What is the benefit of winning your NFL division?

Understanding how the seeding system in the NFL playoffs works can be confusing, that's why we're here to help you understand it all.

As the NFL playoffs approach we take a look at how they work and just what are the benefits afforded to the division winners down the stretch.

To some the way the NFL playoffs work can sometimes be a bit hard to understand. Fear not, we're here to give you the break down on not just how teams qualify, but also what happens when they do.

How do the NFL playoffs actually function?

There are two conferences in the NFL: the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). Within the two conferences we then have 4 different decisions which is to say, the NFC North, South, East and West along with the AFC North, South East and west. In each of these divisions there are four teams which brings us to a grand total of 32 teams in the league. As a division winner in any of the four divisions - the team with the most wins/best tiebreaker if necessary - you are guaranteed a playoff spot. Then there are also two "Wild Card" spots allocated per conference, to the teams that have the best records, but did not win their divisions. This means there are a total of four wild card spots which in turn leads to there being six playoff teams per conference, the division winners and the two wild card teams.

What then is the benefit of winning the division?

While it may seem like the only plus - and it is a big one - to winning one's division is a guaranteed playoff spot, there are in fact some very real benefits to be enjoyed by doing so. Firstly the No. 1 seeded teams are all guaranteed home-field advantage. In addition along with the No.2 seeded teams, division title winners are also granted a bye week for the first round which means they are afforded the chance to rest, recuperate and most importantly a little more time to plan strategy for their opponents, as they advance automatically to the second round of the playoffs.

Additionally, it should also be noted that the division winners are seeded by their respective records. What's that mean? The top two teams in each conference are the ones who receive the “bye week” for the first round of the playoffs, while all others must play during what is called the “Wild Card Round.” Interestingly, the top team in each conference - two teams total - are not just guaranteed home field advantage for their opening game, but throughout the playoffs entirely. Last but not least - though some consider it superficial - the highest seeded team across the league is listed as the home team for the Super Bowl itself, though the game is played in a neutral location. 

What about some NFL records?

To date it's the New England Patriots who can claim to have posted the best single season record. It was back in 2007 during the Patriots dynasty years with a young Tom Brady at the helm when they went 16-0 on the season. It should be noted that the league has since moved to an eighteen game format. Interestingly the Patriots didn't win the Super Bowl that year. That honor went to the Indianapolis Colts who defeated the Chicago Bears by a score of 29-17

As for the best record in the history of the NFL? That would be the boys from Wisconsin, The Green Bay Packers. As of the 2020 season the Packers have a total of 1,386 games played with 770 wins, 578 losses and 38 tied. Those are some numbers!