A Quick and Dirty Guide To The New NFL Playoff Setup

A Quick and Dirty Guide To The New NFL Playoff Setup

What's going on with the NFL postseason this year? We're here to break it down for you!

Nicky G
Nicky G

As the NFL's regular season draws to its exciting(!) conclusion, the playoff picture remains a bit fuzzy-wuzzy for some teams (especially in the AFC). Still, one thing remains crystal clear: it's a whole new ballgame this year, and the implications are about as wild as this season has proven to be.

The main headline: For the 2021-2022 NFL playoffs, 14 teams will be vying for the chance at a Super Bowl win, not the traditional 12 teams as in years past. While traditionalists complained that the NFL playoffs were already great and didn't need changing, they soon shut up when they realized it meant more football games.

The new breakdown includes three wildcards for each conference as well as four division champions. Along with the additional two games, this new format has the important facet that only one team receives a bye week, not two.

This made becoming this season's regular season conference champ even more important than it usually is.

To the Victor Goes The Spoils

Currently, the bye-week honor in the NFC has been won by the Green Bay Packers, who boast an impressive league-best record of 13-3.

In the AFC, the right to skip the first week will likely go to the Tennessee Titans or the Kansas City Chiefs. This will be determined based on who has the better win percentage at the end of this week (with the Titans winning the tie-breaker and playing the Texans they have about a 4x odds of getting the Skip Turn card than their KC counterparts).

The rest of the playoffs will shake out as the typically do: the first-seeded team will play the lowest-seeded team to advance from the first three games. The second-highest seeded team for the first round will host the next-lowest seed. For the initial playoff round, home field advantage is given to division winners.

In the AFC

After Week 16, three other teams have punched their ticket to the bracket, including the Buffalo Bills, the New England Patriots, and the Cincinnati Bengals (who haven't won a playoff game since [checks notes] 1990)(!). The final two spots are still open for the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders. All other teams have been eliminated from potential inclusion.

In the NFC

The playoff picture includes the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals and the aforementioned Green Bay Packers. That leaves the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints to battled it out for the final spot this week!

How it'll all shake out

How will the new structure effect the outcome of the Playoffs this year? While we can sure speculate — especially that the first-round bye will really help the Packers and the (likely) Titans — there's really no telling until the games are played!

Guess we'll all just have to watch the action to see for ourselves!


Nicky G

Dad of 3. WVian by birth. ATX for now.