Just 18 teams remain active in the playoff picture entering Week 17 of the regular season. However, with a number of permutations still available, which NFL playoff matchups would be the perfect way to kick off 2021? Let’s take a look and the best wild card round matchups in both the AFC and NFC.
How do the NFL playoff matchups work in 2021?
This season has seen a shift in the way the NFL playoffs work. The first change is the addition of a seventh team to the playoff race. That addition of a seventh team means we will now see six NFL playoff matchups in the wild card round in 2021. With six teams from both the AFC and NFC making up those matchups, it also means that the team earning the second seed does not get a bye in the first round.
What are the best matchups in the AFC in the 2021 wild card round?
Let’s take a look at which potential matchups on the AFC side of the 2021 NFL playoffs are the most exciting. With the Kansas City Chiefs assured of a first-round bye, they are not included here.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Tennessee Titans
These two have played out some engrossing matchups in the past two years, and a part three would be very welcome. Two run-heavy teams with potentially explosive passing games make for plenty of excitement. Additionally, the sub-plot of the Titans being the only team other than the Chiefs to have Lamar Jackson’s number is also intriguing.
On top of that is the potential revenge factor for the Ravens. Beaten in their own stadium in 2019, they would love to return the favor in 2020. Therefore, this matchup becomes one of the most potentially intriguing of the wild card round in the 2021 NFL playoffs.
Cleveland Browns vs. Buffalo Bills
The Bills have a quick-strike offense that can cause havoc. Meanwhile, the Browns defense has struggled against good offenses this season while being strong against bad offenses.
On the other side of the ball, the Browns offense loves to control the clock with the run game. That is an area the Bills defense has struggled mightily. However you look at this matchup, there is plenty to be excited about.
Miami Dolphins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Depending on the style of football you like, this could be your best or worst matchup. If you are a fan of low-scoring defensive tussles, this is the one for you. However, if you like high-scoring affairs, this 2021 NFL playoff matchup will feel like a slog.
These two teams are the lowest-ranked in the AFC playoff picture in terms of yards per play. They both also rank in the bottom three in terms of points scored. The Steelers also have one of the best defenses, while the Dolphins’ defense has improved throughout the year. This could be a very low scoring affair.
Indianapolis Colts against any team
Whichever of the AFC playoff teams the Colts matchup with it has classic playoff matchup written all over it. The Colts have a great defense and a strong offense in all aspects. The Colts against any team is a mouth-watering 2021 NFL playoff matchup.
Which 2021 NFC playoff matchups have the potential to be the most exciting?
Let’s take a look at which matchups in the 2021 NFL playoffs are the most exciting on the NFC side.
Green Bay Packers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Who does not want to see a Brady-Rodgers rematch? Throw in the potentially arctic conditions in Lambeau, and it is hard to find a more mouth-watering matchup. What makes this potential 2021 NFL playoff matchup so enticing is that we know both Brady and Rodgers can handle the elements. Rather than seeing the likes of Jared Goff or Kyler Murray stumble in the cold, let’s see two veterans do battle once again.
New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Rams
This matchup would see two superb defenses go head to head. Both are facing offenses with issues, and it could be a hard-hitting tight, low-scoring affair. How exciting it is will depend on if the Rams offense can get Jared Goff and their offensive weapons healthy. However, even without Goff, the Rams defense should be able to restrict the Saints offense long enough to make this an exciting contest.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals
These two have already played two exciting matchups. However, we were robbed of real excitement in the second game by Kyler Murray’s injury. Therefore, with Murray back at full strength, watching two NFC West foes go head to head could be the best matchup of the entire 2021 NFL playoffs, let alone the wild card round.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Arizona Cardinals
Defensively the Washington Football Team could make for an exciting matchup. However, for the chance of the excitement a 70-plus point game can bring the Cardinals and Cowboys is the best outcome from the NFC East. Both teams have deficiencies on defense, while their offenses can be explosive. These two teams could go toe to toe for 60 minutes in a matchup that could go down to the final drive.