Super Bowl

2021 NFL playoff predictions at midseason mark: Picking 8 division winners and 6 wild card teams

With the 2021 NFL season at its midpoint, our analysts update their preseason predictions for the 2022 playoff field:

  • AFC East
  • AFC North
  • AFC South
  • AFC West
  • AFC Wild Card
  • NFC East
  • NFC North
  • NFC South
  • NFC West
  • NFC Wild Card

Participating analysts: Brian Baldinger, Judy Battista, Jeremy Bergman, Ali Bhanpuri, Tom Blair, Gil Brandt, David Carr, Brooke Cersosimo, Jeffri Chadiha, Gennaro Filice, Cynthia Frelund, Chase Goodbread, Marcas Grant, DeAngelo Hall, Dan Hanzus, Maurice Jones-Drew, Dan Parr, Kevin Patra, Adam Rank, Chad Reuter, Gregg Rosenthal, Marc Ross, Marc Sessler, Nick Shook, Matt Smith, Joe Thomas, Jim Trotter, Lance Zierlein.

NOTE: All betting lines — listed alongside each team — are courtesy of FanDuel Sports Book and are current as of noon ET on Wednesday, Nov. 10.

AFC EAST CHAMPS

(26 votes: Baldinger, Battista, Bergman, Blair, Brandt, Carr, Cersosimo, Chadiha, Filice, Frelund, Goodbread, Grant, Hall, Hanzus, Jones-Drew, Parr, Patra, Rank, Reuter, Rosenthal, Ross, Sessler, Shook, Smith, Thomas, Zierlein)

2. New England Patriots (+440) | 2 votes: Bhanpuri, Trotter

Why Cynthia Frelund chose the Bills: Although the Patriots are keeping this race interesting, the Bills have only one remaining game where they’re forecast to be the underdog in my model (Week 14 at Tampa, and it’s by a very narrow margin). This doesn’t mean they won’t lose from here on out (Buffalo still plays New England twice), but they have better odds than the Pats, who are only more than 5 percent favorites in three of their eight remaining games. While we saw an improbable Bills loss against the Jaguars in Week 9, it’s likely we’ll see the offense and defense work in lock step from here on out. 

Back to top

AFC NORTH CHAMPS

(26 votes: Baldinger, Battista, Bhanpuri, Blair, Brandt, Carr, Cersosimo, Chadiha, Filice, Frelund, Goodbread, Grant, Hall, Hanzus, Jones-Drew, Parr, Patra, Rank, Reuter, Rosenthal, Ross, Sessler, Shook, Smith, Trotter, Zierlein)

2. Cleveland Browns (+420) | 2 votes: Bergman, Thomas

Why Marcas Grant chose the Ravens: The AFC North is filled with flawed teams that can’t get out of their own way. In that case, why not pick the team with the fewest apparent weaknesses?

Back to top

AFC SOUTH CHAMPS

UNANIMOUS PICK

Why Maurice Jones-Drew chose the Titans: The Titans are comfortably in the AFC South driver’s seat having already swept the Colts this season. More than that, they have turned into a balanced juggernaut of late, disposing of every team in their way — with and without Derrick Henry — on the way to the AFC’s No. 1 seed.

READ  Super Bowl LIV was 10th-most watched in history

Back to top

AFC WEST CHAMPS

(13 votes: Battista, Bhanpuri, Blair, Brandt, Cersosimo, Grant, Parr, Patra, Reuter, Sessler, Shook, Thomas, Trotter)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (+175) | 10 votes: Baldinger, Bergman, Filice, Frelund, Goodbread, hall, Hanzus, Rosenthal, Ross, Zierlein

3. Las Vegas Raiders (+450) | 5 votes: Carr, Chadiha, Jones-Drew, Rank, Smith

Why Kevin Patra chose the Chargers: In a hotly contested division, where little separates the top from the bottom, Justin Herbert is the difference-maker to keep the Chargers ahead down the stretch. Brandon Staley’s confidence in the offense to generate big fourth-down plays to cover an up-and-down defense, and trust in Herbert, give L.A. an edge over the rest of the division.  

Back to top

AFC WILD CARD TEAMS

We asked voters to pick the three wild card teams from each conference, ranking their picks from 1 to 3 based on where they project the squads to land in the pecking order. Here are the vote totals for the AFC:

Table inside Article

Rank Team WC Team 1 (3 pts) WC Team 2 (2 pts) WC Team 3 (1 pt)
1. Patriots (37) 6 VOTES: Battista, Brandt, Grant, Parr, Sessler, Shook 6 VOTES: Blair, Cersosimo, Filice, Hall, Patra, Reuter 7 VOTES: Bergman, Carr, Frelund, Hanzus, Rank, Rosenthal, Zierlein
2. Chargers (28) 4 VOTES: Chadiha, Frelund, Hall, Rank 7 VOTES: Baldinger, Bergman, Goodbread, Jones-Drew, Rosenthal, Ross, Smith 2 VOTES: Filice, Trotter
3. Browns (27) 4 VOTES: Cersosimo, Filice, Rosenthal, Ross 5 VOTES: Frelund, Hanzus, Parr, Rank, Shook 5 VOTES: Bhanpuri, Blair, Chadiha, Hall, Sessler
4. Bengals (22) 4 VOTES: Baldinger, Carr, Goodbread, Jones-Drew 4 VOTES: Battista, Brandt, Chadiha, Zierlein 2 VOTES: Ross, Smith
5. Chiefs (17) 2 VOTES: Reuter, Smith 3 VOTES: Bhanpuri, Carr, Sessler 5 VOTES: Battista, Cersosimo, Jones-Drew, Parr, Patra
6. Raiders (15) 2 VOTES: Blair, Zierlein 3 VOTES: Grant, Thomas, Trotter 3 VOTES: Brandt, Goodbread, Shook
7. Steelers (7) 2 VOTES: Hanzus, Patra NO VOTES 1 VOTE: Baldinger
T-8. Bills (6) 2 VOTES: Bhanpuri, Trotter NO VOTES NO VOTES
T-8. Ravens (6) 2 VOTES: Bergman, Thomas NO VOTES NO VOTES
10. Colts (3) NO VOTES NO VOTES 3 VOTES: Grant, Reuter, Thomas

Back to top

NFC EAST CHAMPS

UNANIMOUS PICK

Why Chase Goodbread chose the Cowboys: Despite the Week 9 hiccup against the Denver Broncos, there’s no reason to think this Cowboys offense won’t continue to roll. Even if it doesn’t, no one else in the NFC East looks poised to challenge them. Of the three teams that appear to be running away with their divisions — the Packers, Titans and Cowboys — Dallas is the most likely to follow through.

Back to top

NFC NORTH CHAMPS

UNANIMOUS PICK

Why Chad Reuter chose the Packers: Green Bay is coming off a tough loss and there’s a “small possibility” the team may be without Aaron Rodgers for one more week. Nevertheless, the Packers should hold on to their significant division lead over the middling Bears and Vikings.

READ  Super Bowl LVI midseason predictions: Rams vs. Bills in title game?

Back to top

NFC SOUTH CHAMPS

(27 votes: Baldinger, Battista, Bergman, Bhanpuri, Blair, Brandt, Carr, Cersosimo, Chadiha, Filice, Frelund, Goodbread, Grant, Hall, Hanzus, Jones-Drew, Parr, Patra, Rank, Reuter, Rosenthal, Ross, Sessler, Shook, Smith, Trotter, Zierlein)

2.  New Orleans Saints (+500) | 1 vote: Thomas

Why Adam Rank chose the Buccaneers: The Bucs are in a similar spot as they were through eight games last season, standing at 6-2 and near the top of the conference, but they seem even better positioned for success this year. As NFC contenders crashed and burned around them in Week 9, Tampa emerged from the rubble unscathed. Like Vivica Fox in Independence Day, who avoided alien destruction by hiding in a janitor’s closet underneath the 105 freeway in Los Angeles. 

Back to top

NFC WEST CHAMPS

(15 votes: Battista, Bhanpuri, Blair, Carr, Cersosimo, Chadiha, Frelund, Hanzus, Parr, Patra, Ross, Sessler, Shook, Thomas, Trotter)

2. Los Angeles Rams (+195) | 13 votes: Baldinger, Bergman, Brandt, Filice, Goodbread, Grant, Hall, Jones-Drew, Rank, Reuter, Rosenthal, Smith, Zierlein

Why Marc Ross chose the Cardinals: This is not the same old Cardinals, who this year have shown toughness to win in a variety of ways and under less than ideal circumstances. With Kyler Murray playing at an MVP level when healthy, and Vance Joseph transforming the defense into one of the league’s best, the Cards are poised to win the division and possibly much more.

Back to top

NFC WILD CARD TEAMS

We asked voters to pick the three wild card teams from each conference, ranking their picks from 1 to 3 based on where they project the squads to land in the pecking order. Here are the vote totals for the NFC:

Table inside Article

Rank Team WC Team 1 (3 pts) WC Team 2 (2 pts) WC Team 3 (1 pt)
1 Saints (53) 1 VOTE: Reuter 24 VOTES: Baldinger, Battista, Bhanpuri, Blair, Brandt, Carr, Cersosimo, Chadiha, Filice, Frelund, Goodbread, Grant, Hanzus, Jones-Drew, Parr, Patra, Rank, Rosenthal, Ross, Sessler, Shook, Smith, Trotter, Zierlein 2 VOTES: Bergman, Hall
2 Rams (45) 15 VOTES: Battista, Bhanpuri, Blair, Carr, Cersosimo, Chadiha, Frelund, Hanzus, Parr, Patra, Ross, Sessler, Shook, Thomas, Trotter NO VOTES NO VOTES
3 Cardinals (38) 12 VOTES: Baldinger, Bergman, Brandt, Filice, Goodbread, Grant, Hall, Jones-Drew, Rank, Rosenthal, Smith, Zierlein 1 VOTE: Reuter NO VOTES
4 Seahawks (14) NO VOTES 2 VOTES: Bergman, Hall 10 VOTES: Battista, Bhanpuri, Cersosimo, Filice, Frelund, Hanzus, Patra, Reuter, Ross, Trotter
5. Vikings (6) NO VOTES NO VOTES 6 VOTES: Baldinger, Blair, Jones-Drew, Rosenthal, Sessler, Shook
6. 49ers (5) NO VOTES NO VOTES 5 VOTES: Brandt, Chadiha, Parr, Smith, Zierlein
7. Falcons (4) NO VOTES NO VOTES 4 VOTES: Goodbread, Grant, Rank, Thomas
8. Buccaneers (2) NO VOTES 1 VOTE: Thomas NO VOTES
9. Panthers (1) NO VOTES NO VOTES 1 VOTE: Carr

Back to top

Visit ResponsiblePlay.org to learn more about responsible betting.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button