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NFL Playoff Picture 2021-22: Standings, Matchups to Watch Entering Week 9

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVNovember 3, 2021

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The NFC's Green Bay Packers and AFC's Tennessee Titans stand atop their respective conference's postseason standings heading into Week 9 of the 2021 NFL season.

Perhaps the biggest surprise as the campaign gets ready to cross the halfway point is that the two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, and their schedule in the second half doesn't do Patrick Mahomes and Co. many favors.

Below is a look at the updated standings in both conferences. The top seven teams on each side make the playoffs with the four division winners followed by three wild-card squads.


AFC

1. Tennessee Titans (6-2)

2. Las Vegas Raiders (5-2)

3. Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

4. Buffalo Bills (5-2)

5. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3)

6. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)

7. Los Angeles Chargers (4-3)

8. New England Patriots (4-4)

9. Kansas City Chiefs (4-4)

10. Cleveland Browns (4-4)

11. Denver Broncos (4-4)

12. Indianapolis Colts (3-5)

13. New York Jets (2-5)

14. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)

15. Houston Texans (1-7)

16. Miami Dolphins (1-7)


NFC

1. Green Bay Packers (7-1)

2. Arizona Cardinals (7-1)

3. Dallas Cowboys (6-1)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)

5. Los Angeles Rams (7-1)

6. New Orleans Saints (5-2)

7. Carolina Panthers (4-4)

8. Minnesota Vikings (3-4)

9. San Francisco 49ers (3-4)

10. Atlanta Falcons (3-4)

11. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5)

12. Seattle Seahawks (3-5)

13. Chicago Bears (3-5)

14. Washington Football Team (2-6)

15. New York Giants (2-6)

16. Detroit Lions (0-8)


And here are the projected first-round playoff matchups based on the current standings:


AFC

Bye: Titans

2. Raiders vs. 7. Chargers

3. Ravens vs. 6. Steelers

4. Bills vs. 5. Bengals


NFC

Bye: Packers

2. Cardinals vs. 7. Panthers

3. Cowboys vs. 6. Saints

4. Buccaneers vs. 5. Rams


Among the marquee games on the Week 9 slate is a Sunday Night Football clash between the Titans and Rams. It'll be the first test of whether Tennessee can hang with the league's elite with star running back Derrick Henry sidelined indefinitely because of a foot injury.

The Titans signed 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson to their practice squad with the intention to elevate him to the active roster while Henry is out, but it's unclear whether he'll be ready in time to face L.A.

Elsewhere, the Packers are riding high after a victory over the Cardinals that pushed them atop the NFC standings and now face off with a Chiefs side that hasn't been nearly as dominant this season, as evidenced by a narrow win over the Giants on Monday night.

Every opponent remaining on Kansas City's regular-season schedule sports a record of .500 or better, so the Super Bowl LIV champions must elevate their level of play because there won't be any gimme wins down the stretch.

"Things aren't as smooth right now as maybe they were [in recent years], but we'll get it there," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid told reporters after Monday's win. "We've just got to keep working."

Finally, the Bengals and Browns face off in one of the other key clashes of Week 9. The AFC North title remains up for grabs with all four teams still alive, so the head-to-head battles are likely going to play a crucial role in the division race.

Cincinnati and Cleveland will face off again in the brand-new Week 18 to close out the season as part of the new 17-game schedule. 

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