Embrace the weird, football fans. Week 9 of the NFL season reminded everyone that “any given Sunday” is more than a movie title. And Sunday’s bizarre results were all impactful in terms of the NFL playoff picture for both the NFC and AFC heading into Week 10.
Five of the eight games in the 1 PM window involved matchups of two teams in the playoff hunt. But the most unbelievable outcome? A 9-6 Jaguars win over the Bills. What does the 2021 NFL Playoff picture look like now in the AFC and NFC following the crazy slate of games?
NFL Playoff Picture for Week 10
Sunday didn’t clarify the playoff picture. In fact, it did the opposite. More than half the league has a credible path to the postseason midway through the season.
Current AFC Playoff Picture
1. Tennessee Titans (7-2)
2. Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
3. Los Angeles Chargers (5-3)
4. Buffalo Bills (5-3)
5. Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)
7. New England Patriots (5-4)
Ravens get back on track
The Baltimore Ravens have a clear path to the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Baltimore rallied from a 14-point deficit to stun the Vikings 34-31 in overtime.
It wasn’t pretty. The Ravens gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown and 110 yards on the ground to Dalvin Cook. But they have Lamar Jackson, who went for over 250 through the air and 100 on the ground. Baltimore is now in firm control of the AFC North, and with Titans running back Derrick Henry likely out for the season, has to be the favorite for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
New England Patriots win third straight
Don’t look now, but the New England Patriots are on a roll. Sunday’s win over the Carolina Panthers was their third straight and fourth in six games. And with a Charmin-soft remaining strength of schedule, they should be considered at least even money to make the playoffs for the 21st time in the last 26 seasons.
Also, for the record — we might owe Adam Gase an apology. Sam Darnold was terrible in New York. And he’s terrible in Carolina. Darnold threw 3 more interceptions Sunday, including one that J.C. Jackson returned for a touchdown.
Josh Allen (of the Jaguars) stuns Josh Allen (of the Bills)
How many survivor pools spontaneously combusted Sunday? Nobody outside of Duval saw this result coming: Jacksonville pulled off the upset of the season with a 9-6 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
Congrats to Urban Meyer, who actually has the Jaguars playing much better. But the biggest Jaguars star was Josh Allen, who both sacked and intercepted the Bills quarterback — who just so happens to share his name.
Browns, Mayfield freed without Odell Beckham Jr.
The advanced stats all agreed: Baker Mayfield was a better quarterback without Odell Beckham Jr. than he was with him. And it looks like the Browns are a better team without Beckham, too.
On the last full day with OBJ on their roster, the Browns took apart the Bengals 41-16. Beckham will be formally waived on Monday, so technically, he’s going out a winner — even though he was nowhere near Paul Brown Stadium Sunday.
The AFC West is the juiciest part of the NFL playoff picture
After the results from Sunday, the AFC West has been thrown wide open. The Raiders loss, combined with wins for the Chiefs, Broncos, and Chargers has left all four teams on five wins heading into Week 10.
The only thing separating the division is one extra loss for the Chiefs and Broncos, who have played one extra game through nine weeks. For now, the Chargers sit atop the division. However, this division appears to be one that is going to twist and turn throughout the second half of the year.
Current NFC Playoff Picture
1. Arizona Cardinals (8-1)
2. Green Bay Packers (7-2)
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)
4. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)
5. Los Angeles Rams (7-2)
6. New Orleans Saints (5-3)
7. Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
While one team struggles without their starter, another thrives
The top of the NFC playoff picture had another shake-up in Week 9 of the 2021 NFL season. Both the Cardinals and Packers were without their starters this week, but the results were very different. Colt McCoy stepped in for Kyler Murray and led the Cardinals to a win that would put them back in possession of the No. 1 seed.
Meanwhile, Jordan Love would not fare as well. Despite facing a Chiefs team that was off-color all night, the Packers could not muster any offense to speak of. However, the performance of the Packers’ defense was extremely promising. The Chiefs are one of the better offenses in the NFL, and the Packers kept them quiet throughout a tough road game.
No Von Miller, no problem for Broncos vs. Cowboys
Another addition by subtraction situation? The Broncos traded away their most talented player — Von Miller — and put by far their best performance of the season on tape Sunday.
Their defense was lights out, their run game was unstoppable, and Teddy Bridgewater was coolly efficient in a 30-16 victory over the Cowboys. Dallas’ defense looked lost, and with the game still somewhat in doubt, allowed a 13-play, 85-yard touchdown drive capped by a Bridgewater touchdown run.
The Cowboys will still win the East, and probably comfortably. But with five NFC teams with a legitimate shot at the 1 seed, this loss could come back to bite Dallas in January.
Atlanta Falcons’ season is very much alive
What should we make of the Atlanta Falcons? Left for dead after a 1-3 start, the Falcons have now won four out of five, including a 27-25 thriller against the Saints Sunday.
Atlanta blew a 24-6 lead, but Matt Ryan found Cordarrelle Patterson for 64 yards late in regulation, setting up a Younghoe Koo game-winning field goal to hand the Saints a loss in their first game since Jameis Winston suffered a season-ending knee injury.
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