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NFL playoff bracket, explained: How byes, seeding will work in expanded 2021 format

The NFL’s expanded playoff bracket has been a subject of dialog all season, however with the playoffs lastly across the nook, it is value revisiting precisely how a 14-team subject works within the first yr of its existence.

The league made the transfer from 12 groups qualifying to 14 for the 2020 season. Quite a lot of the reasoning comes again to curiosity and cash, but it surely additionally creates a distinct playoff image than NFL followers could also be used to. There’s now a No. 7 seed to play for in every convention. There’s just one bye as a substitute of two on both sides, too. It forces a recalibration of how late-season outcomes are considered.

Under, we have damaged down the brand new bracket, each to elucidate the way it works when you’re unfamiliar or want a refreshers in addition to to elucidate why it exists the way in which it does. For the primary time, groups aren’t essentially enjoying onerous for the No. 2 seed and the bye that used to come back with it, so we have laid out the explanations for that, too. On the finish of the day, two extra groups can be within the playoffs this season than ever earlier than, and that ought to simply imply two extra groups value of enjoyable (not counting the NFC East, as a result of yuck).

MORE: NFL playoff clinching scenarios for Week 17

What number of groups make the NFL playoffs?

A complete of 14 groups make the NFL playoffs following the 2020 common season. That is damaged down as seven groups from the NFC and 7 groups from the AFC.

There is a whole of 32 groups within the NFL, in order that works out to 43.75 p.c of the groups advancing to play within the postseason. The seeding breaks down because the 4 division winners seeded Nos. 1-4 by report with the subsequent three finest data filling in three wild card spots.

The 14-team playoff subject is an growth for this season. Previous to 2020, 12 groups made the postseason with six from every convention. The one means it is modified from a seeding standpoint is having a 3rd wild card workforce added because the No. 7 seed.

NFL playoff bracket 2021

(SN illustration)

Right here you’ll be able to see how the NFL has damaged down the playoff bracket in its new 14-team playoff subject. As an alternative of two byes, only one workforce in every convention will get a first-round bye. Then the No. 2 seed performs No. 7, No. 3 performs No. 6 and No. 4 performs No. 5 on both sides. The highest seed faces the winner of the 4/5 recreation within the divisional spherical.

Regardless of the playoff growth, the alteration of the bye whole signifies that there’s the identical variety of rounds (though two extra playoff video games total). The wild card spherical will characteristic 12 groups competing, up from the earlier eight, with 12 being the identical quantity as the entire qualifiers in previous postseasons. 

What number of groups get a first-round bye?

A complete of two NFL groups get first-round byes on this postseason, one from the AFC and one from the NFC. That is due to the expanded playoff subject from six qualifiers to seven qualifiers in every convention. When six groups made it, two groups on both sides acquired a bye, however that is not the case.

The rationale for the altered bye whole is to finish up within the divisional spherical with 4 groups on both sides. That means, it splits evenly from eight groups alive to 4 groups alive to 2 groups within the Tremendous Bowl. To try this in a 14-team bracket, you want 12 of the groups to play within the first spherical, as a result of then you definately get six winners with the 2 groups on bye added in.

Why did the NFL develop the playoff subject?

There’s a variety of angles to come back at this query, however they mainly all come all the way down to cash.

An expanded playoff subject means conceptually extra groups are within the hunt throughout the remaining weeks of the common season, which means extra fan bases are invested in outcomes. That makes the second half of the common season extra intense for extra groups/fanbases. 

When you’re within the playoffs, it additionally equals extra consideration as a result of two further fan teams are concerned. Add within the alteration to the bye schedule that creates two extra video games within the first spherical, and it is apparent that even only a two-team improve within the postseason means a ton to the NFL’s backside line. 

Does the No. 2 seed have any profit with out a bye?

Now that the No. 2 seed in every convention does not get a bye, there’s loads much less purpose to play tremendous onerous to safe that spot. The principle one is that this: Two rounds of home-field benefit.

The No. 2 seed is assured two rounds at dwelling earlier than probably having to journey and play the No. 1 seed within the AFC championship. That in fact requires a first-round win by the No. 2 seed to get that second dwelling recreation.

The No. 3 seed is just assured one dwelling recreation, as a result of if each Nos. 2 and three win within the first spherical, they will face off at No. 2’s dwelling subject within the second spherical. 

NFL playoff schedule 2021

Wild-card spherical

Saturday, Jan. 9

Matchup Begin time TV channel
TBD at TBD 1:05 p.m. ET TBD TBD
TBD at TBD 4:40 p.m. ET TBD
TBD at TBD 8:15 p.m. ET TBD

Sunday, Jan. 10

Matchup Begin time TV channel
TBD at TBD 1:05 p.m. ET TBD
TBD at TBD 4:40 p.m. ET CBS
TBD at TBD 8:15 p.m. ET NBC

Divisional spherical

Saturday, Jan. 16

Matchup Begin time TV channel
AFC Divisional Spherical (TBD at TBD) TBD TBD
NFC Divisional Spherical (TBD at TBD) TBD TBD

Sunday, Jan. 17

Matchup Begin time TV channel
AFC Divisional Spherical (TBD at TBD) TBD TBD
NFC Divisional Spherical (TBD at TBD) TBD TBD

Convention championships

Sunday, Jan. 24

Matchup Away workforce Begin time TV channel
NFC vs. NFC NFC TBD 3:05 p.m. ET Fox
AFC vs. AFC AFC TBD 6:40 p.m. ET CBS

Tremendous Bowl 55

Sunday, Feb. 7

Matchup Begin time TV channel
AFC champion vs. NFC champion 6:30 p.m. ET CBS

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