Every game counts in the NFL, as we like to say, largely because the league uses its schedule to make sure it does. Once again, the playoff field was not completed until the 272nd and final game of the regular season in 2021. The Raiders’ overtime win over the Chargers on Sunday night secured the AFC’s last spots and ushered in the most exciting month on the NFL calendar.
While 2021 was the NFL’s first 17-game season, it was the second year of an expanded 14-team playoff format. The number 1 seeds in each conference – the Titans in the AFC and the Packers in the NFC – will get bye in the first round. The remaining 12 teams will play in the three-day wildcard extravaganza next week: two games on Saturday, three on Sunday and a new final on Monday evening, broadcast by ABC / ESPN. Last season’s top seeds made it to their respective championship games, and the Chiefs made it to Super Bowl LV as well. But the eventual champion was the Buccaneers, who rose as a wildcard team. In other words, it’s time to buckle up and prepare for some unexpected twists and turns.
Our Playoff Primer gives a preview of the wildcard matches and a fuller look at what each team needs to do to make it to the Super Bowl LVI at Los Angeles SoFi next month, along with their updated odds via ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI). The odds are through Caesars Sportsbook.
2. Chiefs vs. 7. Steelers
3. Bills vs. 6. Patriots
4th Bengal vs. 5th Raider
2nd privateer vs. 7th eagle
3. Cowboys vs. 6. 49ers
4th Rams vs. 5th Cardinals