2021/22 NFL PLAY-OFFS

2021/22 NFL: how do wild cards work for play-off qualification?

Wild-card teams are the teams with the best record who didn't win their division. The NFL Wild Card Weekend kicks off Sat. How playoff qualification works.

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2020/21 NFL: how do wild cards work for play-off qualification?
Chris Graythen AFP

An expanded 2021/22 National Football League (NFL) post-season is scheduled to begin on Saturday, 15 January 2022, with two more teams added to a play-off roster that will now feature a total of 14 franchises.

While the four division winners in each NFL conference will make up eight of the contenders as in previous seasons, the number of wild cards on each side of the play-offs has been upped from two to three.

How do NFL play-off wild cards work?

The NFL is divided into two conferences: the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). During the regular season, these two sections are in turn split up into four divisions of four teams - north, south, east and west - with the winners of each going through to the play-offs, in which the two conferences remain separated until the Super Bowl.

The remaining six post-season places are given to three wild-card qualifiers from each conference. These spots go to the sides with the best win-loss-tie records outside the division champions.

While the division winners are seeded one to four in the play-offs - depending on their record during the regular season - the wild cards are seeded five to seven.

The top seeds in the AFC and in the NFC both get a bye in the first phase of the play-offs, which is known as the wild-card round. Meanwhile, the second seed hosts the seventh seed, the third seed hosts the sixth seed and the fourth seed hosts the fifth seed.

After the wild-card round, the teams from the AFC and NFC must negotiate two further play-off stages - the four-team divisional round and the two-team conference championships - before the winners of each conference go head to head in the Super Bowl.

As in the wild-card round, the divisional round pits the highest seed against the lowest seed. Throughout the conference play-offs, the higher seeded team is given home advantage. Check the full NFL Wild Card Weekend Schedule

Super Bowl LVI is scheduled to be played at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, on 13 February 2022.

2021/22 NFL play-offs: schedule

Wild-card round:

AFC

1. Tennessee Titans (BYE)
2. Kansas City Chiefs vs. 7. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Buffalo Bills vs. 6. New England Patriots
4. Cincinnati Bengals vs. 5. Las Vegas Raiders

NFC

1. Green Bay Packers (BYE)
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. 7. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Dallas Cowboys vs. 6. San Francisco 49ers
4. Los Angeles Rams vs. 5. Arizona Cardinals

Divisional round:

Saturday, Jan. 22

TBA vs. TBA, 4:35 p.m. ET
TBA vs. TBA, 8:15 p.m. ET

Sunday, Jan. 23

TBA vs. TBA, 3:05 p.m. ET
TBA vs. TBA, 6:40 p.m. ET

Note: The Titans and Packers will both be hosting divisional round playoff games

Championship Sunday:

Jan. 30

AFC Championship
3:05 p.m. ET (CBS)

NFC Championship
6:40 p.m. ET (Fox)

Super Bowl LV:

AFC champion vs NFC champion: 13 February 2022