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Who’s in the NFL playoffs 2021? Final standings, bracket, matchups for AFC & NFC

Thanks in part to the NFL’s expanded playoff field, Week 17 featured seven postseason spots yet to be clinched. Talk about high drama — the Browns looking for their first playoff berth since 2002, Mitchell Trubisky trying to extend his Chicago tenure, the NFC’s No. 1 seed and lone bye still up for grabs.

Maybe the biggest disappointment of the day was the Dolphins, who just needed a win to secure a playoff berth but instead allowed the Colts to control their own destiny after Miami was blown out by a Bills team without much to play for. In the NFC East, the Giants and Cowboys played a barnburner, and the final standings will come down to Washington’s result against Philadelphia on “Sunday Night Football.”

MORE: NFL playoff bracket, explained

The Ravens and Browns didn’t squander their chances at the playoffs, though. Needing wins to get in, both cruised to victories, with Baltimore winning by so much that it could rest Lamar Jackson for much of the second half against the Bengals. Cleveland was helped by Pittsburgh resting Ben Roethlisberger and other starters, but the Browns weren’t going to complain. 

Below is the full NFL playoff bracket for 2021 (before Week 17 Sunday Night Football), plus a quick look at the wild-card matchups.

NFL playoff bracket 2021

(SN illustration)

The full playoff bracket will be revealed following “Sunday Night Football” between the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles. Above, you can see how the bracket will look, with one team from each conference receiving a bye. Here’s how the matchups currently shape up before Week 17 Sunday Night Football:

AFC

1. Kansas City Chiefs (bye)
2. Buffalo Bills vs. 7. Indianapolis Colts
3. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. 6. Cleveland Browns
4. Tennessee Titans vs. 5. Baltimore Ravens

NFC

1. Green Bay Packers (bye)
2. New Orleans Saints vs. 7. Chicago Bears
3. Seattle Seahawks vs. 6. Los Angeles Rams
4. Washington Football Team/New York Giants vs. 5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Who’s in the NFL playoffs 2021?

In the NFL’s expanded playoff field of 14 teams, seven entered Week 17 having already clinched a playoff spot, while seven postseason places were still up for grabs. 

Below is the NFL playoff field for 2021, updated before Week 17 Sunday Night Football. The standings will continue to be updated through Sunday night. All that’s left to be decided is the NFC East champion between Washington and the Giants. 

AFC standings

Seed Team Record
1. Kansas City Chiefs 14-1
2. Buffalo Bills 13-3
3. Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
4. Tennessee Titans 11-5
5. Baltimore Ravens 11-5
6. Cleveland Browns 11-5
7. Indianapolis Colts 11-5

Eliminated: Miami Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars

NFC standings

Seed Team Record
1. Green Bay Packers 13-3
2. New Orleans Saints 12-4
3. Seattle Seahawks 12-4
4. Washington Football Team 6-9
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-5
6. Los Angeles Rams 10-6
7. Chicago Bears 8-8

In the hunt: Giants (6-10)

Eliminated: Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, San Franciso 49ers, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons

AFC playoff matchups

1. Kansas City Chiefs (first-round bye)

The Chiefs clinched the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win in Week 16. Kansas City chose to rest Patrick Mahomes and some other high-profile starters in Week 17 against the Chargers, giving those players two weeks off from game action before playing the lowest-remaining seed in the divisional round. 

2. Buffalo Bills vs. 7. Indianapolis Colts

Many expected Buffalo to rest starters in Week 17, but Josh Allen played the first half and threw three touchdowns. Two of those were to Isaiah McKenzie, who also had an 84-yard punt return touchdown. The Bills are as hot as any team in football and could be on a collision course to play Kansas City in the AFC championship game. The Colts got in thanks to a Dolphins loss and Indy win. 

3. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. 6. Cleveland Browns

The Steelers rested Ben Roethlisberger and some other starters in Week 17, leading to a loss to Cleveland and staying in the No. 3 spot. That’ll give Pittsburgh a first-round home game with a rested quarterback, which should be enough to make a strong defense and receiving corps the favorites to advance. It’ll be a Week 17 rematch but with Pittsburgh playing its big guns.

4. Tennessee Titans vs. 5. Baltimore Ravens

The Titans clinched the AFC South with a tight win in Week 17 over the Texans. This will be a fun rematch of Tennessee’s divisional round upset of the Ravens in last year’s postseason. After Derrick Henry topped 2,000 yards rushing for the season, the focus will be on Henry vs. Lamar Jackson.  

NFC playoff matchups

1. Green Bay Packers (first-round bye)

The Packers beat the Bears on Sunday afternoon to secure the top seed and a chance to rest for a week before the NFC playoffs go through Lambeau Field.

2. New Orleans Saints vs. 7. Chicago Bears

Despite the Bears losing to the Packers, they made the postseason since the Cardinals lost, too. That sets up a matchup with Drew Brees and the Saints in what’s reportedly expected to be Brees’ final NFL season.

3. Seattle Seahawks vs. 6. Los Angeles Rams

Both 3v6 games feature divisional matchups. The Rams won the November meeting between these teams, while Seattle exacted revenge in September. Look out for the DK Metcalf vs. Jalen Ramsey matchup in this one. 

4. Washington Football Team/New York Giants vs. 5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers beat the Falcons in Week 17 to clinch the No. 5 seed in the NFC. Washington will win the NFC East and be the No. 4 if it wins on Sunday night against the Eagles. Tampa Bay may have had a Phyrric victory, though, as star receiver Mike Evans appeared to suffer a serious left knee injury against Atlanta. 

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