How many teams make the NFL playoffs?

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Tennessee Titans
AFC Divisional Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Tennessee Titans / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

The NFL playoffs give us some of the most exciting games of the entire NFL season. This past season was a prime example of that, as we had the crazy showdown between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game as well as that back-and-forth matchup in the Super Bowl.

For casual NFL fans, they might not know the basics of the playoffs. One big question they might have is: How many teams make the playoffs?

14 teams make the NFL playoffs

There are seven teams who qualify for the playoffs from the AFC side and seven teams from the NFC side. Four of these teams punched their ticket to the postseason by winning their division while the other three squads got in as wild cards. This means they had the best records outside of the division winners. Tiebreakers are typically determined by head-to-head matchups or strength of schedule.

For the longest time, only 12 teams made it into the postseason but the NFL changed the rule in 2020 to include a third wild card team. Previously, it was the four division winners plus just two wild cards as opposed to three. The top two teams in each conference earned a first-round bye whereas now only the top-seeded team receives the bye.

What is the NFL playoff format?

The wild card round consists of the No. 2 seed vs. the No. 7 seed, the No. 3 seed vs. the No. 6 seed, and the No. 4 seed vs. the No. 5 seed. The No. 1 seed then hosts the "worst" remaining seed in the Divisional Round with the other two teams squaring off. The winners of those games go on to face each other in the conference title games and those games decide the pair participating in the Super Bowl.

The 12-team format was a solid one but the NFL wanted to have more Wild Card games and more games in general. That's why we got the two additional teams for the playoffs.

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