NFL Playoff Picture Week 14: Scenarios for AFC and NFC 2021 Postseason Matchups

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 7, 2021

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) looks to throw a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

The New England Patriots officially announced themselves as the team to beat in the AFC on Monday night. 

New England's win over the Buffalo Bills put it in sole possession of first place in the conference ahead of the Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs. 

Monday's win guaranteed the Patriots would remain on top of the AFC until after their Week 14 bye. They have a head-to-head win over Tennessee and a better conference record than all of the division leaders. 

Buffalo's loss put it in a precarious position in the AFC wild-card race. The Bills dropped to seventh place behind the Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals. 

Entering Week 14, nine AFC teams have six or seven victories. The Chargers are the best team in that group.

Over in the NFC, seven teams are within one game of each other in the win column in the fight for the final two wild-card positions. 


AFC Playoff Picture

Division Leaders

1. New England (9-4)

2. Tennessee (8-4)

3. Baltimore (8-4)

4. Kansas City (8-4)

New England has a good chance of remaining on top of the AFC standings when it returns from its Week 14 bye. 

The Patriots get the Bills at home in Week 16 and finish with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins. They return from the bye to face the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15.

Bill Belichick's team could finish 4-0 or 3-1 and land the No. 1 overall seed over the other three division winners. 

New England has two more AFC victories than Tennessee and Baltimore and four more compared to Kansas City. 

All the tiebreakers are in the Patriots' favor. It would take an unusual set of slip-ups for the Patriots not to earn the No. 1 seed. 

The Titans, Ravens and Chiefs all face divisional opponents in Week 14. The Titans have the easiest game against the Jaguars. Baltimore visits Cleveland and Kansas City hosts Las Vegas. 


Wild-Card Race

5. Los Angeles Chargers (7-5)

6. Cincinnati (7-5)

7. Buffalo (7-5)

8. Pittsburgh (6-5-1)

9. Indianapolis (7-6)

10. Las Vegas (6-6)

11. Cleveland (6-6)

12. Denver (6-6)

13. Miami (6-7)

The Los Angeles Chargers left Week 13 as the biggest winner in the AFC wild-card race. 

The Chargers gained a head-to-head win over the Cincinnati Bengals and moved ahead of the Bills by way of their loss to the Patriots. 

Buffalo has two more losses against AFC opponents compared to Los Angeles and Cincinnati, which is why it now sits on the bubble. 

Week 14 could be the time where separation is finally gained in the wild-card race. Las Vegas and Cleveland both face divisional leaders in the AFC, while Buffalo has to visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers can set the bar for results if they beat the Minnesota Vikings on the road on Thursday night. 

The Indianapolis Colts may end up as Week 14's top beneficiary by default. They could move up a spot or two and gain a half-game on some franchises during their bye week.


NFC Playoff Picture

Division Leaders

1. Arizona (10-2)

2. Green Bay (9-3)

3. Tampa Bay (9-3)

4. Dallas (8-4)

The Arizona Cardinals face their biggest test of the season next Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams. 

The NFC West showdown at State Farm Stadium will serve as a litmus test for Arizona's Super Bowl hopes. 

Arizona already owns a head-to-head win over the Rams, and if it gets a second one, it could cruise to the NFC's No. 1 seed. 

Like the Patriots, the Cardinals face an easy finish from Week 15 on. They face the Detroit Lions, Colts, Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks. 

A 3-1 record in those four games should be enough to earn the No. 1 seed, especially if they beat Detroit, Dallas and Seattle. 

Arizona has a head-to-head win over the Green Bay Packers, and they have one fewer conference loss than the Buccaneers. 

Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Dallas will sort out their order over the next month. Dallas only has one loss within the NFC, so if it ties Green Bay, it would leap the Packers. The Bucs have a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys from Week 1. 


Wild-Card Race

5. Los Angeles Rams (8-4)

6. Washington (6-6)

7. San Francisco (6-6)

8. Philadelphia (6-7)

9. Minnesota (5-7)

10. Carolina (5-7)

11. Atlanta (5-7)

12. New Orleans (5-7)

13. New York Giants (4-8)

14. Chicago (4-8)

15. Seattle (4-8)

The Rams are in the clear in the wild-card race no matter what happens against Arizona. 

Los Angeles owns a two-game lead over its closest competition, and that advantage might remain the same after next week regardless of what it does versus the Cardinals. 

The Washington Football Team takes on the Cowboys, the San Francisco 49ers visit Cincinnati, and the Vikings play host to the Steelers. 

All three of those teams could lose their matchups and make the NFC wild-card race more of a mess than it already looks. 

The Philadelphia Eagles feature in a similar role as the Colts in the NFC in Week 14. The bye week could be the best thing for their playoff hopes. 

Philadelphia is a half-game behind San Francisco and Washington, and it can't drop further than ninth because it owns head-to-head wins over the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints. 

The Eagles and Washington play twice in a three-week span, so that could bring some clarity to the wild-card race before Week 18. 

Atlanta or Carolina will hang around in the wild-card race for another week because they play each other at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.

New Orleans should be in the mix entering Week 15 because it visits the New York Jets in Week 14. 

Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans need a good amount of help to reach the wild-card spots, and it may not be long until the three NFC South sides and the three four-win teams are cast off from the playoff hunt.