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What Week 6 means for the 2021 NFL playoff picture

Week 6 features key matchups in both conferences and a critical test for the flailing Kansas City Chiefs.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Though the 2021 NFL season remains young, the playoff picture has already begun to take form. For several teams, Week 6 will provide an early advantage in the race for top seeding. For others, the weekend could well determine whether they reach the playoffs at all.

Week 6’s marquee matchup, the Los Angeles Chargers versus the Baltimore Ravens, features two of the NFL’s most spectacular young signal-callers — Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson — and will position the winner in a strong position for the AFC’s top playoff seed. The game could also help Justin Herbert, who has played as well as any quarterback through five weeks, make an early case for the MVP award. Jackson, of course, placed himself firmly in that discussion during last Monday’s performance against the Indianapolis Colts.

In the NFC North, the current division leaders, the Green Bay Packers, travel south for a showdown with the rival Chicago Bears, who trail by only one game in the standings. While the Packers enter as heavy favorites (-6 points), the Bears can take the inside track for the division crown with a victory on Sunday. The matchup will feature Justin Fields for the first time and could mark the final trip to Soldier Field for Aaron Rodgers as a member of Green Bay.

Meanwhile, the reigning AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs currently stand on the verge of outright panic. The team opened the season with a 2-3 record that includes critical intra-conference losses to the Ravens, Chargers, and Buffalo Bills. The Chiefs have a chance to begin redirecting their season with a win over the similarly 2-3 Washington Football Team on Sunday. However, another loss would push Kansas City to places it hasn’t gone previously in the Patrick Mahomes era.

AFC

1. Los Angeles Chargers, 4-1
2. Baltimore Ravens, 4-1

3. Buffalo Bills, 4-1
4. Tennessee Titans, 3-2
5. Cincinnati Bengals, 3-2
6. Las Vegas Raiders, 3-2
7. Denver Broncos, 3-2

Outside looking in: Cleveland Browns (3-2), Kansas City Chiefs (2-3), New England Patriots (2-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3)

Week 6 schedule

Bengals (3-2) @ Lions (0-5)
Chiefs (2-3) @ Washington (2-3)
Chargers (4-1) @ Ravens (4-1)
Cardinals (5-0) @ Browns (3-2)
Raiders (3-2) @ Broncos (3-2)
Cowboys (4-1) @ Patriots (2-3)
Seahawks (2-3) @ Steelers (2-3)
Bills (4-1) @ Titans (3-2)

NFC

1. Arizona Cardinals, 5-0
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 5-1
3. Dallas Cowboys, 4-1
4. Green Bay Packers, 4-1

5. Los Angeles Rams, 4-1
6. Chicago Bears, 3-2
7. Carolina Panthers, 3-2

Outside looking in: New Orleans Saints (3-2), Washington Football Team (2-3), Minnesota Vikings (2-3), Seattle Seahawks (2-3), San Francisco 49ers (2-3), Atlanta Falcons (2-3)

Week 6 schedule

Packers (4-1) @ Bears (3-2)
Rams (4-1) @ Giants (1-4)
Chiefs (2-3) @ Washington (2-3)
Vikings (2-3) @ Panthers (3-2)
Cardinals (5-0) @ Browns (3-2)
Cowboys (4-1) @ Patriots (2-3)
Seahawks (2-3) @ Steelers (2-3)