As we stare down Thanksgiving, it’s time to look at the NFL playoff pictures in both conferences and see what the path to the Super Bowl in Arizona is this year.
The NFL playoff format was expanded in 2021, going from 12 teams to 14 teams. This format change has also made Wild Card Weekend into SUPER Wild Card Weekend. The new Wild Card Weekend format has two games on Saturday, two games on Sunday, and 1 Monday Night Football playoff game.
Last year’s NFL playoff bracket brought us a Super Bowl appearance from a wild-card team in the Cincinnati Bengals, who put together a magical run through the AFC, winning in Nissan Stadium in Nashville and Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on the way to an appearance in the Super Bowl.
Both conferences have steady favorites along with the usual mix of new teams who turned it around from last season. Let’s take a look at the conferences in more depth.
AFC Playoff Picture
Some of the preseason prognostications are playing out as expected in the AFC. Perennial favorite Kansas City Chiefs would currently be the #1 seed and would get a bye until the Divisional Round.
As of right now, the match-ups for Wild Card Weekend would be (2) Dolphins v (7) Patriots, (3) Titans v (6) Bills (a rematch of the Music City Miracle!), and (4) Ravens v (5) New York Jets.
It’s quite likely that the last few spots could shift around over the end of the season. Sitting right outside the playoffs right now are teams like last year’s AFC Super Bowl representative, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Los Angeles Chargers. I’m also going to suspect that some of the AFC East divisional match-ups toward the end of the season will push either the Jets or Patriots out of the playoff picture.
NFC Playoff Picture
The top of the NFC playoff picture is pretty clear – the Philadelphia Eagles are the class of the conference. The Eagles have had a couple of stumbles over the last two weeks, losing at home against Washington, and pulling out a last-minute win in Indianapolis.
As of right now, the match-ups for Wild Card Weekend would be (2) Vikings v (7) 49ers, (3) Seahawks v (6) Cowboys (another rematch!), and (4) Buccaneers v (5) Giants.
The NFC has a lot more competition for the last 2 playoff spots than the AFC. The 49ers’ match-up v the Cardinals tonight has massive divisional and playoff potential. If the Cardinals can win, it’ll make the race for the last playoff spot much tighter. A Cardinals win would also vault the Washington Commanders into the last playoff spot.
It’s shaping up to be an exciting finish to the season. An explanation of this topic could be different in two weeks – that’s the magic of sports.
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