Three of the NFL’s top four playoff seeds advanced to the conference championship round this past weekend, setting up heavyweight matchups people have been looking forward to all year.
On the AFC side, the Chiefs will host the Bills at Arrowhead Stadium. On the NFC side, the Packers will host the Buccaneers at Lambeau Field.
All four teams have top-tier quarterbacks, though the status of Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes is uncertain after his concussion in the divisional round. Star defensive players litter the remaining contenders, but it will be those passers making Sunday a special occasion for postseason action with a significant national draw.
In the divisional round, Kansas City beat Cleveland, Buffalo beat Baltimore, Green Bay beat the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay beat New Orleans.
Here’s everything you need to know about the AFC and NFC championship games:
NFL playoff bracket 2021
Here’s a look at the complete NFL playoff bracket for 2021:
1. Kansas City Chiefs vs. 2. Buffalo Bills
1. Kansas City Chiefs vs. 6. Cleveland Browns
2. Buffalo Bills vs. 5. Baltimore Ravens
1. Kansas City Chiefs (bye)
2. Buffalo Bills vs. 7. Indianapolis Colts
3. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. 6. Cleveland Browns
4. Tennessee Titans vs. 5. Baltimore Ravens
1. Green Bay Packers vs. 5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1. Green Bay Packers vs. 6. Los Angeles Rams
2. New Orleans Saints vs. 5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1. Green Bay Packers (bye)
2. New Orleans Saints vs. 7. Chicago Bears
3. Seattle Seahawks vs. 6. Los Angeles Rams
4. Washington Football Team vs. 5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFL playoff schedule
Sunday, Jan. 24
|Matchup||Start time||TV channel||Live stream|
|Buccaneers at Packers||3:05 p.m. ET||Fox||fuboTV|
|Bills at Chiefs||6:40 p.m. ET||CBS||fuboTV|
AFC, NFC championship game matchups
- No. 1 Chiefs vs. No. 2 Bills
Patrick Mahomes suffered a concussion in the second half of the Chiefs’ divisional round game against the Browns, but Kansas City managed to escape with a win and advance to its third straight AFC championship. Coach Andy Reid and his staff now have an anxious week of waiting to see if Mahomes will be available to face the Bills. If the star quarterback is ruled out, then it would mean Chad Henne under center at Arrowhead Stadium. Henne was the late hero vs. Cleveland, converting a crucial first down as a sub to clinch victory, but he’s obviously a steep full-game downgrade from what Mahomes offers.
Buffalo showed it can shut down a high-powered playoff offense in holding the Ravens to three points in their own divisional contest. So, even if it is Mahomes slinging passes, it might be difficult to move the ball against the Bills.
Josh Allen will be on the road for the first time this postseason, providing its own sort of challenge for coach Sean McDermott’s squad. Allen avoided turnovers in the divisional round but was inaccurate throwing deep — a flaw that would potentially be season-ending should the AFC title game turn into a shootout. He certainly has the receivers to move downfield in chunks; it’s just a matter of hitting his targets.
The Chiefs will be heavily favored if they’re at full strength, but with Allen’s upside and a defense peaking at the perfect time, this will hopefully be an exciting game regardless.
- No. 1 Packers vs. No. 5 Buccaneers
Fans have waited a long time to see an Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady playoff game. It could have taken place in 2011, the year the Packers won their last ring, if not for Mark Sanchez’s Jets upsetting Brady’s Patriots in the divisional round. A meeting came even closer to fruition in 2015, but the Packers’ collapse against the Seahawks in the NFC championship game prevented them from meeting the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Rodgers and Brady will finally go head-to-head on Sunday with the NFC title on the line.
Rodgers was terrible by almost every measure when the Buccaneers beat the Packers 38-10 in October, but his uncharacteristic two-interception showing took place in the warm confines of Florida. Green Bay is 10-2 since that blowout and will host Tampa Bay at what could be a snowy Lambeau Field on Sunday.
Brady is used to tough winter conditions from his years in New England and is as composed as any quarterback in NFL history when asked to stage a road playoff upset. He will not be mentally rattled. Physically, though? Given his occasional shakiness throwing against the Saints in the divisional round, it’s not out of the question that he will be the mistake-maker in the duel of future Hall of Famers. It seems more likely, however, that Brady will put together the vintage performance we’ve come to expect from him in the biggest occasions. In that case, it could be an epic battle with Rodgers that would make for a fun part of any discussion about their respective legacies.