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American Football

How do the NFL playoffs work and how many teams can qualify?

How do the NFL playoffs work and how many teams can qualify?Getty
The postseason is the business end of an NFL season.

The goal for all the 32 teams at the start of an NFL season is to reach the Super Bowl and lift the Vince Lombardi trophy. 

However, in order for this to be achieved, teams must successfully navigate the playoffs to feature in the NFL's showpiece game. 

But how do the playoffs work? DAZN explains. 

How many teams will reach the NFL playoffs? 

Come the end of the regular season, 14 teams will be in the playoffs, seven from the AFC and seven from the NFC. 

The four teams which win their respective divisions in each conference earn spots, while the remaining three remaining places are given to the non-division winning teams who have the best records in their respective conferences, these are known as "wild-card spots". 

How do the NFL playoffs work? 

The NFL playoffs begin with the wild-card round with the following format being used in each conference.

  • Number seven seed vs. Number two seed
  • Number six seed vs. Number three seed
  • Number five seed vs. Number four seed

The winner of these wild-card games will advance to the divisional round and join the two number one seeds from the AFC and NFC who earned a bye as a result of having the best record over the regular season. 

The number one seeded team will face the worst remaining team in their respective conference in the divisional playoffs, and once this matchup is confirmed, the remaining two teams in each conference (second best and second-worst seeds) will go head-to-head. 

Once the divisional games have concluded, the two remaining teams will meet in the AFC and NFC Championship games to determine who will be representing each conference at the Super Bowl. 

2023 NFL posteseason schedule

AFC Championship Game

  • Ravens vs. Chiefs (3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. UK / 9 p.m. CET)

NFC Championship Game

  • 49ers vs. Lions (6:30 p.m. ET / 11:30 p.m. UK / 12:30 a.m. CET)

The remaining postseason schedule can be found below. 

  • Super Bowl LVIII: February 11, 2024 (6:30 p.m. ET / 11:30 p.m. UK / 12:30 a.m. CET)