Football 101

The NFL Playoffs

12 teams (6 from each conference) earn a spot in the NFL playoffs. 

The 2015-16 Regular Season picture going into the playoffs.  The teams in light green made the playoffs.  The teams boxed in dark green have the best records in their conference and have a bye week during the first round.

The 2015-16 Regular Season picture going into the playoffs.  The teams in light green made the playoffs.  The teams boxed in dark green have the best records in their conference and have a bye week during the first round.

How are they selected?  In each conference, the top team from each of the four divisions is selected, as you can see in light green in the image below.  The two remaining “wildcard” spots go to the 2 teams with the next best records.

Who plays whom?  The first week is called the Wild Card Round.  The two teams with the best records in each conference (indicated in the boxed dark green) get a “bye” week (or week off) for the first week of the playoffs, while the four other teams duke it out.  The #3 ranked team plays the #6 ranked team, while the #4 ranked team plays the #5 ranked team.

The second week is called the Divisional Round.  The two teams with the best records now play the winners from the first round.  The #1 ranked teams will play the lower ranked teams who survived the Wild Card Round.

The third week is called the Conference Championship Round.  The winners from the Divisional Round will duke it out for a spot to represent their conference in the Super Bowl.

Click to enlarge.  The 2016 playoffs schedule.