The NFL playoffs are a single-elimination tournament composed of six teams from the two conferences, the NFC and AFC, making a total of twelve teams. Teams make the playoffs based on their regular season records or win-lost-tied records. The teams with the best record from each division make the playoffs, along with two wild card teams from each conference. There are specific tie-breaking procedures in place in case two teams have the same record.
Once the regular season ends, the best teams in each conference play each other until there is a winner, and then the winners from each conference meet in the Super Bowl. The NFL is the only professional sport to use a single-elimination tournament, compared with other professional sports: Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League. Single-elimination is also referred to as sudden-death or knock-out, because if a team loses it is eliminated and there is no second chance. The stakes for each individual playoff game are much higher in football because a team has to win four consecutive single games in order to advance through the four rounds of the playoffs, whereas in other sports teams have multiple opportunities to advance.
The four rounds of the playoffs consist of the Wild Card Round, the Divisional Round, the Conference Championships, ending with the Super Bowl. The division-winning teams from each conference are seeded #1-#4, and the wild card teams are seeded #5 and #6. The teams are positioned or seeded based on their regular season records.
Article Written by: Erin Irish