If you have ever wondered how do the NFL playoffs work, look no further. Since its inaugural season in 1920, the National Football League has grown from the mere seventeen teams that compromised its original base to a massive 32 in its now monster-sized gala. The League was originally composed of the remainders of the former "Ohio League," an informal and loose association that competed for the Ohio Independent Championship. The first NFL Championship, won by the Chicago Bears over the New York Giants, marked the first year the post-season (or "NFL playoffs") debuted. History, as it turns out, is essential for examining just how the NFL playoffs work.
The NFL is compromised of two main conferences: the NFC and AFC. The National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC) both have Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western divisions. The Conference's four divisions have four teams. The names of the Conferences, for today's purposes, are completely arbitrary. As far as the NFL playoffs work, the name of your particular Conference has no other meaning than the teams that comprise it (which are randomly selected).
The top four teams in each Conference go into the playoffs, along with two wild cards. The top four are determined based on their inner-division stats (such as wins or losses within the East/North/West/South). Therefore, when you combine the two Conferences, there are two teams who represent the West, two from the East, two Southern teams and two teams from the North. Within the Conferences the division champs are seeded based on their overall win-loss-tie record with the top two (for example the North and South) skipping the first round (played by the East, West and two wild cards).
The first round is played by the third and fourth place division champs vs. two different wild card teams. As stated above, the rankings of the four division champions are ordered based on their records. The first round is played by the wild cards and the bottom two division champs. During the NFL playoffs, this round is usually called "Wild Card Weekend," which determines who deserves to play the top two division champions and go to the Conference semifinals.
Wild cards are the teams which have the best winning percentages within each Conference (excluding the division champs). They are seeded as fifth and sixth within their Conference roster, although this is generally arbitrary because either team has to play in the first round. Unless a team is lucky enough to have a killer season, win their division and have one of the best records of the four division winners, they will have to play in Wild Card Weekend during the NFL playoffs.
Since the top two division champions skip the "Wild Card Weekend," they play automatically in the Conference semis. The winner of the semi-finals goes on to play in the Conference finals (the AFC or NFC finals) for their respective Conference championships.
The two champions from the NFC and AFC go on to play each other at the Super Bowl! It's the event of the year in America and only the best teams make it. In 2010 during Super Bowl XLIV, the New Orleans Saints of the NFC defeated the Indianapolis Colts of the AFC. Who knows? Maybe your favorite team might make it to the playoffs!
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