Here’s how the NFL playoff format works

There are seven teams per conference, with only one team getting a first-round bye.

Bill Belichick looks on during a game. Billie Weiss/Getty Images

The NFL unveiled a new playoff format last year, and this is the second time fans will see it in action.

It’s not too much of a change from how it was before the switch, but it is a bit different. Here’s how it works:

Now, only one team in each conference gets a bye. That’s the Tennessee Titans in the AFC and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC. That means no week off for Tom Brady.

Previously, with six teams, the 2-seed received a bye as well. Now, with seven teams, the 2-seed faces the 7, and the 3 still faces the 6 and the 4 gets the 5.


Just like in the past, the 1-seed faces the lowest-remaining seed in the Divisional Round and the other two teams match up as well. Then the two remaining teams in each conference play, followed by the Super Bowl.

Here’s the schedule:

Saturday, Jan. 15, 4:30 p.m.: 5-seed Raiders at 4-seed Bengals (NBC)

Saturday, Jan. 15, 8:15 p.m.: 6-seed Patriots at 3-seed Bills (CBS)

Sunday, Jan. 16, 1 p.m.: 7-seed Eagles at 2-seed Buccaneers (FOX)

Sunday, Jan. 16, 4:30 p.m.: 6-seed 49ers at 3-seed Cowboys (CBS)

Sunday, Jan 16, 8:15 p.m.: 7-seed Steelers at 2-seed Chiefs (NBC)

Monday, Jan. 17, 8 p.m.: 5-seed Cardinals at 4-seed Rams (ESPN)

So if the Patriots beat the Bills, they’ll face the Titans if the Chiefs take care of the Steelers. If the Steelers pull the upset, the Patriots would face the winner of the Bengals-Raiders game.

The only time the Patriots could see the Chiefs is the AFC Championship Game.


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