NFL Playoffs 2021-22: AFC and NFC Predictions for Postseason

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIDecember 13, 2021

NFL Playoffs 2021-22: AFC and NFC Predictions for Postseason

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    There's only one game remaining in Week 14 of the 2021 NFL season. However, it could result in the first playoff berth being clinched, as the Arizona Cardinals are set to host the Los Angeles Rams in an NFC West showdown Monday night.

    If the Cardinals win or tie, they will secure their spot in the postseason.

    Even though nothing is locked in, the NFL playoff picture is taking shape. It becomes clearer which teams are likely going to be heading to the postseason with every passing week. And there are four teams that have been eliminated from contention: the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and New York Jets.

    Here's a look at the NFL standings heading into Monday's Rams-Cardinals game, followed by predictions for how some key battles for playoff berths will unfold over the final four weeks of the regular season.

Current NFL Standings

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    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    AFC East

    New England Patriots (9-4)

    Buffalo Bills (7-6)

    Miami Dolphins (6-7)

    New York Jets (3-10)


    AFC North

    Baltimore Ravens (8-5)

    Cleveland Browns (7-6)

    Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)

    Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1)


    AFC South

    Tennessee Titans (9-4)

    Indianapolis Colts (7-6)

    Houston Texans (2-11)

    Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)


    AFC West

    Kansas City Chiefs (9-4)

    Los Angeles Chargers (8-5)

    Denver Broncos (7-6)

    Las Vegas Raiders (6-7)


    NFC East

    Dallas Cowboys (9-4)

    Washington Football Team (6-7)

    Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

    New York Giants (4-9)


    NFC North

    Green Bay Packers (10-3)

    Minnesota Vikings (6-7)

    Chicago Bears (4-9)

    Detroit Lions (1-11-1)


    NFC South

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3)

    Atlanta Falcons (6-7)

    New Orleans Saints (6-7)

    Carolina Panthers (5-8)


    NFC West

    Arizona Cardinals (10-2)

    Los Angeles Rams (8-4)

    San Francisco 49ers (7-6)

    Seattle Seahawks (5-8)

Browns Will Finish Strong to Win 1st AFC North Title

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Since the NFL realigned in 2002 and the AFC North was formed, the Cleveland Browns have never won the division title. And for much of the 2021 season, it seemed like this wasn't going to be the year that they broke through.

    But things are getting tight in the division race. On Sunday, the Browns notched a 24-22 win over the Baltimore Ravens, whose AFC North lead is now down to one game. Both the Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals are only one game back of Baltimore, and all three teams have some difficult matchups coming up.

    The Ravens have been struggling of late, having dropped back-to-back games, and their remaining opponents are the Green Bay Packers, Bengals, Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers. Cincinnati also has a challenging stretch, with games against the Denver Broncos, Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Browns on the docket.

    Although the Browns' final four-game swing is far from easy (Las Vegas Raiders, Packers, Steelers and Bengals), they seem to have corrected some of their issues during their Week 13 bye. Cleveland's defense is playing well, and it could have more success in shutting down strong offenses moving forward.

    So while there are still many ways the AFC North race could go, the prediction here is that the Browns will get hot, pick up a few more wins and finally capture the division title.

Bills Will Have No Trouble Getting into Playoffs

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    After opening the season with four wins in their first five games, the Buffalo Bills have not fared nearly as well. They have lost five of their past eight games, which includes falling to the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their past two games.

    Although things haven't been going great for the Bills, they should have no trouble getting into the postseason. They are two games back of the Patriots in the AFC East race, so they may not win the division title.

    They are the No. 7 seed as one of five teams that are 7-6. Over the next four weeks, the Bills should separate themselves from that pack. Three of their remaining games are against teams with losing records, as they are set to take on the Carolina Panthers (5-8), Atlanta Falcons (6-7) and New York Jets (3-10). They will also get a chance at revenge against the Pats.

    Josh Allen nearly led the Bills to a comeback win against the Buccaneers on Sunday, but they lost 33-27 in overtime. Despite that, Buffalo will fare better down the final stretch of the regular season and get into the playoffs for the third straight year.

Vikings Will Prevail in Battle for Final NFC Wild-Card Berth

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    Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

    There are five teams that are 6-7 and tied for the No. 7 seed in the NFC: the Washington Football Team, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. And while Washington would own the tiebreaker if the season ended today, a lot of things could happen over the next four weeks in this competitive wild-card battle.

    Of that handful of teams (and the several others that could still factor into the mix), the Vikings may be the most likely to have a late-season surge and secure a postseason berth. They snapped a two-game losing streak by beating the Steelers on Thursday night, which could kick-start their playoff push.

    The Vikings still have two remaining matchups against the Chicago Bears, who are falling out of the postseason picture. They also have another meeting with the Green Bay Packers, whom they beat in Week 11, and a game against the Rams.

    Minnesota's offense is going to be difficult to stop, with running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Justin Jefferson among the top playmakers in the league. The Vikings will win a few offensive shootouts and play well enough on defense to get to the playoffs after missing out last season.