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2021 NFL Playoff Race: Six Remaining Games That Will Have Biggest Playoff Impact

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Ready or not, the 2021 NFL regular season is about to step up a gear. The NFL’s first 14 weeks have set the stage for what should be an exciting final five weeks before the playoffs start.

While last year’s Super Bowl attendees – the Buccaneers and Chiefs – have positioned themselves to defend their conference titles, nothing else is set in stone as the regular season reaches its final. quarter. Only four teams – the Lions, Texans, Jaguars and Jets – have been eliminated from the playoffs. Five teams are neck and neck in the race for the NFC’s final playoff spot, while the 49ers are just one step ahead of the pack as the current sixth seed. Things are even more open on the AFC side, as 13 teams have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs.

The NFL’s remaining regular season schedule includes a plethora of games that will impact the playoffs. But there are several games that will significantly shape how the playoff pitch rages in five weeks. Let’s take a look at the six games that will have the biggest impact in the playoffs.

What is at stake: New England are currently seeded in the AFC playoffs after winning seven straight games. A victory on Saturday night would increase the Patriots’ chances of winning the only AFC playoff pass with three weeks left in the regular season. In addition to rookie quarterback Mac Jones ‘regular play, the Patriots’ success was led by a defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL.

As New England focus on a division title and eventual playoff pass, the Colts are trying to stay inside the AFC’s playoff image. The Colts, who are currently the AFC’s sixth seed, own the NFL’s third attack and ninth defense. Indianapolis received an MVP-caliber season from running back Jonathan Taylor, who has totaled 1,684 yards and 18 touchdowns so far.

Key match: The Colts will need to take advantage of their scoring opportunities, which won’t be easy against a Patriots defense that is currently second in the NFL for red zone efficiency. The Colts offense, which is 22nd in the NFL for red zone effectiveness, will need to find ways to capitalize on their scoring opportunities in order to keep pace with a Patriots offense that scored at least 24 points. in eight of their previous nine games.

What is at stake: After back-to-back losses before their week off, the Titans clinched a 20-0 win over the Jaguars last Sunday. Tennessee would claim their second straight AFC South Division title with a victory over the Steelers and a loss for the Colts to the Patriots. A victory for the Titans and a victory for the Colts would propel Tennessee to first place in the conference.

Sunday’s game is essentially a must-see win for the Steelers, who are likely to show up in the final three weeks of the season if they fail against the Titans. Given that the Steelers’ next game is a road clash with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, Pittsburgh’s playoff prospects would take a huge hit if the Steelers fail in Week 15.

Key match: The Steelers’ rushed attacking agent, the Titan’s strong defense, will be huge. If the Pittsburgh offensive line is unable to create enough holes for Najee Harris and company, the Steelers will once again have to rely on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will likely play the final games of his Hall of Famer career. .

Patriots Bills: Week 16

What is at stake: Buffalo’s hopes for a second straight AFC East title could come down to this game. If the Bills (which host the 5-8 Panthers this Sunday) can beat the Patriots in New England, they’ll split their season streak, after the Patriots threw just three assists in their Week 13 win at Buffalo.

The Bills, who face Carolina this week, will end the season with home games against Atlanta (6-7) and the Jets (3-10), so a win over the Pats would certainly put a 4-0 on the line. a second loss to New England would eliminate any chance of the Bills hosting a playoff game. Conversely, a Buffalo victory could change the balance of power in the AFC East.

Key match: It’s safe to say Mac Jones will need to throw more than he did the first time these two teams played. How Jones plays against the talented Buffalo secondary – led by safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde – will likely determine the outcome.

What is at stake: This list wouldn’t be complete without a game between two teams in the NFL’s tightest division race. Despite back-to-back losses, the Ravens remain in control to win their third AFC North Division title since 2018. But Baltimore has two tough games against two of the NFC’s top teams: the Packers and the Rams. Baltimore also ends the regular season against the Steelers in a game that almost always comes down to the wire. A win over the Bengals would see the Ravens win the division and secure one of the top four seeds in the playoffs.

This game will be imperative for the Bengals, whose last four games are all against teams with record wins. A win over Baltimore would give Cincinnati a 4-1 record in the Division, which would be critical in the event that the Division title comes down to a tiebreaker. Cincinnati will have a chance to go 5-1 against division enemies if they can beat the Browns in Week 18, another game that may have playoff implications as well.

Key match: Lamar Jackson has been more Clark Kent than Superman in his matches against Division enemies this season. That includes his first game against the Bengals, as the former league MVP has been sacked five times while completing less than 50% of his passes. One bright spot for the Ravens’ offense is the recent emergence of rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who recorded his first 100-yard game in the two-point loss to the Browns last week.

What is at stake: Trailblazers to win their respective divisions, the Cowboys and Cardinals are also in contention for the NFC playoff seed. As it stands, Arizona (10-3) and Dallas (9-4) are the third and fourth seeds in the standings. The Cardinals’ next two games are in Detroit (1-11-1) and at home against Indianapolis (7-6). The Cowboys have two Internal Division clashes on the schedule, against the Giants (4-9) in New Jersey this Sunday before hosting Washington (6-7) in Week 16.

Key match: Fans will be treated to what should be a very competitive clash between Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs and the rest of the Cowboys defense against Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and the rest of the Cardinals offense. Along with Murray and Hopkins, the Cowboys will need to keep an eye out for running back James Conner, who has 16 touchdowns in the first 13 games of the season.

What is at stake: The Rams and 49ers are currently the fifth and sixth seeded teams in the NFC, respectively. Los Angeles, which split their streak of seasons with Arizona due to Monday night’s 30-23 win, are just one game away from the Cardinals in the NFC West Division standings. The Rams also remain in contention to capture the NFC seed. The 49ers, who passed 0.500 last Sunday with an overtime victory at Cincinnati, are looking to advance to the playoffs as a wild-card team.

Key match: Can the Rams ‘defense slow down the 49ers’ offense – especially Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel – this time around? The 49ers offense met little resistance against the talented Rams defense in Week 10, as San Francisco ran 156 yards while controlling the ball for more than 39 minutes.