Recent changes to the NFL playoff structure almost helped the Green Bay Packers secure a wild-card berth last season.
With more teams now able to qualify for the playoffs, the Packers would've secured a wild-card berth had they defeated the Detroit Lions in the season finale. More teams make the postseason now than previously, but the updated format can be confusing.
So, how does it all work, and how many teams will make the playoffs in 2023?
How many teams make the NFL playoffs?
A total of 14 teams make the playoffs -- seven from the AFC and seven from the NFC. Previously, only six made it from each conference.
All four division winners from each conference automatically qualify for a playoff berth, regardless of their record. Then, the best three non-division winners from each conference earn a wild-card berth.
The AFC and NFC send seven teams to the postseason: Four division winners and three wild-cards.
How many teams from each division make the NFL playoffs?
It depends. Some divisions only send one team. Theoretically, all four teams in a single division could make the playoffs, although it's unlikely.
Each division sends at least one team to the playoffs.
However, now that seven teams can make the postseason, it is technically possible for the entire division to make it. The division winners automatically qualify. If the other three teams had the best records of the non-division winners, they would earn wild-card berths.
How many teams earn a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the NFL playoffs?
Only one from each conference.
The teams from the AFC and NFC with the best records will secure the No. 1 seed. That ensures a bye in the first round, sending them straight to the divisional round. They also have home-field advantage, meaning every playoff game they play is at home.
Why is winning the division so important for NFL playoffs seeding?
Division winners are guaranteed to host at least one playoff game and earn a top-four seed in their conference, regardless of their record.
It means a wild-card team can have a better win-loss record than a division winner, but the division winner still gets the better seed.
For example, in the 2022 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had an 8-9 record, but it was enough to win the NFC South. The Dallas Cowboys went 12-5 but finished second in the NFC East. Despite having a better record, the Cowboys had a lower seed than the Bucs because Tampa Bay won its division. The two teams met in the wild-card round in Tampa Bay.
The Packers had an 8-9 record but missed the playoffs. The Bucs also went 8-9 but made the playoffs as they won their division.