Quarterback Joe Burrow (R) and the Cincinnati Bengals host the Kansas City Chiefs in the first playoff game of the 2022 NFL postseason Saturday in Cincinnati. File Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo
MIAMI, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The 2022 NFL playoffs start Saturday with two wild-card round games and continue through Super Bowl LVI, scheduled for Feb. 13 in Inglewood, Calif. The Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers are title favorites.
This marks the second year of the NFL's 14-team postseason format, but follows the first 17-game regular-season schedule in league history. The Packers and Tennessee Titans earned first-round byes as the top seeds in the NFC and AFC, respectively.
The other 12 teams, six from each conference, take the field for wild-card games. The No. 2 seed in each conference faces the No. 7 seed in the first round. The No. 1 seeds battle the lowest-remaining seed in the divisional round.
The No. 4 seed Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) host the No. 5 Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) in the first matchup at 4:35 p.m. EST Saturday on NBC. The Bengals beat the Raiders 32-13 on Nov. 21 in Paradise, Nev.
"We are excited," Raiders quarterback Derek Carr told reporters Sunday. "We gotta play a team that already beat us. It's going to be tough."
Coach Zac Taylor, quarterback Joe Burrow, wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and the Bengals will attempt to snap a long postseason slump for the AFC North franchise. The Bengals, who bounced back from a 4-11-1 campaign in 2020, haven't won a postseason game since 1991.
But they are 6.5-point favorites to beat the Raiders.
Burrow, a Comeback Player of the Year candidate, leads the NFL's No. 7 passing offense. The Bengals ranked 23rd in rushing yards. The Bengals defense allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards, but struggled against opposing passing games in 2021.
Chase, a Rookie of the Year candidate, set the Bengals franchise record for receiving yards in a season in Week 18. His 1,455 yards and 13 receiving scores ranked third in the NFL.
"Hopefully, l can break some playoff records," Chase told reporters Sunday. "The main goal I had for the playoffs was just to make it to the playoffs. That was the biggest thing that I helped turn around here."
The Raiders weathered one of the most hectic seasons in the league en route to a playoff berth. Head coach Jon Gruden resigned in October after an email scandal. And the team released 2020 first-round pick Henry Ruggs after he was involved in a fatal DUI crash.
"I don't think any team has been through what we've been through in 10 years, let alone one year," Carr said. "Pick a story. There is so much emotion with everything we've done. This team was forged in a fire."
The Raiders were 5-3 at the time of Gruden's resignation. They won their final four games to clinch the AFC's final playoff spot. Carr leads a passing offense that ranked sixth in yards.
The Raiders offense ranked 11th in total yards and 18th in points for. The Raiders' running game totaled the fifth-fewest rushing yards. The franchise will make just its second postseason appearance since 2003.
The winner of the Bengals-Raiders game will face the Titans in the second round if all other top seeds advance.
The AFC wild-card round continues when the No. 3 Buffalo Bills (11-6) host the No. 6 New England Patriots (10-7) at 8:15 p.m. Saturday on CBS. The Bills are 4.5-point favorites to win that matchup between AFC East division rivals.
Another four wild-card round games air Sunday. Tom Brady and the defending champion No. 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4) host the No. 7 Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) at 1 p.m. on Fox.
"We got the Eagles and that's going to be the biggest game of our season," Brady told reporters Sunday. "If we win, whoever we play, wherever we play [in the second round], we're still going."
Dak Prescott and the No. 3 Dallas Cowboys (12-5) host the No. 6 San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at 4:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS, Paramount+, Nickelodeon and Amazon Prime.
"I'm confident," Eagles coach Nick Sirianni told reporters Monday. "We have winners on this football team. That's why we're in the position we're in now.
"We have winners on this team that know how to win. We go about the same process. Don't make it bigger than what it is. We understand the consequences of you lose you go home, you win you move on."
Patrick Mahomes and the No. 2 Chiefs (12-5) host Ben Roethlisberger's No. 7 Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) in Sunday's nightcap at 8:15 p.m. on NBC.
The wild-card round ends with a matchup between the No. 4 Los Angeles Rams (12-5) and Kyler Murray's No. 5 Arizona Cardinals (11-6). That game kicks off at 8:15 p.m. Monday and airs on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.
The Chiefs are the heaviest favorite (11.5) to advance. The Buccaneers, Rams and Cowboys also are favored to move on to the divisional round.
"We sure look forward to bringing a playoff game back to Arrowhead Stadium with our fans," Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters Saturday.
The top-seeded Packers would host the Rams or Cardinals in the second round if all other top seeds advance in the NFC.
NFL playoffs (all times EST)
Raiders at Bengals at 4:35 p.m. on NBC
Patriots at Bills at 8:15 p.m. on CBS
Eagles at Buccaneers at 1 p.m. on Fox
49ers at Cowboys at 4:30 p.m. on CBS
Steelers at Chiefs at 8:15 p.m. on NBC
Cardinals at Rams at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN, ABC, ESPN2
The San Francisco 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo raises his hands in triumph after beating the Los Angeles Rams in overtime at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., on Sunday. The 49ers defeated the Rams 27-24 to capture a playoff slot in the NFC. Photo by Jon SooHoo/UPI | License Photo