2021 NFL Playoff Picture: Steelers, Chargers play on Sunday Night Football while AFC race stays hot

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The Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Chargers will meet in Los Angeles on Sunday Night Football for an important conference matchup that will impact the NFL playoff picture. Live coverage begins tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET with Football Night in America. The match-up will also be available via live stream on Peacock.

Sunday night’s game between the Steelers and Chargers is crucial for both teams as they fight for the top spot in their respective divisions, the AFC North and AFC West. Let’s take a closer look at the playoff race in each division and the implications on the conference as a whole.

AFC North playoff race:

The Baltimore Ravens (6-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3), Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) and Cleveland Browns (5-5) have been jockeying back and forth for the top spot in the division since the start of the 2021 season.

Injuries to the Steelers:

In Week 11, a shorthanded Steelers team tied the winless Detroit Lions, 16-16, in what turned out to be Detroit’s first non-loss of the season. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list prior to the game and did not play. In Roethlisberger’s absence, backup Mason Rudolph got the start under center. A third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Rudolph turned in a solid performance against the Lions, completing 30 of 50 passes for 242 yards, one touchdown and one interception. It wasn’t enough to win though as the Lions snapped the Steelers’ four-game winning streak, causing Pittsburgh to fall to second place in the AFC North.

Star wide receiver Chase Claypool also missed the Week 10 contest due to a toe injury and the defense suffered a major blow when a hip and knee injury to Pro Bowler T.J. Watt caused him to leave the game early. Earlier this week, the defense took another hit when safety Minkah Fitzpatrick tested positive for COVID-19. It it still unclear if he will be able to play in Sunday night’s matchup.

In his media availability this week, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Roethlisberger has the opportunity to start on Sunday night as long as he is able to provide the required negative tests. Claypool is expected to practice this week and Watt’s status remains uncertain.

RELATED: How to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers vs LA Chargers: Live stream, TV info, kickoff time for Sunday’s game

Playoff picture around the AFC North:

The first-place Ravens lost in shocking fashion to the 3-7 Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football in Week 11 but managed to hold on to the top spot due to losses by their AFC North counterparts. Throughout Weeks 12-14, Baltimore will play three division opponents: the Browns, Steelers and Browns again before facing the Bengals in Week 16 – a team that defeated them convincingly earlier this season – and the Steelers once more in Week 18. These weekly tests will impact the NFL playoff picture as each team vies for the top spot in the division. And in Week 11, the Ravens will be without QB Lamar Jackson – the 24-year-old was ruled out with non-COVID illness shortly before the start of the game.

The Bengals remain just one game back in the standings after having a bye last week. The off week provided Cincinnati with the opportunity for a much-needed reset as the team dropped its Week 8 contest to the New York Jets, 34-31, and its Week 9 game to the Browns, 41-16. Due to poor performances by the other teams in their division, the Bengals remain in playoff contention and will look to get back on the winning track when they play the struggling Las Vegas Raiders in Week 11.

Baker Mayfield and the Browns dropped to the last spot in the division following a 45-7 rout by the New England Patriots in Week 10. They remain on the bubble in the ever-changing AFC playoff race but need to take advantage of a rebound game against the Lions on their home turf.

AFC West playoff race:

The postseason race in the AFC West is just as competitive. The Kansas City Chiefs have the top spot in the division with a 6-4 record while the Chargers and Raiders are tied for the second spot at 5-4. The Denver Broncos round out the division with a 5-5 mark.

The Chargers’ dwindling momentum:

The Chargers enter Sunday night’s contest having lost three of their past four games after posting a 4-1 start to the season. Entering Week 10, the Chargers managed to lead the division by virtue of wins over the Chiefs and Raiders earlier in the season. Los Angeles is seeded seventh in the AFC playoff race and has the worst point differential of the top seven teams.

After winning the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2020, quarterback Justin Herbert has slowed down this season, but continues to come into his own as a signal-caller under new head coach Brandon Staley. Herbert is tied for fifth in the league with 19 touchdowns and sixth in total yards through 10 weeks.

Los Angeles will also be without some of its major playmakers on the defensive side of the ball in Sunday’s matchup as linemen Joey Bosa and Jerry Tillery entered the league’s reserve/COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday. Bosa is tied for the league lead in strip-sacks with three. He has a sack in three of the past four games, including the last two, and will be missed by the Chargers’ edge rushing unit.

Playoff picture around the AFC West:

With a win over the Raiders last week on Sunday Night Football, the Chiefs found themselves back where they were always expected to be upon entering this season: first place in the division. After a 41-14 win over Derek Carr and the Raiders, the Chiefs secured their third straight victory. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for over 400 yards and five touchdowns while tight end Travis Kelce had one of his best games of the season with eight receptions and a team-leading 119 yards.

RELATED: How Patrick Mahomes led Chiefs to get back on track with NFL Week 10 win vs. Raiders

The Raiders, however, continue to look lost on the football field as their Week 10 loss to the Chiefs marked their second straight dropped contest after being upset by the New York Giants two weeks ago. In wide receiver DeSean Jackson‘s first game as a Raider, he made one impressive, yet head-scratching catch for a 40-yard gain only to have the ball punched out by the Chiefs’ Rashad Fenton and picked up by Tyrann Mathieu for a turnover that all but extinguished the Raiders’ momentum.

The Broncos fell to fourth place in the division following a 30-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last week. With a bye week this week, Denver will have ample preparation time for a key matchup against the Chargers in Week 12.

Where do things stand in the NFC?

In Aaron Rodgers‘ return to the roster, the Green Bay Packers shut out the Seattle Seahawks, 17-0, in a snowy game in Green Bay to move into the top spot in the NFC. The Packers have the tiebreaker against Arizona because they defeated the Cardinals earlier in the season.

The Cardinals fell to the No. 2 seed in the conference after being upset by the Carolina Panthers in Week 10. Arizona was without quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins – both of whom were severely missed. Murray has sat out the past two games with an ankle injury and Hopkins has not played since Week 8 due to a nagging hamstring issue.

Dallas, the No. 3 seed in the conference, bounced back from a surprising loss to the Broncos in Week 9 with a 43-3 rout of the Atlanta Falcons last week.

While the Cowboys suffered from the wrong side of an upset in Week 9, it was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who were surprisingly defeated by the 3-6 Washington Football Team this past week. Tom Brady threw an uncharacteristic two interceptions in the first half alone, which Washington turned into 10 points en route to a 29-19 victory.

The Los Angeles Rams remain in the hunt with the No. 5 spot in the AFC, but they suffered a blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers this past Monday night – their second straight loss.

RELATED: NFL schedule 2021: Dates, times, TV, how to watch, channels for every game in all 18 weeks

Current 2021 NFL Playoff picture

AFC Standings

Tennessee Titans (8-2)

Buffalo Bills (6-3)

Baltimore Ravens (6-3)

Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)

New England Patriots (7-4)

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3-1)

Los Angeles Chargers (5-4)

On the bubble:

Las Vegas Raiders (5-4)

Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)

Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

Cleveland Browns (5-5)

Denver Broncos (5-5)

NFC Standings

Green Bay Packers (8-2)

Arizona Cardinals (8-2)

Dallas Cowboys (7-2)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)

Los Angeles Rams (7-2)

New Orleans Saints (5-4)

Carolina Panthers (5-5)

On the bubble:

Minnesota Vikings (4-5)

San Francisco 49ers (4-5)

Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)

Atlanta Falcons (4-6)

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2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

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The 2022 NFL Football season is finally back in session. This Sunday night features a match-up between Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers vs Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos. NBC and Peacock have got you covered with access to this week’s game as well as every Sunday Night Football game this season. See below for the complete 2022 Sunday Night Football schedule and find out how to live stream every game on Peacock.

RELATED: FMIA Week 2 – Mike McDaniel’s ‘F— It’ Play Powers Dolphins’ Comeback and How 49ers Adjust Without Trey Lance

This year’s Sunday Night Football coverage will feature Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth in the booth and Melissa Stark on the sidelines. Live coverage begins every Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. ET with Football Night in America with the talented group of Maria Taylor, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Jason Garrett, Chris Simms, Jac Collinsworth, Mike Florio, and Matthew Berry. Berry, a fantasy football industry pioneer, will also appear on Peacock’s exclusive NFL post-game show, Sunday Night Football Final.

RELATED: How to watch Matthew Berry on NBC Sports

Football Night in America will also feature a weekly segment hosted by Simms and sports betting and Berry, which highlights storylines and betting odds for the upcoming Sunday Night Football game on NBC, Peacock, and Universo. Real-time betting odds on the scoring ticker during FNIA also will be showcased. Peacock Sunday Night Football Final, an NFL postgame show produced by NBC Sports, will also go deep on the storylines and BetMGM betting lines that proved prominent during the matchup.

2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule:

*Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Thursday, Sept. 8 (Week 1) – Josh Allen’s four touchdowns power Bills to 31-10 victory over Rams

Sunday, Sept. 11 (Week 1) – Bucs take care of business against Cowboys, who lose Dak Prescott late

Sunday, Sept. 18 (Week 2) Packers roll over Bears 27-10 as Aaron Jones, Preston Smith star

Sunday, Sept. 25 (Week 3) – 49ers at Broncos

Sunday, Oct. 2 (Week 4) – Chiefs at Buccaneers

Sunday, Oct. 9 (Week 5) – Bengals at Ravens

Sunday, Oct. 16 (Week 6) – Cowboys at Eagles

Sunday, Oct. 23 (Week 7) – Steelers at Dolphins

Sunday, Oct. 30 (Week 8) – Packers at Bills

Sunday, Nov. 6 (Week 9) – Titans at Chiefs

Sunday, Nov. 13 (Week 10) – Chargers at 49ers

Sunday, Nov. 20 (Week 11) – Bengals at Steelers

Thursday, Nov. 24 (Week 12) – Patriots at Vikings

Sunday, Nov. 27 (Week 12) – Packers at Eagles

Sunday, Dec. 4 (Week 13) – Colts at Cowboys

Sunday, Dec. 11 (Week 14) – Chiefs at Broncos

Sunday, Dec. 18 (Week 15) – Patriots at Raiders

Sunday, Dec. 25 (Week 16) – Buccaneers at Cardinals

Sunday, Jan. 1 (Week 17) – Rams at Chargers

Sunday, Jan. 8 (Week 18) – Matchup TBD

 RELATED: How to watch 49ers vs Broncos – Live stream, TV Channel, Game Preview


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

RELATED: PFT’s Week 3 2022 NFL power rankings

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

RELATED: PFT’s Week 2 2022 NFL picks


 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

How to watch San Francisco 49ers vs Denver Broncos: TV, live stream info, preview for Sunday Night Football game

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It’s the San Francisco 49ers vs the Denver Broncos this Sunday, September 25 at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado. Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock with Football Night in America. See below for additional information on how to watch the game.

Starting this week, Football Night in America will feature a weekly segment hosted by former NFL quarterback Chris Simms and sports betting and fantasy pioneer Matthew Berry, which highlights storylines and betting odds for the upcoming Sunday Night Football game on NBC, Peacock, and Universo. Real-time betting odds on the scoring ticker during FNIA also will be showcased. Peacock Sunday Night Football Final, an NFL postgame show produced by NBC Sports, will also go deep on the storylines and BetMGM betting lines that proved prominent during the matchup.

RELATED: FMIA Week 2 – Mike McDaniel’s ‘F— It’ Play Powers Dolphins’ Comeback and How 49ers Adjust Without Trey Lance

Be sure to start your NFL Sunday with Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Football Pregame show beginning at 11 AM ET on Peacock and the NFL on NBC YouTube channel.

RELATED: Jimmy Garoppolo made an extra $350,000 on Sunday, and it could happen more often

San Francisco 49ers

After falling 19-10 in their season opener against the Chicago Bears, The San Francisco 49ers (1-1) bounced back in week 2 with a dominant 27-7 victory over the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday afternoon. However, the team lost starting QB Trey Lance in the process. Lance, who went 3rd overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, was carted off the field in the 1st quarter with a broken ankle that will require season-ending surgery. Jimmy Garoppolo is now back in the starting spot after the 49ers spent the majority of this offseason trying to trade him. San Francisco gave Garoppolo permission to seek a trade in July but ended up restructuring his contract with the intent of keeping him as the backup behind Lance.

RELATED: Trey Lance – I will be back better than ever

Garoppolo finished 13-of-21 for 154 passing yards with 1 passing touchdown and also rushed for a touchdown in Sunday’s win. While he was proud of his performance, Garappolo said the win was bittersweet.

“It felt good to be back out there. I feel terrible for Trey. I’ve been on that side of it. This league is tough.” Garoppolo told reporters at 49ersWebzone.com. “Everyone has their share of injuries but that sucks for him. I feel bad for him but he’s our brother and we’ll pick him up. . . . I’m comfortable here. The players, the scheme, all that stuff, the locker room, I’m comfortable. I’m familiar with it. I’m not saying I knew this was going to happen but I was ready for this in case it did happen and just want to take advantage of the opportunity.”

RELATED: Jimmy Garoppolo – Return to 49ers offense just like riding a bike

Denver Broncos

Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos (1-1) picked up their first victory of the season last Sunday with an ugly 16-9 win over the Houston Texans. The Broncos’ offense struggled for most of the game and first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett once again received criticism and even boos from the crowd for some questionable plays. Hackett, the former offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers (2019-2021) under Matt LaFleur, told reporters after the game that he will work to make his playcalling more efficient.

“I think I just need to be sure I clean up exactly what I’m hearing, where I’m going with, and make sure I’m on the same page for Russ. I think that will make us more efficient. ”

RELATED: Nathaniel Hackett – I need to do better making faster and quicker decisions

Wilson finished 14-of-31 passes for 219 yards, with one touchdown, one interception, and three sacks in Sunday’s win. The 9-time Pro-Bowler and 2014 Super Bowl Champion signed a 5-year, $245 million extension with the Broncos earlier this month making him the second highest paid player in the league in terms of average annual salary ($49M). The franchise is hoping the veteran QB can help lead the Broncos to their first playoff appearance since 2015.

RELATED: Russell Wilson – There will be tough times, all that matters is the win


How to watch the San Francisco 49ers vs Denver Broncos:

  • Where: Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado
  • When: Sunday, September 25
  • Start Time: 8:20 p.m. ET; live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET with Football Night In America
  • TV Channel: NBC
  • Stream liveWatch live on Peacock or with the NBC Sports App

What time is kickoff for the San Francisco 49ers vs Denver Broncos game?

Kickoff is at 8:20 p.m. ET.

RELATED: 2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

For all your NFL jersey and gear needs ahead of the 2022 season, click here!


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!