The NFL regular season is drawing to a close, and while the playoff image is still not clear at this stage, it is certain that more teams will see the action with the new format in place.
For the 2021-22 playoffs, 14 teams will participate in the playoff round, including three jokers for each conference. In previous years, only 12 teams were allowed to make the playoffs. This rose to 14 after the collective agreement that was signed between the NFL and the NFL Players Association early last year.
Expansion of the playoffs
The format change was the first in 30 years and was first implemented in January of this year for the 2020-21 playoffs. In addition to the additional participating teams, there are new first-round exemption rules and a different schedule.
The two NFL conferences, the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference, each have four divisions: East, North, South, and West. The division winners all advance to the playoffs, and now there is an additional wildcard team each for AFC and NFC.
The jokers’ turn
Division winners are ranked in each conference based on their performance and are labeled seed number one, two, three and four. The other three slots per conference are called wildcards and are allocated to teams that have the first three records after the division winners. These will be called number seeds five, six and seven.
The seeds for each conference are gave a goodbye and do not have to play in the wildcard round. During this round, the division winners will play against the jokers. The winners will advance to the divisional round of the playoffs.
Right now only the Green Bay Packers with the league’s best record of 11-3 sealed a spot in NFC support. They also got the NFC North title.
The 13 remaining places in the playoffs are still wide open, with only five teams officially out of the race: the New York Jets, the Houston Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Detroit Lions and the latest casualty, the Chicago Bears.
With such a race wide open among the contenders, the final weeks of the 2021-22 regular season promise a thrilling neck-and-neck race to the finish for NFL fans.