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NFL Playoff Picture if Season Ended Today

October 26, 2021

With the new 17-game NFL schedule in 2021, we are now over one-third of the way through this season. It’s been an interesting season thus far with plenty of surprises. Who would have thought Kansas City and Seattle would each be in last place in their respective divisions after seven games? 

Still, there is plenty of football left to be played. What would it look like though if the season just ended right now? Here’s a look at who would be in and who would be left to break out the golf clubs for the offseason.



What a difference a week makes. Prior to Week 7, one would have said Buffalo and Baltimore were the two best teams in the AFC. Heading into Week 8, the team that would earn the No. 1 seed in the conference is…wait for it…the Cincinnati Bengals! That’s just like everyone predicted, right?

The Bengals proved they were for real with a huge 41-17 win over the Ravens in Baltimore. Cincy now controls the AFC North and with the win last week has the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

The Bills couldn’t hold onto a fourth quarter lead over Tennessee and the Titans pulled the upset 34-31. Then, the Titans hosted Kansas City and served up a 27-3 beat down of the Chiefs to move to 5-2. That would leave Tennessee as the No. 3 seed just behind the Las Vegas Raiders. 

In the wake of the whole Jon Gruden ordeal, the Raiders moved to 5-2 with a win over Philadelphia last Sunday. That gives them the lead in the AFC West and the No. 2 overall seed in the conference. The Raiders are a game ahead of the LA Chargers who had a bye in Week 7. The Chargers would earn a wild card if the season ended today.

The Bills (4-2), who were also off last week, would drop to the No. 4 seed as the winner of the AFC East. Buffalo is grateful the season doesn’t end today. The Bills have the easiest remaining schedule of all potential playoff teams. They start their march to the end of the season with three games against Miami, Jacksonville, and the New York Jets. Combined, those teams have three wins.

Buffalo is the top scoring team in the NFL averaging 34.4 points per game. The Bills also have the best defense in the league. Buffalo allows a league-low 251.8 total yards per game and just 12.8 points. After a season-opening loss to Pittsburgh, the Bills have scored 35 or more points in each of their last four games. 

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Your AFC wild card teams would include the Chargers as mentioned. The Ravens at 5-2 would actually be the highest-seeded wild card at No. 5. The Chargers would come in at No. 6 and Cleveland (4-3) would be the final AFC wild card. 

Left out would be Pittsburgh (3-3), which had Week 7 off, New England (3-4), Indianapolis (3-4), and Kansas City and Denver both of which are 3-4. 



Cardinals would be the number one seedOne of the biggest surprises of the young 2021 NFL season is Arizona. The Cardinals are the lone remaining unbeaten at 7-0 and head coach Kliff Kingbury’s team is fourth in the NFL in scoring. The defense isn’t bad either. Markus Golden (6.0) and Chandler Jones (5.0) are among the NFL’s sack leaders. The Cardinals would have the NFC’s No. 1 seed if the 2021 season ended today.

Dallas, Green Bay, and Tampa Bay – all with just one loss – would earn playoff spots based on winning their respective divisions. The first wild card spot would go to the Los Angeles Rams who are 6-1 with the only loss coming to Arizona. The Saints, who beat Seattle 13-10 in Week 7, would earn a wild card with a 4-2 record and Minnesota, an overtime winner over Carolina two weeks ago, would earn the seventh and final NFC playoff spot.

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Carolina, which dropped its last game to the New York Giants, would be on the outside looking in at 3-4. Teams in the same boat would be Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco. 


Reality Check

While Arizona has been a surprise in the NFC, the Chiefs misfortunes have been surprising in the AFC. The reality of it is this. Kansas City has 10 remaining games. Only two of those opponents have a losing record (NY Giants and Denver) right now. The Chiefs will get Dallas and Green Bay at home, but they are 1-2 at Arrowhead Stadium already. Bottom line, it’s going to be a rough road ahead for Kansas City.

The other team that has a tough go the rest of the season is Seattle, which is currently 2-5 after the loss to New Orleans on Monday night. The Seahawks have made the postseason in nine of the last 11 seasons. Pete Carroll’s team will have to navigate a stretch of games without starting quarterback Russell Wilson. Seattle lost its first two games – 23-20 to Pittsburgh in overtime and 13-10 to the Saints – without Wilson.

Seattle does face Jacksonville and Detroit, two likely wins, but must face Green Bay on the road, the Rams on the road, and has two games against the Cardinals left. Seattle also has to play at New England, which is no easy task.