NFL Playoff Picture 2021: AFC, NFC Brackets, Scenarios and Championship Odds

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IJanuary 9, 2021

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) runs against the Denver Broncos during an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

In past years, the No. 2 seed from each conference got a first-round bye in the NFL playoffs, just like the No. 1 seed. They got a week of rest before returning to action to host a Divisional Round matchup. But that's no longer the case.

Because the NFL expanded its postseason field to 14 teams, there are now seven teams from each conference in the playoffs, including three that are wild cards. Another change that brought is that only the top team from each conference gets a first-round bye, rather than the top two.

So instead of getting a week off, the Buffalo Bills (the No. 2 seed in the AFC) and the New Orleans Saints (the No. 2 seed in the NFC) will be in action this weekend for wild-card round matchups. The Bills are hosting the No. 7-seeded Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, while the Saints are hosting the No. 7-seeded Chicago Bears on Sunday.

The only playoff teams that will get a week of rest are the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers, who are the No. 1 seeds in the AFC and NFC, respectively. They'll be waiting to see how the wild-card round, which now features three games on Saturday and three more on Sunday, will unfold.

With the start of the postseason on the horizon, here's a look at the current Super Bowl odds for each team, followed by a breakdown of the playoff bracket and potential scenarios.

       

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Super Bowl Odds

Kansas City Chiefs: +225 (bet $100 to win $225)

Green Bay Packers: +450

Buffalo Bills: +650

New Orleans Saints: +750

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: +1000

Baltimore Ravens: +1100

Seattle Seahawks: +1400

Pittsburgh Steelers: +2000

Los Angeles Rams: +3000

Tennessee Titans: +3000

Indianapolis Colts: +4000

Cleveland Browns: +5000

Chicago Bears: +10000

Washington Football Team: +10000

Via DraftKings Sportsbook

        

AFC Playoff Bracket, Scenarios

First-Round Bye: No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs

No. 7 Indianapolis Colts at No. 2 Buffalo Bills, Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET, CBS

No. 6 Cleveland Browns at No. 3 Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday at 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC

No. 5 Baltimore Ravens at No. 4 Tennessee Titans, Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN

As the No. 1 seed, the Chiefs will welcome the lowest-seeded team remaining to Arrowhead Stadium for a divisional-round matchup next weekend. It's possible that their opponent could be any of the three wild-card teams or the No. 4-seeded Titans, depending on how wild-card weekend unfolds.

If the Colts upset the Bills, then it's guaranteed they would be going to Kansas City, as there's no AFC team seeded lower than them. So if Indianapolis is going to make a playoff run, it will have to knock off the top two teams in the conference, which won't be an easy feat.

On the other side, Buffalo will be guaranteed to host a divisional-round matchup if it beats Indianapolis. So while the Bills didn't get the first-round bye that used to come with the No. 2 seed, they at least know they'll be back at Bills Stadium again next week if they win.

The only way the Steelers can host a divisional-round game is if the Bills lose. If both teams win this weekend, then they're guaranteed to go head-to-head next week in Buffalo.

Like the Colts, the Browns will be on the road again next weekend if they win their wild-card round game. The only way they could play another game at home is if Cleveland and Indianapolis both go on surprise runs and end up facing each other in the AFC Championship Game.

It's possible that the Titans or Ravens could be home in the divisional round, but it would take a win for either team, along with upset victories by both the Browns and Colts. That would guarantee that the Tennessee-Baltimore winner would be the second-highest seed remaining in the AFC field.

Regardless of how Wild Card Weekend goes, there's a strong chance that the AFC side of the bracket is going to go through Kansas City. Last season, the Chiefs were the No. 2 seed, had a first-round bye and then won at home in the divisional round and the AFC Championship Game. This season, they're 14-2 and the favorites to win the Super Bowl after winning the championship last year.

     

NFC Playoff Bracket, Scenarios

First-Round Bye: No. 1 Green Bay Packers

No. 7 Chicago Bears at No. 2 New Orleans Saints, Sunday at 4:40 p.m. ET, CBS

No. 6 Los Angeles Rams at No. 3 Seattle Seahawks, Saturday at 4:40 p.m. ET, Fox

No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 4 Washington Football Team, Saturday at 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC

For the first time since the 2011 season, the Packers are the No. 1 seed in the NFC and will have home-field advantage through the conference championship game, should they advance that far. This weekend, they'll get to rest and wait to see who the lowest-seeded team remaining is, which will be Green Bay's opponent for the divisional round.

The Bears lost to the Packers at home in Week 17, but they still got into the playoffs as the third wild card despite being 8-8. But if Chicago is going to make a deep postseason run, it will have to find ways to win on the road, as it's guaranteed it won't be back home again this season.

Also, if the Bears win, then they'll have to play the Packers for a third time, as they'd be going on the road to face their NFC North rival in the divisional round. Green Bay swept the season series between the two teams, with both victories coming during its current six-game winning streak.

If the Saints beat the Bears, then New Orleans would be back home again for the divisional round the following weekend. And it's quite possible that could be a matchup against Seattle, because if the Saints and Seahawks both win, they'd go head-to-head the following week.

Seattle could host a divisional-round game, though, if it wins this week and New Orleans loses. That would leave the Seahawks as the second-highest seeded team remaining behind only the Packers.

The Rams are guaranteed to be on the road again next weekend if they're able to upset the Seahawks, which could be a difficult task if they're again without Jared Goff (right thumb surgery) and have to start backup quarterback John Wolford.

The Buccaneers could potentially host a divisional-round game, but it would take upsets in all three wild-card round matchups. While Tampa Bay is favored to win this weekend, Los Angeles and Chicago appear less likely to win and advance.

         


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