The 2021 NFL Playoffs get underway this weekend and we get some extra football this time around. The NFL expanded its playoff pool from 12 teams to 14 teams. An extra wild card slot in each conference means only on first round bye on each side. The Chiefs and Packers secured those byes and will look to ride homefield advantage all the way to Super Bowl 55.
The MLB, NBA, and NHL playoffs all offer best-of-five and best-of-seven series, and so with at least three rounds in each, you have to win double digit games to win the whole thing. The Super Bowl champion will win either three or four games depending on if they have a first round bye. It just takes getting hot at the right time. The best team can be that hottest team, but the door is open for all sorts of craziness.
With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at why each of the 14 teams could win Super Bowl 55. The teams are ranked based on their DraftKings Sportsbook Super Bowl odds as of Friday afternoon heading into Wild Card weekend. We’ll update this as teams are eliminated over the next month.
Kansas City Chiefs +225
Divisional round update: The Chiefs beat the Browns 22-17 to advance to the AFC title game, but it came at a cost. Patrick Mahomes suffered a concussion in the third quarter and did not return to the game. Their chances of getting past the Bills and returning to the Super Bowl will depend on how Mahomes progresses through the concussion protocol.
They’re on a roll and will be the most well-rested team in the playoffs when they come out of their first round bye. Patrick Mahomes put together an MVP-caliber season, and even with Aaron Rodgers likely supplanting him for the award, Mahomes is maintaining an incredibly high level of play. Their defense is struggling, but few can hang with that offense.
Green Bay Packers +450
Conference championship update: The Packers came up short against the Bucs, losing 31-26. It wasn’t a pretty game, with both quarterbacks struggling to get going with much consistency. Brady struggled with some bad decisions resulting in three interceptions, while Rodgers got no help from his offensive line en route to five sacks. A questionable field goal decision late and a DPI flag cost the Packers a chance at the Super Bowl.
Divisional round update: The Packers impressed in their first playoff game of the 2021 NFL Playoffs. Aaron Rodgers threw for 296 yards and two scores and ran one in as well. The Packers three-headed monster in the backfield combined for 191 yards on 32 carries. Allen Lazard and Davante Adams combined for 13 receptions, 162 yards, and two touchdowns. The offense was too much for the Rams.
The Packers offense is on a roll and is one of the few that could match the Chiefs score-for-score in a shootout. Their defense is a little better than the Chiefs, and could be the difference in securing a potential upset. It’s also worth noting the Chiefs have the harder path to the Super Bowl given the level of talent in the AFC vs. the NFC. Neither has an easy path, but the Chiefs is more difficult and if they don’t make it to Tampa, the Packers chances increase considerably.
Buffalo Bills +650
Divisional round update: The Bills won an ugly one to advance to the AFC Championship Game. Josh Allen threw for 206 yards, including 106 yards and his lone score to Stefon Diggs. The key was the Bills defense and the howling winds at Bills Stadium. Lamar Jackson threw for 162 yards and added 34 yards on the ground. The offense couldn’t do much and Justin Tucker missed a pair of field goals in an ugly one.
Wild card round update: Allen and Diggs were keys on offense, connecting for 128 yards and a touchdown. It was a wild one for three quarters, but Buffalo pulled away in the fourth quarter and held off a late attempted rally in a 27-24 win.
Josh Allen took a step forward last season in helping guide the Bills to the playoffs. A year later, he’s taken an even bigger step and his Bills finally ended the Patriots run as division champs. Their defense slipped a little from 7th to 12th in efficiency, but their offense shot up from 21st to 5th. If Josh Allen keeps up his recent play and Stefon Diggs is able to overcome the attention defenses will pay him, the Bills could upend the Chiefs and win it all.
New Orleans Saints +750
Divisional round update: The Saints came up short against the Bucs, losing 30-20 after an ugly performance from Drew Brees. The future Hall of Famer threw three interceptions and the Bucs defense turned four turnovers into 21 points. Brees is expected to retire after this season and the Saints’ future grows murky.
Wild card round update: The Saints won a fairly ho-hum affair against Chicago. The Bears defense kept it close in the first half, but two second half touchdowns were enough for the Saints to pull away with a 21-9 win. It was not nearly as close as the score would indicate thanks to a garbage time Bears score.
If the Saints can get past Chicago in the Wild Card round, they will get some time to get their offense back on track. Alvin Kamara is expected to play without having practiced with the team all week due to COVID-19 and Michael Thomas is expected to be activated off injured reserve for Sunday’s game. They cannot win the Super Bowl without those two leading the way on offense. If they get on track in time for the divisional round, the second-ranked New Orleans defense is impressive enough to upset both the Packers and whomever comes out of the AFC.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1000
Conference championship update: The Bucs never trailed and while it got close late, Tampa Bay held on for a 31-26 win. Tom Brady made some big passes in the first half en route to a 21-10 lead. The Bucs expanded the lead to 28-10 in the third quarter, but things turned as Brady struggled. He threw three interceptions in the game, but the defense bailed him out in a big way. The Bucs will become the first team in NFL history to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium.
Divisional round update: Tom Brady wasn’t great on Sunday, but the Bucs defense stepped up big in a 30-20 win over the Saints. Even with a strong defensive performance this coming weekend against the Packers in the NFC title game, a shaky Brady performance would likely cost them a chance at the Super Bowl.
Wild card round update: The Bucs did just enough to win against a game Washington squad. Taylor Heinicke was a bit of a revelation, but he couldn’t quite hang with Tom Brady and the Bucs. Brady could have been more accurate on the night, but his receivers made big plays as he threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns. Leonard Fournette rushed for 93 yards and a score in place of an injured Ronald Jones.
Never count out Touchdown Tom, right? The Bucs were second in overall efficiency and ranked third in both offense and defense. They’re playing some of their best football heading into the playoffs and their advanced metrics are as good as anybody out there. If Brady can avoid some of the mistakes we’ve seen for stretches earlier this year, they’ve got the weapons on both sides of the ball to win it. If they get knocked out short of the Super Bowl, I suspect it is because Tom Brady runs into that late career wall that has shown up on occasion this season.
Baltimore Ravens +1100
Divisional round update: The Ravens could not get much of anything going in the second round. They got down into the red zone with a chance to tie only to see Lamar Jackson throw an interception that was run back 101 yards for a back-breaking score. Jackson suffered a concussion on the next drive and did not return in the loss. He finished the game with 162 passing yards and 34 rushing yards.
Wild card round update: The Ravens were slow out of the gate, trailing the Titans 10-0 and sleepwalking on offense. However, a 48-yard game-tying touchdown run by Lamar Jackson seemed to end the Titans momentum. The Ravens did not run away with this one — winning by a final score of 20-13 — but it felt like the momentum switched with that play and their defense shutting down Derrick Henry.
Lamar Jackson needs to perform his best in the postseason where has struggled, though it’s just a two-game sample size. He could fairly easily put an end to that narrative with a deep run in the playoffs. The Ravens have a unique offense that teams don’t see all that often, which could give them an advantage. Baltimore leads the league in rushing attempts and has quarterback who is dangerous when running the football. If teams are effective in stopping the run, Jackson will need to prove he can deliver passes on crucial downs. He is completing 64.4% of his passes this season, and he needs to do that or better for the Ravens to win it all.
Seattle Seahawks +1400
Wild Card round update: The Seahawks fell behind early and never took a lead against the Rams in a 30-20 loss. Seattle ended up with a solid ground game, but Russell Wilson just did not seem like he could get on track in the passing game. The Rams defense and Cam Akers made life miserable for Seattle.
Seattle became a much better defensive team over the course of the regular season, as the Seahawks were giving up a bunch of points. In the process, they were also scoring a lot more than they have been in recent weeks. Seattle made an identity switch midway through the season and is leaning on healthy running backs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde. If the running game falls short, Russell Wilson will have to outduel the opposing offense in a shootout because the Seattle defense isn’t as good as it has been the last few seasons.
Pittsburgh Steelers +2000
Wild card round update: The Steelers fell apart early and trailed almost the entire game en route to a 48-37 loss. The offense was an absolute disaster in the first half and the Browns ran and threw all over the Steelers vaunted defense. Pittsburgh made it interesting in the third quarter, but it was too little too late.
Could this be the last postseason run in the Ben Roethlisberger era? Maybe not, but the Steelers won’t have too many more opportunities like this as Pittsburgh won the division and is the No. 3 seed. The Steelers limped to the finish line, but they have a defense that can make a huge difference this time of year. Pittsburgh is allowing just 4.9 yards per play this season, which is third across the entire NFL. That can keep the Steelers in games, but it’s up to the offense to match that level of success for a Super Bowl run to be possible.
Los Angeles Rams +3000
Divisional round update: The Rams gave the Packers a fight in the first and third quarters, but they just couldn’t get it done and lost 32-18. Aaron Donald was limited by a rib injury and was rotated out of the game for notable stretches. Jared Goff was not able to make enough big plays and a solid Cam Akers performance wasn’t enough.
Wild card round update: Who needs a consistent starting quarterback or your the best player on your roster in the playoffs, am I right? The Rams started John Wolford due to Jared Goff missing practice time after thumb surgery, only to see Wolford go down in the first quarter and Goff coming on to replace him. Later, Aaron Donald suffered a rib injury and did not return. And yet somehow, the Rams won 30-20 and while it was not a cakewalk, it never like LA was losing control of this game.
Rely on that defense. The Rams are the top-ranked defense in the NFL in terms of yards per play allowed, highlighted by star defensive tackle Aaron Donald. He can disrupt an offense as good as any defensive player in the league. On the offensive side of the ball, they need Jared Goff to be as healthy as possible. He’s dealing with a thumb injury and is listed as questionable for their game against the Seahawks. The Rams cannot make a big run without him playing at a high level.
Tennessee Titans +3000
Wild card round update: The Titans jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but could not further capitalize and lost 20-13. Lamar Jackson’s touchdown run seemed to flip the game, but the Titans inability to punch in a touchdown after an early interception of Jackson ended up being a significant turning point. Derrick Henry was shut down with just 40 rushing yards and Ryan Tannehill managed only 165 passing yards.
Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill. Henry is the obvious one, and they’ll need big performances from him to win it all. However, last year when the Chiefs held him to 69 yards on 3.6 yards per carry, the Titans needed more. Tannehill has taken a step forward in his second season in Nashville. He turned into a top 10 quarterback last year, and has emerged as a near top 5 quarterback in 2020. He had his moments in last year’s playoffs, but will need to take a step forward given how much focus opposing defenses will place on Henry.
Indianapolis Colts +4000
Wild card round update: The Colts took the first lead on a field goal and in the second quarter on a Jonathan Taylor touchdown, but they stumbled much of the second half. Philip Rivers made some big plays and gave them a shot to win, but they couldn’t make it happen in the closing minutes.
This will be a defense and ground game champ in spite of Philip Rivers’ resume. The Colts QB had a solid enough year, but Jonathan Taylor and DeForest Buckner are the two players that will need to shine more than anybody if the Colts are going to pull off the Super Bowl win. The Colts offense improved from 19th to 12th this year, but it was the defensive improvement from 19th to 7th that was the real difference-maker.
Cleveland Browns +5000
Divisional round update: Cleveland did not give up after falling behind the Chiefs 19-3, but they couldn’t complete the comeback in a 22-17 loss. Baker Mayfield made some big plays, but the offense was a little too inconsistent against a shaky Chiefs defense.
Wild card round update: The Browns secured their first playoff win in nearly 30 years, beating the Steelers 48-37. It was as wild as the score indicates, but the Browns led the game for all but 14 seconds. They scored a defensive touchdown on the first play and ran up a 35-7 lead at one point. The Steelers fought back, but couldn’t step the Browns offense late when it mattered most.
If they can overcome missing much of their coaching staff and getting little physical practice in before the Wild Card round due to COVID-19, this could be a good value. The Browns mostly beat up on bad teams, but the combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is plenty good enough to carry them deep into the postseason. They’ll likely need to see a shaky at times defense take a step forward, but the tandem of Chubb and Hunt is as dynamic as any offensive pairing in this playoff pool.
Chicago Bears +10000
Wild card round update: The real Mitchell Trubisky showed up in this one. He threw for 199 yards and a touchdown, but 73 yards and the score came on the final drive after the game was effectively over. The Bears defense put on a good show against the Saints offense, but the offense cost them this game in a 21-9 loss.
The Bears need to do what the franchise has typically done best, and that’s run the football while playing good defense. Chicago has a slightly above average defense but as a team, the Bears rank 21st in the NFL in yards per rush attempt. Those both need to improve, but one of the more underrated storylines of this team is the improvement for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Since December, he is completing 73.9 percent of his passes with seven touchdown and three interceptions. If he continues this, he’s putting Chicago in a position to win on a game-by-game basis. We’ll see if it’s sustainable.
Washington Football Team +10000
Wild card round update: Who knew Taylor Heinicke would give Washington life, even if they came up short in an upset bid. He threw for 306 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 46 yards and a score. The Bucs effectively shut down Antonio Gibson en route to a 31-23 win. Washington fought back in the second half, but their defense could not slow down Tampa quite enough.
It’s going to come down to that defense and rookie running back Antonio Gibson. Alex Smith is a perfectly capable quarterback, but he’s not going to carry anybody to a Super Bowl this year. Gibson was slow out of the gate but has impressed in the back half of the season. Their defense is third in efficiency thanks in large part to a dominant defensive front and if they were to win it all, it would likely involve Chase Young building on his breakout rookie season in a big way.