jalen Hurts was there for all 10 games thus far. They haven’t had much playoff-caliber tests though, but they won both of their games against Minnesota and Dallas.

AFC No. 1: Kansas City Chiefs (8-2)

Patrick Mahomes is flat out the best QB in the league and he’s been there for all 10 Chiefs games so far. They’ve earned a 3-1 record against teams on this list, beating Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Tennessee but falling to the Buffalo Bills.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire