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Predicting the 14 Teams to Make the 2021 NFL Playoffs

| November 17, 2021 8:23 am PDT

We are 10 weeks through the 2021 NFL season, and I have no idea what to make of things. Every week, it seems like there’s a new best team in football.

The Kansas City Chiefs have underwhelmed, the Buffalo Bills lost to the 2-7 Jacksonville Jaguars, and the team with the best record in the AFC lost to the New York Jets. It’s been a crazy season up to this point.

I’m going to do my best to predict the 14 playoff teams. Just beware, the unpredictability trend will likely continue through the regular season.

AFC Playoff Teams

Right now, the AFC is deeper with playoff contenders. Let’s see which teams make the cut.

AFC East: Buffalo Bills (-2000)

For the most part, the Buffalo Bills have looked like the best team in football. All six of their wins have come by at least 15 points.

The biggest blemish on their record so far is a 9-6 loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Right now, the Bills are the most balanced team.

  • Offensive Yards Per Game: 401.1 (5th)
  • Offensive Points Per Game: 31.1 (2nd)
  • Defensive Yards Per Game: 274 .1 (1st)
  • Defensive Points Per Game: 15.0 (1st)

I do believe Buffalo is one of the top teams, but it’s fair to question their competition. Their win over the Kansas City Chiefs is the only time they’ve defeated a team over .500.

The schedule toughens up down the stretch, so we’ll find out if they can sustain it.

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens (-500)

The Baltimore Ravens are a tough team to solve. Some weeks, they look like a Super Bowl contender. Others, well, they’re losing to the Miami Dolphins.

Honestly, it seems like you can say the same for every AFC North team. At this point, it’s about who you trust the most.

Baltimore’s pass defense has been terrible, but they’ve shown flashes. Also, Lamar Jackson is playing like an MVP and is a much better passer.

Their only downfall could be their remaining schedule.

  • Cleveland Browns (2X)
  • Green Bay Packers
  • Los Angeles Rams
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (2X)
  • Cincinnati Bengals

I believe the Ravens are the best team in the AFC North. In the end, it’s going to come down to those divisional games.

AFC South: Tennessee Titans (-10000)

In the AFC, this is the most obvious division winner. The Tennessee Titans are 8-2 and have a three-game division lead. On the heels of a six-game win streak, the Titans look like a Super Bowl contender.

What’s been impressive about the win streak is the quality of opponents they’ve beaten.

  • Buffalo Bills
  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Indianapolis Colts
  • Los Angeles Rams
  • New Orleans Saints

I’m concerned about their chances without Derrick Henry, but it might not matter for the regular season. They have the easiest strength of schedule, with their only tough matchup coming in Week 12 against the New England Patriots.

Unless they have a complete collapse, Tennessee should be a lock for a playoff spot.

AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs (-500)

The most competitive division in the NFL is the AFC West. Through 10 weeks, all four teams are within a game of each other.

Coming into the season, everyone had the Kansas City Chiefs as a Super Bowl favorite. They’ve been underwhelming and yet, they still lead the division.

Truthfully, they don’t have bad losses. They lost to the other three AFC division leaders and the Los Angeles Chargers.

Kansas City is starting to hit their stride with three straight wins, and their defense looks much better.

A home matchup with the Dallas Cowboys next week should tell us a lot about where they stand.

Following their bye, Kansas City closes with four division games in the final six weeks.

AFC Wild Card 1: Los Angeles Chargers (-200)

Early in the season, the Los Angeles Chargers looked like one of the best teams in football. They had a pair of victories over the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns.

Since then, they’re 1-3, with their only win coming on a last-second field goal against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Are the Chargers the fifth-best team in the AFC? Maybe, but I think their remaining schedule gives them a boost.

  • Denver Broncos (2X)
  • Houston Texans
  • New York Giants
  • Pittsburgh Steelers

They do have a few tough games with Kansas City, Las Vegas Raiders, and Cincinnati Bengals. However, I feel confident they can win one of two of those games.

As long as they take care of business in their “easy” games, they’ll make the playoffs.

AFC Wild Card 2: New England Patriots (-280)

Don’t look now, but the New England Patriots look like the hottest team in football. Following a 2-4 start, New England has won four straight, with wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and Cleveland Browns.

For years, we watched the Patriots dominate teams with their offense. This season, it’s been all about their defense.

  • Yards Per Game: 328.0 (6th)
  • Points Per Game: 17.7 (2nd)

New England already beat the Los Angeles Chargers, and I think they’re the better team. However, New England still has to play the Buffalo Bills (2X), Tennessee Titans, and Indianapolis Colts.

Right now, the Patriots have all the looks of a playoff team. If things fall their way, they could run down the Bills for the division title.

AFC Wild Card 3: Cleveland Browns (+125)

For me, the final spot came down to the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Las Vegas Raiders, and Indianapolis Colts.

They all have tough schedules, but I feel the Browns are the best team at full strength.

Cleveland is inconsistent, but so are the other three teams. Also, the Browns defense is much better than the other teams.

  • Cleveland Browns: 323.9 Yards Per Game (5th)
  • Las Vegas Raiders: 360.1 Yards Per Game (16th)
  • Cincinnati Bengals: 361.2 Yards Per Game (18th)
  • Indianapolis Colts: 363.6 Yards Per Game (19th)

I don’t trust Baker Mayfield and the Browns passing attack. However, I have faith in Nick Chubb and their ground game.

That should be enough to help them clinch the final playoff spot.

NFC Playoff Teams

The NFC is very top-heavy and doesn’t have a ton of depth. Let’s see which teams can fight their way into the playoffs.

NFC East: Dallas Cowboys (-10000)

And the award for most obvious division winner goes to the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas had a hiccup against the Denver Broncos, but responded by blasting the Atlanta Falcons.

At 7-2, they have a 3.5 game lead in the NFC East. Aside from having the division locked up, the Cowboys look like one of the best teams in the NFC. The biggest reason for that is their offense.

  • Yards Per Game: 433.9 (1st)
  • Passing Yards Per Game: 294.3 (5th)
  • Rushing Yards Per Game: 139.6 (4th)
  • Points Per Game: 31.6 (1st)

How do you defend a team that includes Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and CeeDee Lamb? Not to mention, Mike McCarthy was the midseason Coach of the Year favorite.

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NFC North: Green Bay Packers (-10000)

The Green Bay Packers are another obvious division winner, but they at least have a competitive team in their division.

Since Week 1, the Packers haven’t lost a game in which Aaron Rodgers has started. That includes wins over the Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks.

Rodgers and the Packers offense continues to play well, but their defense has impressed me.

  • Yards Per Game: 309.9 (3rd)
  • Points Per Game: 18.0 (3rd)

If you give Rodgers that good of a defense, they are going to win a lot of games.

Green Bay is tied with the Cardinals with the best record in the NFC. I believe there is a good chance the Packers end the season in that spot.

NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2500)

Up until last week, I would’ve said the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the best team in the league. However, I’m backing off that stance following a loss to the Washington Football Team.

For me, it was about more than one loss. It proves that their defense continues to be an issue. They used to have a defense that no one could run on. But check out what their last three opponents have done.

  • Khalil Herbert: 100 yards
  • Alvin Kamara: 61 yards
  • Antonio Gibson: 64 yards

Tampa Bay has enough firepower on offense to win the NFC South. However, I don’t think they’re as overpowering as we saw a year ago.

NFC West: Los Angeles Rams (-2500)

Maybe a bit of a surprise, but I’m going with the Los Angeles Rams to win the NFC West. The Arizona Cardinals have led the division the entire season and beat the Rams in Week 4.

Overall, I think the Rams are the better team.

Losing Robert Woods is a killer, but adding Odell Beckham Jr. will somewhat ease that pain. They also were big winners at the trade deadline with their acquisition of Von Miller.

The addition of Matthew Stafford has done wonders for Cooper Kupp.

  • 74 receptions
  • 1,019 yards
  • 10 touchdowns

As of this writing, he hasn’t played his Week 10 game. Even so, he leads the league in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He also trails Tyreek Hill by one reception.

The Rams are all in this season.

NFC Wild Card 1: Arizona Cardinals (-10000)

The Arizona Cardinals have been a pleasant surprise this season. Coming into the season, a lot of people had them third or fourth in the NFC West. Instead, they’ve been one of the best teams in football.

Arizona still leads the division and has the tiebreaker over the Los Angeles Rams. As I mentioned before, I believe the Rams are the better team.

Both Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins have missed the last two games with injury. If they aren’t 100 percent down the stretch, I don’t believe the Cardinals can win the NFC West.

The Cardinals have played well enough that it would take a total collapse for them to miss the playoffs. Even if Murray and Hopkins miss more time, the defense can keep them afloat.

NFC Wild Card 2: New Orleans Saints (-150)

A few weeks ago, the New Orleans Saints season took a big hit when Jameis Winston tore his ACL. Around that time, we also found out that Michael Thomas wouldn’t play this season.

Now, Alvin Kamara is dealing with a knee injury.

So why in the world am I picking the Saints to make the playoffs? Well, it comes down to their defense.

  • Yards Per Game: 337.8 (9th)
  • Points Per Game: 19.8 (7th)

Over the years, how many times have we seen a great defense carry an average offense? This could be one of those cases.

They have a few tough games remaining, but we’ve already seen the Saints knock off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers.

NFC Wild Card 3: Minnesota Vikings (+160)

The Minnesota Vikings have to be one of the toughest teams to gauge. They’re 4-5, but could be 7-2 had things gone a little differently. On the other hand, they’d be 2-7 if not for a pair of late comebacks.

Minnesota is coming off an impressive road victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. Maybe that gives them some confidence going into a pivotal Week 11 matchup with the Green Bay Packers.

On paper, the Vikings have a great offense.

  • Kirk Cousins
  • Dalvin Cook
  • Justin Jefferson
  • Adam Thielen

That unit is why I trust the Vikings over a team like the Carolina Panthers.

The Vikings have to play the Packers twice and the Los Angeles Rams. They should be favored in every other game.

Predicting Who Makes the 2021 NFL Playoffs

If the 2021 NFL season has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t predict anything. I talk about strength of schedule and easy opponents, but you can’t take an opponent for granted.

Injuries continue to impact the game’s biggest stars and as much as we don’t want to admit it, we’ll likely see more. We also can’t forget about players missing games with COVID-19.

At the end of the day, these are the 14 teams I believe will make the 2021 NFL playoffs. If you feel comfortable with my selections and/or see any good value, check out the top NFL betting sites.

Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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