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  3. playoff system

Football Playoff System

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What is the Playoff System in Football?

The playoff system in football is a system of postseason play to determine a champion of a particular football league. In most organizations, the playoff system is a single-elimination bracket.

NFL Playoffs

In the NFL, 12 teams make the playoffs and are seeded based on their regular season win-loss records. Of the 12 teams that make the playoffs, 6 teams are members of the AFC and 6 teams hail from the NFC. The highest seeded teams (seeds 1-4 in each conference) are the division winners of each respective division, with the 1st and 2nd seeded teams from each conference receiving a "bye" and automatically advancing to the second round. The 5th and 6th seeds from each conference are known as "wild card" teams, having made the playoffs because they had best regular season records amongst non-division winners in each conference.

Wild Card Round

The first round of the NFL playoffs is the wildcard round. In this round, the higher seeded wild card team from each conference (seed 5) plays the 4th seeded team from that conference, while the lower seeded wild card team (seed 6) plays the 3rd seeded team. The games are single-elimination, with the winner of each game advancing to the next round.

Divisional Round

The divisional round takes place after the wild card round has been completed. In this round, the 1st seeded team from each conference plays the lowest remaining seed (team with the worst regular season record) from the first round. For example, if both non-wild card teams (seeds 3 and 4) emerge victorious in the first round, the 1st seeded team will play the 4th seed.

Conference Championship Round

The conference championship round is the final round before the Super Bowl, with the winner from each conference advancing to the grand finale. At this point in the playoff system, matchups are not based on seeding, as there are only two teams remaining in each conference. However, seeding is important in terms of home-field advantage, as the higher of the two seeds playing in each conference championship is the home team for the matchup.

Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is the very last game in the NFL playoffs. One AFC and one NFC team, both of which have not lost since the playoffs started, square off for the title of world champion. The Super Bowl is the culmination of several winner-take-all playoff games and is watched by millions of viewers every year.


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