Patriots

NFL Power Rankings: Where Pats stand in 2021 playoff field

Patriots

The 2021 NFL playoff field is set, and the New England Patriots are on to Buffalo for the AFC Wild Card round.

New England officially has the No. 6 seed in the AFC following its 33-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins. The Bills are the No. 3 seed after beating the New York Jets and earning their second straight AFC East title.

Pats-Dolphins takeaways: Bad start, turnovers once again doom Pats in loss

The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through Nashville as the Tennessee Titans earned the top seed with a win over the Houston Texans. The Green Bay Packers dropped their regular-season finale to the Detroit Lions, but they'll still have a bye to open the playoffs as they already locked up the NFC's No. 1 seed.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, Las Vegas Raiders, and San Francisco 49ers each punched their tickets to the playoffs in Week 18.

Here's how the Patriots stack up against the 13 other Super Bowl contenders heading into the postseason.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1)

Ben Roethlisberger isn't done just yet. The longtime Steelers quarterback, who's expected to call it a career after this season, propelled Pittsburgh to a playoff berth with Sunday's win over the Baltimore Ravens and the Las Vegas' Raiders overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers. The Steelers will head to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round.

13. Philadelphia Eagles (9-8)

The Eagles won six of their last seven games if you don't count a Week 18 loss to the Cowboys in which they played a bunch of their reserves. They'll face an extremely tough task right out the gate as they head to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers.

 

12. Las Vegas Raiders (10-7)

The Raiders took down the Los Angeles Chargers in an overtime thriller to clinch a playoff berth, eliminate L.A., and get the Steelers into the postseason. Pittsburgh would've been eliminated from playoff contention with a tie, and both the Raiders and Chargers would've gotten in. That wild scenario nearly came to fruition, but Vegas was able to squeak out the win with a last-second field goal.

Give credit where it's due. The Raiders persevered through some pretty difficult circumstances to make their way into the playoffs. They'll look to keep their impressive run going next Saturday in Cincinnati.

11. San Francisco 49ers (10-7)

Old friend Jimmy Garoppolo led a thrilling comeback Sunday as the 49ers edged out the Rams in overtime and clinched a postseason spot. They'll have their work cut out for them vs. Dallas in the wild card round, but the Niners are a team with plenty of weapons that can make some noise in the postseason. They finished their season with seven wins in their last nine games.

10. New England Patriots (10-7)

Good thing the Patriots took care of business vs. the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, because the end to their regular season couldn't have been much less inspiring. They dropped three of their final four games to the Indianapolis Colts, Bills, and then the Dolphins in Week 18.

Patriots' 2022 opponents include several intriguing NFC matchups

As team captain Matthew Slater made clear after Sunday's loss, their season will be over if they play like that in the Wild Card round in Buffalo. Rookie QB Mac Jones will have his work cut out for him in his playoff debut, and so will the Pats defense with rookie defensive tackle Christian Barmore injured.

Kickoff for Pats-Bills is set for 8:15 p.m. ET on Saturday.

9. Arizona Cardinals (11-6)

Arizona came crashing back down to earth after its 7-0 start and went 4-6 in its final 10 games. One of those losses came against its first-round opponent, the Los Angeles Rams. Kyler Murray and Co. will look to bounce back from Sunday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks and regain early-season form in the wild card round.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)

Admittedly, we might be underrating the Bengals here. No one was hotter than Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati offense at the end of the regular season. Still, we have to acknowledge inexperience as a factor in the playoffs. This team has what it takes to make a deep run, but it'll have plenty to prove right off the bat when it hosts the Raiders.

7. Dallas Cowboys (12-5)

The Cowboys swept their division rivals this season as they finished off their campaign with a blowout win over the Eagles. Their 6-5 record against non-NFC East opponents comes into focus entering the postseason as they'll get the 49ers in the opening round as the No. 3 seed in the conference.

6. Buffalo Bills (11-6)

Get ready for another Patriots-Bills showdown as the AFC East foes will do battle in the Wild Card round Saturday night in Buffalo. New England took the first game of the season series, but the Bills evened the score with a 33-21 win in Week 16 and went on to win their second straight division title.

 

5. Los Angeles Rams (12-5)

The Rams' season ended unceremoniously as they collapsed in the second half vs. the 49ers and fell in overtime, 27-24. Matthew Stafford will need to cut down on the turnovers for Los Angeles to make a run in the playoffs. The Rams QB finished the year with eight INTs in his last four games. L.A. will host its NFC West rival, the Arizona Cardinals, in the Wild Card round.

4. Tennessee Titans (12-5)

The Titans clinching the AFC's No. 1 seed despite losing star running back Derrick Henry to injury is nothing short of remarkable. With Henry set to return just in time for the playoffs, Tennessee suddenly looks like a scary team with home-field advantage throughout.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)

After a rocky start, the Chiefs wrapped up their season with nine wins in their last 10 games. They'll have the No. 2 seed in the AFC and while they haven't looked quite as dominant as they've been in recent years, it'd be foolish to bet against Patrick Mahomes and this lethal Chiefs offense.

2. Green Bay Packers (13-4)

A loss to the Detroit Lions isn't the ideal way to wrap up an otherwise superb season. Still, MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are poised for a deep playoff run. They'll have a bye as the top seed in the NFC, but they're still the No. 2 team in our rankings with a certain seven-time Super Bowl champion ahead of them.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)

Tom Brady and the defending champion Buccaneers remain the top dogs until proven otherwise, though the absence of star wideouts Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown will hurt. They finished their 2021 season strong with a blowout win over the Carolina Panthers and will look to carry that momentum into the Wild Card round vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.

Brady set a pair of Bucs records in the process during the win over Carolina. The former New England Patriots quarterback passed Jameis Winston (5,109 yards in 2019) for the most passing yards and topped his own record of 40 touchdown passes with a total of 43 on the campaign.