Leading up to the NFL’s Super Bowl, this is a look at what will happen and where teams stand. Out of 256 possible games that can be played in 2021, 136 have been determined so far. The full schedule is expected to be released next week on January 27th.,
The “nfl playoff picture 2021” is the current NFL playoff picture. It features the 16 teams that will make up the playoffs in 2021. Read more in detail here: nfl playoff picture 2022.
With the start of Week 15, the AFC playoff picture was once again shaken up. The Chiefs clinched the conference’s top seed with a stunning overtime win against the Chargers on Thursday night. The Patriots may reclaim that slot with a win against the Colts on Saturday, but for the time being, the Chiefs have returned to the position they held for most of the previous three seasons.
Regardless, with four weeks left in the regular season, the NFL playoff field is wide open. 26 of the league’s 32 clubs are either in or on the verge of making the playoffs. There are 24 teams in the NFL with at least six victories, the most in the league’s history after 14 weeks.
Here’s a sneak peek at our weekly assessment of the NFL playoff picture, which incorporates ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) plus a little bit of our own intuition to give you a feel of the short- and long-term stakes. For a few teams, we’ve created playoff and/or division-clinching scenarios, and we’ll update you on how things went on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
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The Chiefs’ eighth straight victory capped their ascension from a losing record to the AFC’s top slot, albeit for the time being. They also eliminated the Chargers from having a head-to-head tiebreaker in the AFC West competition. That’s a good thing, since the Chiefs’ schedule isn’t exactly light the rest of the way. They’ll face three AFC wild-card contenders: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Denver, none of which are expected to make the playoffs. Whatever the case may be, this is going to be a lot of fun.
The Steelers are up next (Week 16)
The Patriots were knocked out of first place in the AFC by the result on Thursday night, but they can reclaim it with a victory on Saturday. The Patriots are now in the midst of a two-week period that may determine the AFC East championship. If they win in Indianapolis on Saturday and then defeat the Bills at home in Week 16, they might clinch the division. The Patriots would need to win and then earn defeats from the Dolphins and Browns, as well as two of these teams: Ravens, Steelers, Bengals, and Broncos, to secure a postseason spot in Week 15.
After that, it’s on to the Colts.
With a victory against the Steelers and a Colts defeat to the Patriots, Tennessee could claim the AFC South as early as this week. And the Titans will remain in contention to reclaim the AFC’s top ranking. The Patriots presently lead the conference in record, but the Titans have the tiebreaker over the Chiefs. Remember that the Titans’ remaining games are against the Steelers, 49ers, Dolphins, and Texans, giving them the NFL’s easiest strength of schedule.
The Steelers are up next.
The Ravens have lost two straight AFC North games and have dropped from first to fourth place in the conference in the last two weeks. Baltimore’s remaining schedule, which includes games against the Packers, Bengals, Rams, and Steelers, is among the hardest in the NFL. The Ravens’ lead in the AFC North is down to one game, and although the FPI still thinks they’ll make the playoffs, they don’t seem like a playoff team right now.
Then it’s on to the Packers.
On Thursday night, the Chargers lost their most important game in years, yet they’re back where they began the night: in a solid position to make the wild-card playoffs. It would be their second playoff appearance in the last eight years. They had a genuine opportunity to pass the Chiefs in the AFC West, and it’s still statistically possible, but they’ll need assistance from a club that has a lot of success closing down playoff positions in recent years.
The Texans are up next (Week 16)
The Colts are currently in solid position for one of the AFC’s three wild-card positions, despite the fact that the Titans are effectively up three games with four games left due to their head-to-head sweep. They’ll have to go through a tough test over the next two weeks, with games against the Patriots and Cardinals, followed by games against the Raiders and Jaguars. It’s possible that a 2-2 tie in those games will suffice.
The Patriots are up next.
The Bills have gone from being at the top of the AFC East to clinging to a postseason berth in only a few weeks. Buffalo’s results aren’t what you’d expect from a club aiming for a long playoff run, but just one of their defeats has been by more than one touchdown. The Bills have just one game left against a winning team, against the Patriots in two weeks, and the FPI still believes Buffalo has a strong chance of retaining one of the wild-card places.
The Panthers are up next.
In the search for the AFC championship
Browns of Cleveland (7-6)
The Browns split the season with the Ravens, avoiding a head-to-head tiebreaker with them if the AFC North championship came down to it. The Browns are in the fight for both the divisional and wild-card spots. At home, they face the Raiders.
Bengals of Cincinnati (7-6)
With straight defeats to the Chargers and 49ers, the Bengals’ playoff hopes have been severely harmed. On Sunday, they’ll meet another contender (Denver).
Broncos, Denver (7-6)
The Broncos have won four of their last six games and will face the Bengals on Sunday afternoon for a chance to leapfrog another postseason candidate.
Steelers of Pittsburgh (6-6-1)
The Steelers’ remaining schedule is rather demanding, with games against the Titans, Chiefs, Browns, and Ravens on the horizon. It looks that their only option now is to be eliminated from postseason contention.
Because of the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Packers ascended to the top of the NFC after the Cardinals’ defeat to the Rams on Monday. And the good news is expected to keep coming this week. If the Packers win the Ravens or the Vikings lose to the Bears, they will clinch the NFC North. If the Vikings defeat the Bears, the Packers still have a chance to make the playoffs if the Saints and 49ers lose. The Packers have a few places to improve, most notably their special teams, but they have as good a chance as any club in this imperfect league to make a long playoff run.
The Ravens are up next.
The Buccaneers moved up a place after the Cardinals’ defeat Monday night, and Week 15 has potential clinching possibilities for Tampa Bay. With a victory against the Saints at home, the Buccaneers may clinch both a playoff spot and the NFC South. With defeats by the Vikings and 49ers, they can potentially secure a postseason spot. Of course, since Tom Brady joined with the Buccaneers last season, the Saints have won all three regular-season meetings between these two teams. (The Buccaneers did, however, defeat the Saints in the divisional playoffs last season.)
The Saints are up next.
The Cardinals’ loss on Monday night was disappointing, but not disastrous. Yes, a victory against the Rams would have sealed a playoff berth, and Arizona would have had a chance to claim the NFC West championship as early as this week. However, a game against the lowly Lions is now all that stands between the Cardinals and a postseason berth. The Cardinals’ chances of earning home-field advantage in the playoffs were obviously harmed by their loss to the Rams, but it’s worth remembering that they are unbeaten on the road this season. Even if they lose against the Lions, the Cardinals may secure a playoff berth with defeats by the Vikings and Saints, Vikings and 49ers losses, or a Packers win paired with Falcons and Saints losses.
Then it’s on to Lions.
The Cowboys lead the division by three games and might win it as early as this week, but the situation is tricky. They must first defeat the Giants while the Eagles lose to Washington. According to ESPN Stats & Information analysis, Dallas would then need to win a strength-of-victory tiebreaker with the Eagles, which would need victories by all five of these teams: Cardinals, Bengals, Dolphins, Vikings, and Patriots.
Whether it occurs this week or not, the Cowboys’ division win looks to be a foregone conclusion. The Cowboys need a win against the Giants and either a Buccaneers or 49ers defeat, or losses by the Vikings, Falcons, Saints, and a securing of the strength-of-victory tiebreaker over the Eagles to seal a playoff place.
The Giants are up next.
The Rams have closed the gap on the NFC West leaders to one game. The Cardinals remain the overwhelming favorite, with the Rams having a 10.3 percent chance of winning the division, according to the FPI, but the victory raised Los Angeles’ odds of entering the playoffs to almost 100%. The Rams’ remaining schedule is difficult, with three playoff-bound opponents (Vikings, Ravens, and 49ers), but Monday night’s performance shown that they are up to the task.
The Seahawks are up next.
The 49ers’ overtime win in Cincinnati in Week 14 placed a game between them and the five NFC teams with 6-7 records, and the FPI gives them a 77.3 percent chance of making the playoffs. If they beat the Falcons, they may be able to put one of those teams away this week, but it won’t be easy. The Niners still have games against the Titans and Rams left, with a relatively easy matchup against the Texans sandwiched in the between.
The Falcons are up next.
Here’s how the playoff bracket currently stands, as well as the possible outcomes. • Playoff picture and potential clinchers « • ESPN’s NFL Playoff Machine is interactive » • Football Power Index » | Standings
Washington blew an opportunity to make the NFC East a little more intriguing in Week 14, but let’s face it: The big problem for Washington is the wild card, which is still in the top seven after Sunday’s defeat. The FPI now gives Washington a 22.6 percent probability of grabbing one of the wild-card slots in an NFC group that contains five 6-7 teams. In the following three weeks, it will face one of its contenders for those slots (the Eagles) twice.
After that, it’s on to the Eagles.
In the chase for the NFC Championship
Vikings (Minnesota) (6-7)
Minnesota’s next two games, including Monday night, are against the Bears, so anything can happen.
Eagles of Philadelphia (6-7)
The Eagles return from their bye week still in the postseason hunt, thanks in large part to two games against Washington looming.
The Atlanta Falcons are a professional football team based in (6-7)
The Falcons deserve credit for remaining in the race with an undermanned squad in coach Arthur Smith’s debut year. However, the following games against the 49ers, Bills, and Saints may prove to be too much of a challenge.
The New Orleans Saints are a professional football team based in New (6-7)
The Saints have just one game left against a winning team, Sunday against the Buccaneers, but the Jets are the only club they’ve beaten since the beginning of November.
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The “nfl playoff predictor” is a website that allows users to predict the NFL Playoff Picture for the upcoming season.
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