Who to Watch in Playoffs

Carson Keaton, Staff Writer

Now that the 2022-23 NFL regular season has come to an end, and the playoff bracket is set, here are my top three contenders from each conference. 

American Football Conference (AFC)

1. Kansas City Chiefs- Despite losing top wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the offseason, quarterback Patrick Mahomes had a career year with an inconsistent lineup of receivers. With the emergence of rookie running back Isiah Pacheco, and the continued greatness of tight end Travis Kelce, the offense is still clicking. The defense is rising as a group as well with great pass rush and solid man-man coverage.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – JANUARY 23: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates a touchdown scored by Tyreek Hill #10 against the Buffalo Bills during the fourth quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 23, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

2. Buffalo Bills- The Bills rallied behind safety Damar Hamlin last week and got the win over New England. This creates a scenario in which if the Chiefs and Bills match up in the AFC Conference Championship, it will be held at a neutral site. With no home field advantage, and quarterback Josh Allen playing great football, that game is a coin toss.

MIAMI, FL – DECEMBER 02: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills leads the team on to the field prior to the game between the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium on December 2, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

3. Cincinnati Bengals- The Bengals are one of the few teams that are close to a lock to get out of the Wild Card round. With quarterback Lamar Jackson still limited during Wednesday’s practice, the odds are stacked in the Bengals favor. Quarterback Joe Burrow is playing excellent football with his longtime teammate and standout wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – JANUARY 30: Members of the Cincinnati Bengals defense celebrate after safety Vonn Bell #24 intercepted the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime of the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 30, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

National Football Conference (NFC)

1. San Francisco 49ers- The 49ers have been rolling since acquiring running back Christian McCaffery going 9-0 since he became a starter. The unexpected excellence of rookie quarterback Brock Purdy has helped keep this team playing extremely well despite their top two quarterbacks going down with injury. Not to mention the dominance of defensive end Nick Bosa has shown off the edge and the defense as a whole playing like a top three unit in the league.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 22: Fred Warner #54 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with teammates after an interception against the Dallas Cowboys during the second quarter of the game in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Levi’s Stadium on January 22, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

2. Philadelphia Eagles- The Eagles held the best record in the league throughout the majority of the regular season, and it wasn’t for no reason. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has been playing like an MVP candidate with the outstanding cast of receivers they have put around him. The Eagles defense has also been very good especially in the back end.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – JANUARY 21: DeVonta Smith #6 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates his touchdown with teammate A.J. Brown #11 during the first quarter against the New York Giants in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 21, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Quarterback Tom Brady and the Bucs snuck in the playoffs taking the NFC South in week 18. They have had a rocky season but there are a lot of remaining pieces from the 2020-2021 Super Bowl team. With great playoff experience on the roster, and the G.O.A.T. at the helm, they have a shot to get hot and go on a deep playoff run.

TAMPA, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 07: Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts with teammates late in the fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) (Getty Images)