Football Wild Card

What is a Wild Card in football?

A wild card is a playoff team who makes it to the postseason without winning their division.

The playoff format has evolved with the increasing size of the National Football League since its inception. At the formation of the Super Bowl Era, the NFL had three divisions and one wild card spot was given to the team with the next best record.

In 1978, both the schedule and playoff format were altered, adding a second wild card berth per conference. These two wild card teams would play each other in the first round.

An additional wild card team was added in 1990, but was quickly done away with in 2002 after the NFL division realignment. The league opted for a six-team playoff bracket in each conference featuring four division winners and two wild card berths. In this current format, the division winners with the two lowest winning percentages play the two wild card opponents with a spot in the divisional round on the line.

Wild Card History

There have been many wild card teams to upset a division winner in the first game, however, only six teams have ever gone on to win the Super Bowl, with 10 making an appearance in the championship game. The 1980 Oakland Raiders, 1997 Denver Broncos, 2000 Baltimore Ravens, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2007 New York Giants, and 2010 Green Bay Packers accomplished the feat.

No wild card team has ever made the playoffs with a losing record in non-strike years.