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Updated 2022 NFL Playoff bracket entering Conference Championships

The 2021-22 NFL regular season came to an end after Week 18 finished on Sunday, January 9th. The NFL playoffs started January 15 and Wildcard Weekend ran through January 17. The NFL Conference Championships will be played Sunday, January 30.

When Week 18 went into the books, the NFL playoff picture was complete. The image above displays the current NFL Playoff bracket and will be updated after each round.

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The 49ers pulled off the upset in their matchup with the Packers to earn a spot in the NFC Championship. The Rams continued the Divisional Round upsets with their 30-27 win over the Buccaneers. San Francisco will travel to LA next week, where the opening NFC Championship line is listed at Rams -3.5.

The Bengals upset the Titans in the first game of the NFL Divisional Round, advancing to the AFC Championship. Cincinnati will head to Kansas City next weekend with a trip to the 2022 Super Bowl on the line. The Chiefs downed the Bills on Sunday night to become the only favorite to win in the NFL Divisional Round.

Both 1-seeds fall in the NFL Divisional Round, leaving us with a 2022 NFL Playoff bracket that next to no one foresaw.

NFL Conference Championship Matchups & Schedule

Date (Time) AFC Championship Matchup
Sunday, Jan. 30 (3:00pm ET) (4) Cincinnati Bengals vs (2) Kansas City Chiefs
Date (Time) NFC Championship Matchup
Sunday, Jan. 30 (6:30pm ET) (6) San Francisco 49ers vs (4) Los Angeles Rams

The NFL Conference Championships are set after an absolutely insane NFL Divisional Round, which saw three road teams win on walk-off field goals and the Chiefs beat the Bills in overtime.

The AFC Championship will be played in Kansas City on Sunday, January 30, as the Chiefs host the Bengals with kickoff set for 3:00pm ET. Cincinnati beat the Chiefs in Week 17 to clinch the AFC North division title, so Patrick Mahomes and company will have revenge on their minds.

The NFC Championship will see the San Francisco 49ers take on the Los Angeles Rams at 6:00pm ET on Sunday, January 30. The 49ers beat the Rams in Week 18 to clinch a playoff spot, and also beat them earlier in the season as well. Sean McVay is actually 0-6 against Kyle Shanahan as a head coach.

We broke down the NFL playoff picture entering the final week of the regular season and laid out all the Week 18 clinching scenarios below. The only thing we don’t have here are NFL playoff odds. (You can also find the opening lines for the NFL wildcard matchups on our NFL odds page.) You can jump to a specific section using the links below:

NFL Playoff Picture | Wildcard Matchups | Clinched Playoffs | Clinching Scenarios | Remaining Schedules | Eliminated | NFL Playoff FAQs

NFL Playoff Picture

AFC Seed Team NFC Seed Team
1 Tennessee Titans 1 Green Bay Packers
2 Kansas City Chiefs 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3 Buffalo Bills 3 Dallas Cowboys
4 Cincinnati Bengals 4 Los Angeles Rams
5 Las Vegas Raiders 5 Arizona Cardinals
6 New England Patriots 6 San Francisco 49ers
7 Pittsburgh Steelers 7 Philadelphia Eagles

Entering Sunday of Week 18, the Chiefs and Packers held the top seeds in their respective conferences. Green Bay has clinched a first-round bye in the NFC, but the Chiefs needed a Titans loss to hold onto the first-round bye in the AFC. They did not get that, as Tennessee narrowly beat the Texans.

The Bengals’ loss to the Browns drops them to the 4-seed in the AFC, opening the door for Buffalo to take the 3-seed.

In one of the biggest upsets of the season, the Colts loss to the Jaguars bumps them out of the playoff picture. This allowed the Steelers to move in and the Raiders win over the Chargers locked up their playoff spot.

Current Wildcard Matchups

AFC Wildcard Matchups
(7) Pittsburgh Steelers vs (2) Kansas City Chiefs
(6) New England Patriots vs (3) Buffalo Bills
(5) Las Vegas Raiders vs (4) Cincinnati Bengals
NFC Wildcard Matchups
(7) Philadelphia Eagles vs (2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(6) San Francisco 49ers vs (3) Dallas Cowboys
(5) Arizona Cardinals vs (4) Los Angeles Rams

If the regular season were to end today, the wildcard matchups would be as seen above. The AFC wildcard matchup that will see the most attention is the rubber match between the Patriots and Bills, who split their two games this season.

The most intriguing wildcard matchup in the NFC might be the 49ers vs Cowboys, but the Cardinals vs Rams will also see two very good teams do battle.

Teams Who Have Clinched a Playoff Spot

AFC Teams Who Have Clinched a Playoff Spot
Kansas City Chiefs
Tennessee Titans
Cincinnati Bengals
Buffalo Bills
New England Patriots
Las Vegas Raiders
Pittsburgh Steelers
NFC Teams Who Have Clinched a Playoff Spot
Green Bay Packers
Dallas Cowboys
Los Angeles Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Arizona Cardinals
Philadelphia Eagles
San Francisco 49ers

Only one team in the AFC had clinched a playoff spot ahead of Week 17: the Kansas City Chiefs. They clinched a playoff berth in Week 16 with a win over the Steelers. Four more teams in the AFC clinched playoff spots with wins in Week 17.

Five teams from the NFC had locked up their spot entering Week 17: the Packers, Cowboys, Rams, Buccaneers, and Cardinals. The Eagles joined the group to make it six now thanks to a win over Washington and a Minnesota loss.

Three of the four NFC divisions have been clinched, leaving the NFC West as the only division without a determined winner yet. Both teams in the hunt (Arizona and LA) have clinched playoff spots, though.

Week 18 Playoff Clinching Scenarios

AFC Team How They Clinch a Playoff Berth in Week 18
Indianapolis Colts A win over the Jaguars OR Chargers, Steelers, and Patriots losses OR a Chargers loss and Ravens-Steelers tie
Los Angeles Chargers A win over the Raiders OR a tie vs Raiders and Colts loss
Las Vegas Raiders A win over the Chargers OR Colts and Steelers losses OR a tie vs Chargers and Colts loss
Baltimore Ravens (1) A win over the Steelers AND (2) a Browns loss to Steelers/Bengals AND (3) a Colts loss AND (4) a Dolphins loss AND (5) a Chargers loss
Pittsburgh Steelers (1) a win over the Ravens AND (2) a Colts loss, AND (3) no tie in Raiders-Chargers
NFC Team How They Clinch a Playoff Berth in Week 18
San Francisco 49ers A win over the Rams OR a Saints loss
New Orleans Saints A win over the Falcons AND a 49ers loss

A few lucky teams have easy clinching scenarios heading into Week 18: win and you’re in! A few others are in positions where they need some, or a lot, of help.

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I did not include the Titans, who can clinch the top seed in the AFC with a win over the Texans in Week 18, Bills, who can clinch the AFC East with a win over the Jets, Rams, who can clinch the NFC West with a win over the 49ers, in the table above since they have already clinched playoff spots.

In spite of the Colts losing to the Jaguars in Week 18, their playoff hopes are not over. They could get in still with either: (1) the Raiders beating the Chargers + the Ravens beating the Steelers + the Dolphins beating the Patriots; or (2) the Raiders beating the Chargers + a tie in Steelers vs Ravens. The Colts have now been eliminated from the playoffs with the Steelers beating the Ravens in overtime.

Remaining Schedules for Teams in Playoff Hunt

AFC Team Remaining Opponents
Indianapolis Colts at Jaguars
Baltimore Ravens vs Steelers
Los Angeles Chargers at Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders vs Chargers
Pittsburgh Steelers at Ravens
NFC Team Remaining Schedule
San Francisco 49ers at Rams
New Orleans Saints at Falcons

Though the Colts blew a chance at clinching a playoff berth in Week 17, all they need in Week 18 is a win over the lowly Jaguars to get in. They are the AFC team with the easiest game in Week 18.

In the NFC, the 49ers have to go through the Rams in Week 18, who also have the NFC West title to play for. The Saints have a light game against the Falcons to close out their season.

Teams Eliminated from Playoff Contention

Teams Eliminated from Playoffs
Jacksonville Jaguars
Detroit Lions
Houston Texans
New York Giants
New York Jets
Seattle Seahawks
Chicago Bears
Carolina Panthers
Miami Dolphins
Cleveland Browns
Denver Broncos
Washington Football Team
Atlanta Falcons
Minnesota Vikings
Indianapolis Colts
Baltimore Ravens
New Orleans Saints
Las Angeles Chargers

The Texans were the first team to be eliminated from the playoffs, seeing their name on this list after Week 13. The Jaguars and Jets joined them here after losses in Week 14.

The Lions were the first NFC team to be eliminated. Detroit’s Week 14 loss to the Saints mathematically eliminated them from postseason contention. The Bears joined them in Week 15, and all of the Giants, Seahawks, and Panthers found themselves eliminated after Week 16.

Week 17 saw a bunch of teams eliminated from the playoffs. The Dolphins are the most notable, who went from sitting in the final wildcard spot in the AFC to being eliminated after an ugly loss to the Titans.

How Many Teams Make the NFL Playoffs?

Starting in the 2020 NFL season (2021 NFL Playoffs), seven teams from each conference get into the NFL playoffs. This makes a total of 14 teams in the playoffs.

Prior to this, only six teams from each conference made the playoffs, and 12 total. The format change starting in the 2020-21 NFL season was made to add two more teams to the postseason, one in each conference.

How Many Teams Get a First-Round Bye in the NFL Playoffs?

The change to the NFL playoff format ahead of the 2020-21 NFL season also saw an adjustment to the number of teams who get a first-round bye. With seven teams from each conference making the playoffs, only one team—the top seed—from each conference gets a bye through the wildcard round.

Prior to the change, the top two seeds in each conference would get a bye through the wildcard round. With only one team from each conference getting a first-round bye, the NFL added another wildcard game to each conference, totaling six wildcard games now instead of four.

How Do the NFL Playoffs Work?

As mentioned above, seven teams from each conference (the AFC and NFC) make the NFL playoffs. Each team who makes the playoffs is seeded from 1-7 in their respective conference. The two conferences do not mix or meet until the Super Bowl.

The top four seeds in each conference are given to the teams who win their division. These four division winners are ordered 1-4 based on their records. The final three spots—seeds 5 to 7—in each conference are called “wildcard spots”. These are given to the three non-division winners who have the best records in their conference.

The NFL playoffs begin with the Wildcard Round. The top seed in each conference gets a bye through this round, leaving three games to be played in each conference. The matchups are as follows: 7-seed vs 2-seed, 6-seed vs 3-seed, and 5-seed vs 4-seed.

The NFL playoffs are not a traditional bracket, where teams move through to a fixed spot. The second round of the NFL playoffs is called the Divisional Round. The 1-seed in each conference, who was given a bye through the Wildcard Round, will get matched up with the worst remaining team in their respective conference. If the 7-seed were to upset the 2-seed, they would have to play the 1-seed in the Divisional Round. After setting the best-vs-worst matchup, the remaining two teams in each conference (second-best and second-worst seeds remaining) will battle it out in the other Divisional Round matchup.

After the Divisional Round comes the Conference Championships, where there are only two teams remaining in each conference. These two teams will play for the right to go to the Super Bowl and play the conference champion from the other side.

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After working in TV, Matt turned his focus towards numbers, specifically odds. He has been with us since 2016 and serves as SBD's Editor-in-Chief, credited with creating our futures trackers, SBD's score predictor, SBD Sharp, and his own model for calculating NFL SOS, among other products.