Titans And Packers Lead The Race For The NFL Post-Season Playoffs
The 2021/22 NFL season has certainly been packed with plenty of drama. From exciting finishes in a number of prime time games, to unexpected teams leading divisions and even landing at the top of the seedings for the playoffs, it has been an enthralling season of action so far.
At this point of the season, which is just after halfway through the regular season, attentions now start to turn towards the playoffs. Each conference has seven playoff places available, with the top seed in each conference handed a bye into the second set of playoff games (the Divisional Round).
In this preview, we are going to take a look at how the playoff picture stands across the NFL at the moment. Which teams currently hold those coveted top seven spots in each conference, which teams are still in with a fighting chance and which teams are genuinely out of contention for this year.
We will also explain how the revamped playoffs now works, together with how they now take place a little later in the season than in previous years due to the extra regular season game in the NFL this year.
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How The NFL Regular Season And Playoffs Are Organised
This year, the 2021/22 NFL regular season will be extended by one game for each team, meaning that each team will now play 17 matches across the season.
This means that the season will now extend into January, with the final round of matches, Matchday 18 taking place on the weekend of the 9th January. Usually, the season finishes around the last day in December or very early in January or thereabouts.
At the end of Matchday 18, the top seven teams in each conference will head into the playoffs. The four divisional winners will be seeded 1-4 based on their overall record for the season, with the three teams with the next best records being seeded 5th to 7th.
The playoffs begin on the weekend of January 16th with Wildcard weekend which features the teams seeded 2nd to 7th in each conference, with the top seeded team handed a bye week through to the next round of matches.
Wildcard Weekend Matches (both Conferences)
- Seed #7 @ Seed #2
- Seed #6 @ Seed #3
- Seed #5 @ Seed #4
After Wildcard Weekend is the Divisional Playoffs which sees the three winners from Wildcard Weekend and the top seed in each conference progress. The highest ranked team left in the playoffs will travel to face the top seeded team, with the other two teams facing off at the home of the highest ranked seed.
The two winners of the Divisional Playoffs then progress through to the Conference Championship game, which is played on the home field of the best ranked team. The two winners of these games then go on to play in the Super Bowl on February 13th.
This year’s Super Bowl will take place at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, home of the Chargers and Rams and will feature a half time show by Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Dr.Dre, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar.
The Pro Bowl will take place the week before the Super Bowl on the 6th February.
The Current NFL Playoff Picture
Here is how the playoff picture currently stands in the AFC and NFC after ten weeks of action.
AFC Playoff Rankings (after week 10)
- Tennessee Titans (8-2)
- Buffalo Bills (6-3)
- Baltimore Ravens (6-3)
- Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3-1)
- New England Patriots (6-4)
- Los Angeles Chargers (5-4)
- Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)
- Las Vegas Raiders (5-4)
- Indianapolis Colts (5-5)
- Cleveland Browns (5-5)
- Denver Broncos (5-5)
Out of Contention:
- Miami Dolphins (3-7)
- New York Jets (2-7)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7)
- Houston Texans (1-8)
The Tennessee Titans lead the way in the AFC after a fine run of six wins, five of which came against teams that were in the playoffs last season. They hold a 1.5 game lead over the Ravens and Bills and with a relatively easy schedule in their final seven games, and a bye week still to come, they look well set to cement top spot in the conference.
The Bills and Ravens will not only have one eye on the Titans and the top seed position in the AFC, but also on their divisional rivals with the Patriots chasing the Bills and the Steelers, Bengals and Browns all not too far behind the Ravens.
The Chiefs have climbed back to the top of the AFC West ahead of the Chargers who now are the 7th seed, but that position could come under serious pressure from the teams with 0.500 records or better, especially the likes of the Colts, Bengals and Raiders.
At the moment, I feel the top six teams in the AFC will likely qualify for the playoffs and their final positions may be similar to this (though I expect the Patriots to perhaps jump ahead of the Steelers), the key battle looks to be for that number 7 seed spot and that could well change hands many times over the next few weeks.
I’m taking the Titans to take the top seed spot ahead of the Bills, with the Ravens third and the Chiefs fourth, Patriots fifth, Steelers sixth and the Colts to make a later charge for seventh.
NFC Playoff Rankings (after week 10)
- Green Bay Packers (8-2)
- Arizona Cardinals (8-2)
- Dallas Cowboys (7-2)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)
- Los Angeles Rams (7-3)
- New Orleans Saints (5-4)
- Carolina Panthers (5-5)
- Minnesota Vikings (4-5)
- San Francisco 49ers (4-5)
- Atlanta Falcons (4-5)
- Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)
- Washington Football Team (3-6)
- New York Giants (3-6)
- Seattle Seahawks (3-6)
- Chicago Bears (3-6)
Out of Contention:
- Detroit Lions (0-8-1)
The Green Bay Packers hold top seed in the NFC thanks to beating the Arizona Cardinals when the two teams met a few weeks back. The Dallas Cowboys can join the 8-2 club next week after bouncing back with a big win last weekend.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers loss to the Panthers saw them drop to 6-3 and these four teams lead their respective divisions to lie in the top four seeds. The Rams look well set for a playoff spot with a 7-3 record, despite two losses in a row, however after that it is very open.
The Saints should be good enough to qualify but if they and the Panthers, who are 6 and 7 in the seedings respectively falter, then any of the teams below them could step up with a good run of results.
Of those teams the Vikings and 49ers look most able to do that and I think the Vikings may well pip the Panthers to a playoff spot.
For me, I think the Cowboys will earn the top spot in the NFC, with the Cardinals 2nd, Packers 3rd, Buccaneers 4th and then the Rams 5th. I then expect the Saints to finish 6th with the Vikings in seventh.