NFL Playoff Bracket 2022: Wild-Card Picture and Divisional-Round Scenarios

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 10, 2022

NFL Playoff Bracket 2022: Wild-Card Picture and Divisional-Round Scenarios

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    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    For 18 weeks, the NFL's 32 teams battled it out to try to make it to the playoffs. And it came down to the final game of the longest regular season in the league's history for the postseason field to be set. In fact, it wasn't decided until the final seconds of overtime.

    The stakes were high for Sunday night's AFC West matchup between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders. The winner of the game would make the playoffs, while the loser would be out. If the rivals tied, then both teams would have postseason berths and end the Pittsburgh Steelers' campaign.

    A tie nearly happened too. However, the Raiders pulled out a 35-32 victory when Daniel Carlson kicked a game-winning 47-yard field goal as time expired in OT. Las Vegas got in, Pittsburgh got in and Los Angeles was left out.

    The Raiders and the Steelers will both be going on the road in the Wild Card Round. They are two of the 14 teams that still have hopes of ending the 2021 season by winning Super Bowl LVI.

    Here's everything you need to know heading into this year's NFL playoffs.

Wild Card Round Picture, Schedule

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    AFC

    No. 7 Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday at 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC

    No. 6 New England Patriots at No. 3 Buffalo Bills, Saturday at 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS

    No. 5 Las Vegas Raiders at No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC

                    

    NFC

    No. 7 Philadelphia Eagles at No. 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, Fox

    No. 6 San Francisco 49ers at No. 3 Dallas Cowboys, Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS

    No. 5 Arizona Cardinals at No. 4 Los Angeles Rams, Monday at 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC

AFC Divisional-Round Scenarios

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    Justin Rex/Associated Press

    When the Tennessee Titans lost running back Derrick Henry after eight games to a foot injury—one that caused him to miss the rest of the regular season—their chances of securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC appeared to take a hit. But Henry's absence didn't stop Tennessee from having success.

    After losing the running back, the Titans went 6-3, which included a 28-25 road win over the Houston Texans in Sunday's regular-season finale. And with that victory, Tennessee secured the top seed in the AFC for the first time since the 2008 season.

    The Titans' divisional-round opponent could be any of the three wild-card teams (the Las Vegas Raiders, New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers) or the Cincinnati Bengals depending on which team is the lowest remaining seed.

    Tennessee hasn't faced the Bengals or Raiders this season, and it lost to both the Patriots and Steelers. The Titans fell 36-13 in New England in Week 12 and went down 19-13 in Pittsburgh in Week 15.

    If the Steelers pull off the upset against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card Round, it's a guarantee that they would move on to face the Titans, as they are the No. 7 seed. If the three AFC division champions in wild-card action all win (the Chiefs, Bengals and Buffalo Bills), then Cincinnati would face Tennessee in the divisional round.

    Kansas City may be the No. 2 seed, but it can guarantee that it will be at home again in the divisional round with a victory over Pittsburgh. But if the Chiefs lose, it's possible that the Bills, Bengals or even the Raiders could host a game in the next round.

NFC Divisional-Round Scenarios

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    Lon Horwedel/Associated Press

    The Green Bay Packers lost 37-30 to the Detroit Lions on Sunday in their regular-season finale. If that had happened earlier in the year, it would have been a huge surprise. But Green Bay had already clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC prior to Week 18, so it opted to not play its starters for the entire game.

    This is the second straight season that the Packers are the top seed in the NFC. However, it didn't lead to a Super Bowl appearance last year, as they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. Tampa Bay is the No. 2 seed this year, so if the two teams meet again, it won't be until that round.

    Green Bay has four potential opponents for the divisional round. If the Philadelphia Eagles upset Tampa Bay, then, as the No. 7 seed, they would be guaranteed to move on to face the Packers.

    Any of the three NFC West teams that reached the postseason could also be Green Bay's first playoff opponent. The Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers are both wild-card teams, while the Los Angeles Rams are the No. 4 seed, meaning they would face the Packers if they win and the Bucs and Dallas Cowboys are also victorious.

    As the No. 2 seed, Tampa Bay can ensure it will be at home again in the divisional round if it beats Philadelphia. So the Buccaneers' playoff run could be much different from the 2020 season, when they won three straight road games en route to winning Super Bowl LV (incidentally at their home field).

    The Cowboys, Rams and Cardinals all have the potential to host games in the divisional round, but the Buccaneers would have to lose for any of those scenarios to happen.

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