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NFL post season: how do wild cards work for play-off qualification?

Wild-card teams are those with the best record among non-division winners. The NFL Super Wild Card Weekend starts on Saturday, Jan. 13th.

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman Jr. (12) runs with the ball as Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Michael Davis (43) defends.
Kiyoshi MioUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

The National Football League (NFL) postseason is scheduled to begin on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2023, with the AFC’s south champion Houston Texans playing host to No. 5 seed Cleveland Browns.

The four division winners in each NFL conference will make up eight contenders, while the number of wild cards on each side of the playoffs increased from two to three two years ago.

How do NFL playoff wild cards work?

The NFL is divided into 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 playoffs, in which the two conferences remain separated until the Super Bowl

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

While the division winners are seeded one to four in the playoffs 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 playoffs’ first phase, 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 playoff 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 playoffs, the higher-seeded team is given home advantage.

Super Bowl LVIII is scheduled to be played on Sunday, Feb. 11.

2023/24 NFL playoffs: Super Wild Card schedule

Saturday, January 13

  • AFC 4:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 p.m. PT
    Cleveland Browns (5) @ Houston Texans (4)
  • AFC 8:15 p.m. ET / 5:15 p.m PT
    Miami Dolphins (6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (3)

Sunday, January 14

  • AFC 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT
    Pittsburgh Steelers (7) @ Buffalo Bills (2)
  • NFC: 4:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 p.m. PT
    Green Bay Packers (7) @ Dallas Cowboys (2)
  • NFC: 8:15 p.m. ET / 5:15 PT
    Los Angeles Rams (6) @ Detroit Lions (3)

Monday, January 16

  • NFC 8:15 ET / 5:15 PT
    Philadelphia Eagles (5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)