The National Football League has a thrilling playoff format that captivates fans each year. In 2020, the NFL introduced a new structure, expanding the number of teams to 14.
This includes seven teams from each of the two conferences: the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC).
Here’s a breakdown of how the NFL playoffs work, including the number of teams involved, the various rounds, and the unique overtime rules in the playoffs.
Number of Teams and Seeding
- Total Teams: 14 teams participate in the NFL playoffs, with seven from each conference (AFC and NFC).
- Division Winners and Wild Cards: The playoffs include the four division winners from each conference (North, South, East, and West), along with three wild-card teams.
NFL Wild Card Round
- First-Round Bye: The top-seeded team in each conference, usually the one with the best record, gets a bye in the first round. This is a significant advantage, providing rest and preparation time.
- Matchups: The Wild Card Round sees the No. 2 seed (the second-best division winner) face the No. 7 seed (the third-best wild-card team). The No. 3 seed plays against the No. 6 seed, and the No. 4 seed goes up against the No. 5 seed. All these games are hosted by the higher-seeded teams.
NFL Divisional Round
- Matchup Dynamics: In this round, each conference’s No. 1 seed plays against the lowest-remaining seed from the Wild Card Round. The other matchups involve the second-highest seed facing the second-lowest remaining seed.
- Home Advantage: The games are hosted by the higher-seeded teams, providing a home-field advantage that can be crucial in these high-stakes games.
Conference Championship Games
- Road to the Super Bowl: The winners of the Divisional Round games in each conference meet in the AFC and NFC Championship Games. These games decide the champions of each conference who will compete in the Super Bowl.
- The Final Showdown: The AFC and NFC champions face off in the Super Bowl, a globally celebrated event that determines the NFL champion.
Also Check: NFL Playoff Schedule 2024
Overtime Rules in Playoffs
- Extended Play: Unlike regular-season games, playoff games cannot end in a tie. They continue with 15-minute periods until a winner is decided.
- Possession Rules: Each team gets a chance to possess the ball offensively. Even if the team with the first possession scores a touchdown, the other team also gets a possession.
- Sudden Death Aspect: If the team with the first possession doesn’t score a touchdown, the next score (either a touchdown or a field goal) by either team ends the game. After both teams have had their first possession, the next score by either side concludes the contest.
This NFL playoff format ensures an intense, competitive path to the Super Bowl, filled with high stakes and dramatic moments. Understanding this format enhances the viewing experience for fans, adding to the excitement of each game on the road to the ultimate NFL championship.