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NFL 2021-2022 NFC Playoff Permutations and Combinations

Written By | Jan 3, 2022
NFL, Playoffs, Football, 2021-2022

2021-2022 NFL Playoffs

LOS ANGELES — The first 17 weeks of the 2021 NFL regular season are in the history books. In past years, this would mean the end of the regular season. Yet for the first time ever, Week 18 is here. Each team now plays 17 regular-season games instead of 16.

This week football jargon not used for 51 weeks is said over and over. We learn who controls their own destiny and who needs help making the playoffs. Some years it seems almost everybody has a shot at the playoffs. This year the NFC playoff picture has very few possibilities. Only one playoff spot remains for two teams. Everything else is a fight for seeding among teams that have already clinched playoff berths.

That’s our assessment of the 2021-2022 NFC playoff permutations and combinations.

A major change began starting last year.

After 30 years of 12 teams making the playoffs, it expanded to 14 teams. Seven teams from each conference go to the postseason. This means each conference has three Wildcard teams instead of two. More importantly, it is no longer the top two seeds that get a first-round bye.

The two-seed plays a Wildcard game. Only the top seed with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs gets the first-round bye.
Five of the eight NFC Week 17 games have playoff implications.

In the NFC, three of the four divisions have already been clinched. Very little is up for grabs. The top seed is locked up. So are two of the three Wildcard spots, where only two teams are fighting for the last spot.

The AFC playoff picture is another matter entirely.

Now for the NFC Playoff picture.

1.) Green Bay Packers (13-3):

The Packers have clinched the NFC North and home field throughout the playoffs. They are the top seed with the first-round bye. They can rest their starters in the regular-season finale.

2.) Los Angeles Rams (12-4):

The Rams right now are the two seeds. They have clinched at least a Wildcard. They lead the NFC West by one game but have not clinched the division. Rans win their regular-season finale or Arizona loses, the Rams lock up the two seed. If both the Rams and Arizona lose and either Tampa Bay or Dallas wins, the Rams fall to the three seed.

Rams and Arizona both lose and Tampa Bay and Dallas both win, the Rams fall to the four seed. Whether the two, three, or four seed, the Rams host a game on Wildcard weekend. If the Rams lose and Arizona wins, the Rams lose the division tie-breaker and fall all the way to the five seed. They would start the playoffs on the road.

3.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4):

The Buccaneers have clinched the NFC South and are currently the three seed. The lowest they can be is the four seed. If they lose next week and Dallas wins, the Buccaneers are the four seed. If the Buccaneers and Rams both lose and Arizona wins, the Buccaneers are the four seed. On the other hand, if the Buccaneers win and the Rams lose, the Buccaneers can move up to the two seed. No matter what, they host a Wildcard game.

4.) Dallas Cowboys (11-5):

The Cowboys clinched the NFC East and are currently the four seed. They cannot finish lower than that. If they win next week and Tampa Bay loses, the Cowboys can move up to the three seed. If the Cowboys win and Tampa Bay, the Rams, and Arizona all lose, the Cowboys can move all the way up to the two seed. No matter what, the Cowboys will host a Wildcard game.

5.) Arizona Cardinals (11-5):

The Cardinals have clinched a playoff spot as a Wildcard. They are currently the five seed and begin the playoffs on the road. If they win next week and the Rams lose, the Cardinals win the tie-breaker and are NFC West champions. They would vault from the five seed all the way to the three seed and host a playoff game on Wildcard weekend. If the Cardinals win and the Rams and Tampa Bay both lose, the Cardinals move up to the two seed.

6.) San Francisco 49ers (9-7):

The 49ers can only make the playoffs as a Wildcard. They control their own destiny and are currently the six seed. If they win, they are in and if they lose, their only hope is to have New Orleans also lose. If  New Orleans wins and the 49ers lose the tie-breaker, they are out.

7.) Philadelphia Eagles (9-7):

The Eagles have clinched a Wildcard and will play on the road. They are currently the seven seed. If they win and San Francisco loses, the Eagles move up to the sixth seed. That is as high as they can go. Given how little a difference this is, the Eagles may choose to rest their starters in their regular-season finale.

8:) New Orleans Saints (8-8):

The Saints are on the outside looking in. They can only make the playoffs as a Wildcard. Their only hope is to win next week and have San Francisco lose. If that happens, the Saints clinch the seven seed. They can be no higher. Any Wildcard game they play would be on the road. If they lose or San Francisco wins, the Saints are out.

Here are the NFC games with playoff implications:

New Orleans Saints (8-8) at Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
Dallas Cowboys (11-5) at at Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
San Francisco 49ers (9-7) at Los Angeles Rams (12-4)
Seattle Seahawks (6-10) at Arizona Cardinals (11-5)
Carolina Panthers (5-11) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)


1.) Packers 13-4 (assuming they rest their starters)

2.) Rams 13-4

3.) Buccaneers 13-4

4.) Cowboys 12-5 (assuming the Eagles rest their starters)

5.) Cardinals 12-5

6.) Eagles 9-8 (assuming they rest their starters)

7.) Saints 9-8

Out: 49ers 9-8 (assuming their starting quarterback is out injured)

Wildcard Round:

7.) Saints at 2.) Rams

6.) Eagles at 3.) Buccaneers

5.) Cardinals at 4.) Cowboys

Divisional Round:

4.) Cowboys at 1.) Packers

3.) Buccaneers at 2.) Rams

NFC Title Game: 2.) Rams at 1.) Packers

The Rams have the most complete team in the NFC. The Buccaneers have the most key injuries of the top teams. When you switch the home field, the Rams would appear to have the advantage. However, the Packers have the home field in a game built for brutal cold weather. The Rams play indoors. Aaron Rodgers is one of the all-time greats.

Go with the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field to be the deciding factor. Last year Tom Brady brought the Buccaneers into Green Bay and won the NFC Title Game. Yet this year the Packers are healthier and the Buccaneers are not. The Packers do not have the defensive firepower to stop the Buccaneers, but the Rams do, especially at home.

The Packers will host the George Halas NFC Championship Trophy and reach the Super Bowl. Bringing home the Vince Lombardi Trophy will be very tough. This year will be a rematch of Super Bowl I. Back then the Packers under Lombardi were clearly the superior team. The Packers still have a better record than Kansas City, but Patrick Mahomes has better weapons.


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Eric Golub

Brooklyn born, Long Island raised and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”