The 2021-22 NFL playoff picture is the most crowded in league history

Inglewood, CA, Sunday, December 12, 2021 - Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws a sidearm pass during a second half drive against the New York Giants at SoFi Stadium. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

So far this season, the NFL has not disappointed. The 2021 season has been one of the most entertaining and fascinating in recent memory. Currently, there are 26 teams either in a playoff spot or within one game. There are also 24 teams with at least six wins, which is the most there has ever been through 14 weeks.

The way this NFL season is shaping out, the playoff picture won’t be clear until week 18. In the NFC, the top of the conference has been the constant. The Cardinals, Packers, Buccaneers, and Cowboys have been at the top of their respective divisions all year.

In the coming weeks, these four teams should clinch each of their divisions, with the Rams having an outside shot at catching Arizona.

However, they’re still playing for something bigger. The new playoff format, introduced last year, allows only one team to receive a first-round bye. The top five teams in the NFC are within two games of the one seed. Home field advantage is much desired, especially in a year with so many capable Super Bowl contenders.

The NFC wildcard race will also come down to the wire come season’s end. There are five teams with a 6-7 record, tied for the seven seed. All five are also one game back of the sixth seed, occupied by the 49ers at 7-6.

The AFC, on the other hand, is even closer across the board. The Patriots, Titans, and Chiefs all have a 9-4 record, tied for the best record in the conference. The Ravens are just a game back at 8-5 but, Lamar Jackson’s ankle injury could set them back with the Browns and Bengals just a game back for the division lead.

Much like the NFC, the AFC wildcard race is ultra-competitive. The sixth seed has a five-way tie, with the Colts, Browns, Bengals, Bills, and Broncos all being 7-6. The fifth-seeded Chargers are just a game above them at 8-5.

With four weeks left in the season, the playoff picture is far from set, and there will be a slew of changes from now to week 18. One thing’s for sure, the 2021-22 NFL season could not be more interesting up to this point and it’ll continue to prove that anything can happen on any given Sunday.

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