The picture of the NFL playoffs is starting to get some clarity as we get into NFL Week 14. The 2021 NFL season has been unpredictable, as fewer teams than normal have jumped in and they have proven to be consistent and dependable winners.
There are currently 12 teams in the AFC with records of .500 or better. That makes projecting the final standings and wild-card race results a disaster.
On the NFC side, the top teams are a little clearer, but there are seven teams with five or six wins battling for the final wild-card spots in the conference. Nothing is set in stone yet, but there are some decisive scenarios in the NFC this week.
Division leaders, No. 1 seeds, and Wild Card entrants are going to change frequently during the last five weeks of the 2021 season. Why? Because potential playoff teams are just grouped so closely that there will be more volatility. That will make the playoff image fun to monitor.
Sporting News makes game picks each week, so they can help you see if your favorite team’s chances of reaching the playoffs will improve or decrease in Week 14. But as we saw last year, the addition of a seventh team from playoffs add intrigue and competition for that final spot.
And with the lack of top-tier teams in the NFL this season, perhaps the No. 7 seed will have a chance to win a playoff game this year, if things go well for him.
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NFL Playoffs Image: AFC Projections
- No. 1 seed: New England Patriots
Remaining games: On Colts, Against Bills, Against Jaguars, On Dolphins
The Patriots are currently a half game ahead of the other three division leaders and took a game and a half lead in the AFC East with their 14-11 win over the Bills on “Monday Night Football” for the week. 14. They will be able to kick back and enjoy their goodbye to Week 14, the last in NFL history, this week as they hope to remain the No. 1 seed without lifting a finger.
- No. 2 seed: Tennessee Titans
Remaining games: Against Jaguars, Against Steelers, Against 49ers, Against Dolphins, Against Texans
The Titans scored just 13 points in each game before their 13th week bye. Both were losses. The Titans play the Jaguars in Week 14 and will look to stay in pursuit of the No. 1 seed with a victory over their humble division rival. But to do that, his offense will have to step up despite missing Derrick Henry and AJ Brown.
- No. 3 seed: Baltimore Ravens
Remaining games: on the Browns, against the Packers, against the Bengals, against the Rams, against the Steelers
The Ravens dropped a tough one in Week 13 against the Steelers as they had a chance to win with a final-second two-point conversion, but Lamar Jackson couldn’t connect with Mark Andrews on a well-designed play. To make matters worse, the Ravens lost cornerback Marlon Humphrey during the season due to a chest injury. The Ravens have scored 19 or fewer points in four straight games and still have three divisional games left as they compete in the AFC North’s career packed with players.
- No. 4 seed: Kansas City Chiefs
Remaining games: Against Raiders, At Chargers, Against Steelers, At Bengals, At Broncos
The Chiefs have won five straight games, but their offense hasn’t been overly impressive yet. They have scored 22 points or less in five of their last six games. Still, their victories have been enough to give them a one-game lead in the AFC West, another division in which each team is .500 or better.
- No. 5 seed: Los Angeles Chargers
Remaining games: Against Giants, Against Chiefs, Against Texans, Against Broncos, Against Raiders
The Chargers are breathing down the Chiefs’ necks and are one game behind the leaders of the AFC West division. They will have to get past the Giants in Week 14, but if they do, they will have a chance to equalize (or overtake) the Chiefs when they meet on “Thursday Night Football” in Week 15.
- No. 6 seed: Cincinnati Bengals
Remaining games: Against 49ers, In Broncos, Against Ravens, Against Chiefs, In Browns
Like the Chargers, the Bengals are breathing down the Ravens’ necks and are one game away from the AFC North career. Unlike the Chargers, Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow is dealing with a dislocated finger on his pitching hand. If that affects their shooting ability, the Bengals may have to find a way to avoid falling into the mosh pit of six- and seven-win teams looking to secure all three AFC wild-card spots.
- No. 7 Seed: Buffalo Bills
Remaining games: On Buccaneers, Against Panthers, On Patriots, Against Falcons, Against Jets
The Bills were once considered the best team in the AFC. They have now alternated wins and losses in their last eight games. The last time they had back-to-back wins was in Weeks 4 and 5. They have a long way to go to secure a playoff berth and have big games ahead of them against the Buccaneers and Patriots.
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Image of the NFL playoffs: NFC projections
- No. 1 seed: Arizona Cardinals
Remaining games: vs. Rams, vs. Lions, vs. Colts, vs. Cowboys, vs. Seahawks
The Cardinals are one of only three NFC teams with scenarios to win the playoffs in Week 14. They are the only ones who can go in without a win, but beating the Rams would go a long way toward securing the NFC West. A win wouldn’t guarantee the Cardinals a top-four seed, but it would give them a three-game lead plus tiebreaker over the Rams with four games to play. So yes. Keep an eye on that.
- No. 2 seed: Green Bay Packers
Remaining games: Against the Bears, against the Ravens, against the Browns, against the Vikings, against the Lions
The Packers also have a fairly straightforward way to clinch a playoff spot. If they win on Sunday and the Vikings lose on Thursday, they win the NFC North. There are other ways the Packers get in, but things are looking good for them. They will focus on battling the Cardinals for the No. 1 seed and a first-round goodbye.
- No. 3 seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Remaining games: Against Bills, Against Saints, Against Panthers, Against Jets, Against Panthers
The Buccaneers can also clinch a playoff spot this week and look well on their way to winning the NFC South title, something that eluded Tom Brady in his first year at Tampa Bay. Perhaps now the team can finally find a way to beat the Saints in the regular season. They play again in week 15.
- No. 4 seed: Dallas Cowboys
Remaining games: In Washington, In Giants, Against Washington, Against Cardinals, In Eagles
The Cowboys have a two-game lead over Washington in the NFC East. They play Washington twice in their next three games. Four of their last five games of the season feature opponents from the NFC East and the other features the Cardinals. This schedule could prove difficult for Dallas as they look to secure a top-four seed.
Washington was handled by Carolina in Week 16, and now the only way Washington makes the playoffs is with a Week 17 win against Jalen Hurts and the Eagles eliminated. If Washington loses, the Cowboys-Giants winner will make the playoffs.
- No. 5 seed: Los Angeles Rams
Remaining games: On Cardinals, Against Seahawks, On Vikings, On Ravens, Against 49ers
Week 14 will tell the Rams a lot about what they will be fighting for for the rest of the season. Win and they are at the center of the NFC West race and just one game behind the Cardinals. Lose and they’ll need to win and see Arizona lose to get a top-four seed. With the Cardinals playing the Lions in Week 15, the Rams can focus on earning top Wild Card spot if they can’t win this week.
- No. 6 Seed: Washington Football Team
Remaining games: vs. Cowboys, at Eagles, at Cowboys, vs. Eagles, in Giants
The good news: Washington would be a wild card team if the season ended today. The team started 2-6 but has a four-game winning streak and is playing great defense. The bad news: Washington has to face five straight opponents from the NFC East to finish the year. That might be routine, but if they win in Week 14, they’ll be just one game away from the Cowboys in the divisional race.
- No. 7 seed: San Francisco 49ers
Remaining games: On Bengals, Against Falcons, On Titans, Against Texans, On Rams
The 49ers may not be able to beat the Seahawks, but they have a fairly straightforward path to the playoffs. They can play the Bengals, while Joe Burrow deals with the aftermath of a dislocated little finger, and then they get some teams that have struggled lately in the Falcons, Titans and Texans. They have a good path to the playoffs, although catching the Cardinals and Rams in the divisional race seems impossible.
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Current image of the NFL playoffs
Here’s how the standings break down in both conferences going into Week 14, along with the other teams still in pursuit of the playoffs.
|1.||New England Patriots||9-4||N / A|
|2.||Tennessee Titans||8-4||N / A|
|3.||Baltimore Ravens||8-4||N / A|
|Four.||Kansas City Chiefs||8-4||N / A|
|5.||Los Angeles Chargers||7-5||N / A|
|6.||Cincinnati Bengals||7-5||N / A|
|7.||Buffalo bills||7-5||N / A|
On the hunt: Steelers (6-5-1), Colts (7-6), Raiders (6-6), Browns (6-6), Broncos (6-6), Dolphins (6-7)
|1.||Arizona Cardinals||10-2||N / A|
|2.||Green Bay Packers||9-3||N / A|
|3.||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||9-3||N / A|
|Four.||Dallas Cowboys||8-4||N / A|
|5.||Los Angeles Rams||8-4||N / A|
|6.||Washington football team||6-6||N / A|
|7.||San Francisco 49ers||6-6||N / A|
On the hunt: Eagles (6-7), Vikings (5-7), Panthers (5-7), Falcons (5-7), Saints (5-7), Giants (4-8), Bears (4-8), Seahawks (4-8)
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.