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How do the NFL Playoffs Work?


The NFL Playoffs are made up of a total of 14 teams. The NFL Playoff Bracket is made up of 7 teams from the AFC and 7 Teams from the NFC. There are four divisions in each conference, the winner of each division will automatically qualify for the playoffs. Those four teams will then be seeded 1 through 4 based on their record(1 seed having the best record and home field advantage). The two highest seeded teams from each conference get byes.

Wild Cards

After the division winners are determined, the next 3 teams with the best record will qualify for the Wild Card Round. The wild card team with the best record will get seed 5 and will play seed 4 of the division winners. The worst record will get seed 7 seed and play seed 2 of the division winners, while the team in the middle will be seeded 6 and play the 3 seed. There are 3 wild card teams from each conference.

The Bracket

The NFL does not run a "true" bracket, like you see here on the March Madness Bracket or on the NBA Playoff Bracket. I define a "true" bracket as a tournament where the winner of each game moves directly over in the bracket. The NFL Playoff bracket rearranges the bracket in the second round so that the highest seed(1) in each conference plays the lowest remaining seed in the same conference.

Otherwise the bracket plays out true. Here is an example of an NFL Playoff Bracket where the second round shuffle was done.

NFL Playoff Reseeding Explained

As you can see on the AFC side, the number 6 seed Baltimore beat New England, and since they were the lowest remaining seed they went up to play the number 1 seed Indianapolis. If you look at the NFC side it played out true, as the number 3 seed Dallas beat the number 6 seed Philadelphia, which left the number 4 seed Arizona as the lowest remaining seed to play the number 1 seed New Orleans.

Playoff Office Pool

The re-seeding makes it a little difficult to run a bracket style pool, so we recommend trying the Playoff Squares or our Playoff Confidence Pool.

Also don't forget about the Super Bowl Square Grids, here are some small printable Super Bowl Squares and also our Poster Size Super Bowl Square Grid which is 24" x 32"!