NFL Playoff Bracket 2021: AFC, NFC Championship Picture, Odds and Predictions

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 18, 2021

NFL fans would be hard-pressed to create a more intriguing championship weekend than the one on deck.

On the AFC side of the bracket is a showdown between the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs and the upstart Buffalo Bills. If Buffalo wants to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1993 campaign, it will have to get past the powerhouse holding the Lombardi Trophy that seems poised to win a number of championships in the immediate future.

On the NFC side, two of the most legendary quarterbacks in NFL history will go at it inside the historic setting of Lambeau Field when Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers square off with Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers.

Assuming Patrick Mahomes plays after he was ruled out of Sunday's win over the Cleveland Browns with a concussion, all four quarterbacks were at least discussed as MVP candidates at one point this season.

Here is a look at the key information for both games, as well as the predicted winners.

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NFC Championship Game

Matchup: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers

Date: Sunday, Jan. 24

Time: 3:05 p.m. 

Channel: Fox

Odds: GB -4, per DraftKings

Prediction: Packers 31, Buccaneers 24

Green Bay looked downright unstoppable for much of the year except for in its 28-point loss in Week 6 against Tampa Bay. The Packers had no answer for Ronald Jones II, who ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns, and watched Brady throw touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski and Tyler Johnson.

Yet it was Tampa Bay's defense that was most impressive as Rodgers threw for 160 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions, one of which Jamel Dean returned for a touchdown.

All Green Bay has done since that blowout loss is run through most of the league on the way to the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Rodgers is likely going to win the MVP trophy, while Davante Adams has established himself as arguably the top wide receiver in the league.

What's more, the Packers defense has given up fewer than 20 points in each of its last four games and figures to be more up to the challenge when it comes to slowing down Jones.

It's going to be cold. The Packers are on an absolute tear. They will likely be even more motivated to atone for their embarrassing showing the last time they met the Buccaneers.

And they have Rodgers.

Look for a different result this time.

AFC Championship Game

Matchup: Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs

Date: Sunday, Jan. 24

Time: 6:40 p.m. ET

Channel: CBS

Odds: KC -2.5, per DraftKings

Prediction: Chiefs 30, Bills 17

Leading up to these games, the biggest storyline of the entire week will be the health of Mahomes.

This prediction that the Chiefs will win is based on a guess that he will play, and Buffalo will win if he doesn't. While Chad Henne made a key scramble and fourth-down completion to stave off the Browns in the fourth quarter Sunday, winning an entire game against a stout Bills team without Mahomes will prove too difficult for the Chiefs.

Like the NFC Championship Game matchup, fans already saw this showdown during the regular season.

Kansas City handled Buffalo by nine points in Week 6 with Mahomes finding Travis Kelce for two touchdowns and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who did not play Sunday against the Browns, running for 161 yards.

Most impressively, the Chiefs held Josh Allen to 122 passing yards.

While asking Kansas City to contain Allen and Stefon Diggs to that level once again may be unrealistic, its defense only has to be solid to clinch a victory. After all, Mahomes had no trouble carving up Buffalo's secondary at 21-of-26 passing during the regular season, and that came while Tyreek Hill had just 20 receiving yards.

Hill will be his typical explosive self, and Mahomes will guide the Chiefs to a second straight Super Bowl appearance.

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