(Image credit: David De Cristofaro /USA Today Sports)
Written by: Nicholas Mullick
The 2021 NFL Regular Season has officially concluded. It is now time for the playoffs to start. Now in this article, I will go through the official finalized Playoff Picture for both the AFC and NFC plus give my prediction of what team will play in Super Bowl 56.
1. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans needed to win last week and well they did it. Now they have a much-needed 1st round bye. The Bye week will give a lot of their players time to prepare for their next matchup and ensure that they are all healed up from their injuries. I wish the Titans luck this season and hopefully, they will be able to take the next steps in order to have another deep playoff push. They have the talent to do it, but can they show it on the field?
2. Kansas City Chiefs
It was scary at the beginning of the season. Especially as the Chiefs lost 5 of their first 8 games of the season. But the team woke up from their slump and looked like the team we all thought they would during the preseason. Mahomes looked like Mahomes and the offense ran smoothly. The Defense played a lot better. One concern though is that Tyreek Hill suffered an ankle injury and I doubt that he is healthy entering the playoffs. The Chiefs are in another Super Bowl or Bust scenario in this matchup.
3. Buffalo Bills
It was scary for a little while. When you lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars this season then the confidence level in the team goes down. But the Bills woke up from their slump and took care of business winning the AFC East. But Josh Allen shows why he should have been the first QB taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Bills defense got better excluding CB Tre'davious White suffering a Torn ACL. There are concerns with the Bills to look at but they have the momentum to push for a potential Super Bowl spot.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
See what happens when you are the most consistent and competent team in your division Cincinnati. This is what happens as the team surprised all of us by winning the AFC North division. Joe Burrow is the real deal and I think he is the best QB in this division no question. I also want to shout out how great of a player WR Ja’Marr Chase is. I had my doubts on this team passing on OT Penei Sewell due to the poor o-line destroying Joe Burrow’s leg. The Defense improved as well. The playoffs is another test to see if this was a fluke or the real deal. Maybe the Bengals can finally win a playoff game or still be cursed once again losing in the playoffs.
5. Las Vegas Raiders
I have to say I am very impressed with how the Las Vegas Raiders went through this season. Especially with the Dark Season, they have had, the team deserves it. I also have to give credit to Rich Bisaccia as he has been the best interim coach I have seen since Dan Campbell took over Joe Philbin when he got fired in Week 4 of the season with the Miami Dolphins. People may disagree with me on this but Rich Bisaccia deserves the coach of the year award for this season. Heck I won't be shocked if in the future Rich Bisaccia becomes a permanent head coach in the NFL. It will be interesting to see what they do in the playoffs and honestly, I would love to see a deep playoff push.
6. New England Patriots
As a Jets fan, I hate that once again the New England Patriots are in the playoffs again. However, I have grown to respect the Patriots as they under Belichick ignoring all the cheating scandals he is no question one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. This defense got a lot better especially with the addition Of Matthew Judon. But last season the Patriots lacked a good QB and it looks like for now they have one in Mac Jones who has been a perfect fit in Belichick’s offense. The Patriots are in a slump as they have lost 3 out of their last 4 games. They need to wake up from their slump and defeat the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs. Maybe the Patriots can regain their destiny and potentially win another Super Bowl.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Wait, Pittsburgh actually did not play down to competition as always. It's a miracle. But Honestly, I hate to say this but I got to. I had my doubts about the Steelers and heavily criticized them for the moves they made this season and keeping Mike Tomlin as the head coach after that disgraceful performance against the Cleveland Browns last season. But a man admits when they are wrong. So I will say it, I was wrong about the Steelers this season. I was also wrong about Mike Tomlin because on paper this team should not be a playoff team especially with the incompetent moves made in the offseason. But Tomlin has figured a way out of it. I found out my answer to why Mike Tomlin is still the head coach of this team. This season proved it. I don’t expect them to do much in the playoffs but they have a potential reinforcement as WR JuJu Smith-Schuster could potentially play against the Kansas City Chiefs.
1. Green Bay Packers
I will say the same thing I did with the New Orleans Saints last season when Drew Brees was the quarterback, “This is your last chance’’. This is the final dance to get a Super Bowl championship with Aaron Rodgers as the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. Especially as it looks more likely that the Green Bay Packers will be moving on from Aaron Rodgers at the end of the season. Plus I would not be shocked if the Packers decide to blow it up as well as an option for next season. The Packers do have a real chance at playoffs especially as they bolstered the secondary and are soon getting reinforcements with OL David Bakhtiari returning from his injury. I expect a deep playoff push from the Packers.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If this was a few weeks ago I would have said that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the most complete team in the NFL today. Then the whole WR Antonio Brown meltdown happened and WR Chris Godwin suffered a season-ending injury. Their defense is going to get help with Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David’s return on this defense. For Tampa, though there secondary is not the best and teams should expose it if they want to be the Buccaneers. But with Tom Brady at QB the Buccaneers should be good. Side note: I have a ton of respect for Bruce Arians coaching this season with a Torn Achilles.
3. Dallas Cowboys
With this season for the Cowboys, I never want to hear anyone in the media or a fan say that Dak Prescott is the main issue of this team. He is that talented as look at this team when Dak was out for the season with his brutal injury last season. It's not just Prescott but the offensive improved a lot. The Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliot may be declining but Tony Pollard has emerged as another running back tool. The main improvement is this defense and my goodness do they have an excellent leader/player in LB Micah Parsons. The one problem with the Cowboys is simple Coaching. I can never trust Mike McCarthey as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys as he has made awful time management and play calling decisions. But the Cowboys have an opportunity in the playoffs until McCarthey makes another terrible coaching move.
4. Los Angeles Rams
This is one of your last chances. I am not saying final chance as I think the Rams will be a playoff team but time is ticking for this team to get a Super Bowl victory. Especially with all the additions this team has added including Matthew Stafford and Von Miller. Plus the Rams have a few ring chasers in WR Odell Beckham and S Eric Weddle on this team. The Rams even have reinforcements coming including RB Cam Akers who surprisingly is healthy to play after he Tore his Achilles during training camp. This team has the talent to make a Super Bowl run. Now can they show it on the field?
5. Arizona Cardinals
I can’t trust this team whatsoever. Especially when they have Kliff Kingsbury as their head coach as he is awful in the second half of the season with his coaching. Heck, I saw a stat where his overall coaching record in the first half of the season is 42-20-1 and in the second half of the season, his record is 16-43. Even the injuries have lowered my trust especially with WR DeAndre Hopkins not playing due to his injuries. I am not completely ruling them out especially as Kyler Murray has been great at QB. But the question is can they learn from their mistakes and win in the playoffs?
6. San Francisco 49ers
Out of all the teams in the playoffs this season I have no idea what to think of the 49ers this season. Their offense was up and down this season but they managed to get the job done. This defense is solid excluding the secondary. The coaching was meh and Kyle Shanahan in my opinion would have been on the hot seat if he did not get this team to the playoffs. I just don’t think they are ready to be a deep playoff team this season.
7. Philadelphia Eagles
I will keep saying this about them as the present and future for the Philadelphia Eagles is very bright. In the present, they actually got themselves in the playoffs showing that they are ahead of schedule on their rebuild. I don’t expect a deep run as there are a ton of holes on defense and offense but the fact that they are here is a good sign. Worse for worse the Eagles have 3 first-round picks in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. So the Eagles are in a good spot.
My Super Bowl Prediction
My Superbowl prediction earlier in the season was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Buffalo Bills. I am a man of my word and will be sticking with this matchup as my prediction for who will play in Superbowl 56 in the playoffs. Both of those teams are still alive and are in the playoffs. Yes, the Buccaneers lost Antonio Brown after his meltdown and lost Chris Godwin due to injury but they are still a complete team excluding the weakness at wide receiver. The secondary is a bit of a weakness but they played better than they have lately. The Bills had a bit of a slump but should play really well in the playoffs. Yes, they have holes on offense especially as they don’t have a consistent running back and the interior o-line is a mess. But the Bills have fixed their issues at the end of the season. The one concern on defense is how the Bills would handle CB Tre’Davious White after he tore his ACL but the Bills have done a solid job with his absence. Hopefully, I am right with my Super Bowl pick but this will be a fun playoffs with the new entry of the 7th seed.