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HomeSportsNFL playoff bracket, explained: How byes, seeding, format will work in 2022-23

NFL playoff bracket, explained: How byes, seeding, format will work in 2022-23

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The NFL’s postseason underwent a minor reconstruction ahead of the 2020 regular season. While a 14-team postseason is a norm for the NFL now, it isn’t long ago that the league’s playoff structure was different.

It used to be that 12 total teams made the playoffs with six from each conference qualifying. Two teams from each conference were awarded bye weeks while the remaining eight teams paired off in wild-card stand-offs.

Now, there are fewer bye weeks to begin the playoffs and more games — just the way the NFL likes it.

Many are still getting used to the new-ish playoff format. Sporting News is here to break down the NFL playoffs for those that need a refresher on how they work.

Below is everything you could want to know about the 2023 postseason and the race to get there.

MORE: Explaining how the NFL’s 17-game schedule works

How many teams make the NFL playoffs?

A total of 14 teams will make the NFL playoffs in 2023. This will mark the third season during which the NFL has used a 14-team playoff; the league had used a 12-team playoff prior to the 2020 NFL season.

Seven teams from each conference will make the postseason. The only impact of adding a seventh team to the fold is that there is one extra wild-card game that will take place between the Nos. 2 and 7 seeds. The second seed in each conference no longer receives a bye.

The 14-team format means that 43.75 percent of the NFL’s teams will make the playoffs. That includes four division winners in each conference and three wild cards.

Under the new format, it is conceivable that an entire division could make it into the postseason. It would have to take up all three wild-card spots for that to be possible, but we could see that happen in 2023 because of the strength of the AFC and NFC East divisions.

NFL playoff bracket 2023

The NFL playoff bracket will feature seven teams on each side of the bracket. The No. 1 seed in each conference will receive a bye while the other six teams play wild-card games. They will be between the Nos. 2 and 7 seeds, the Nos. 3. and 6 seeds and the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds.

After the opening round, the teams are re-seeded so the No. 1 seed plays the lowest remaining seed. The remaining two seeds then square off in the divisional round. From there, it operates as a traditional bracket.

Here’s a look at the latest NFL playoff bracket for 2022, updated through Week 14:

AFC

1. Buffalo Bills (BYE)
2. Kansas City Chiefs vs. 7. New England Patriots
3. Baltimore Ravens vs. 6. Miami Dolphins
4. Tennessee Titans vs. 5. Cincinnati Bengals 

NFC 

1. Philadelphia Eagles (BYE)
2. Minnesota Vikings vs. 7. New York Giants
3. San Francisco 49ers vs. 6. Washington Commanders
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. 5. Dallas Cowboys

MORE: Updated NFL playoff picture following Week 14 of the 2022 NFL season

How many teams get a first-round bye?

Just one team in each conference will get a first-round bye under the NFL’s current playoff format. The playoff expansion adds a wild-card game to the fold which eliminates the bye for the No. 2 seed that existed in the previous bracket.

The elimination of the second-seed bye was necessary for the expansion of the playoff field. Making the No. 2 seed play ensures that half of the 12 teams that play on Wild Card weekend will be eliminated. That means eight will play in the divisional round and the NFL will continue to halve the total of teams from there until one is left standing after the Super Bowl.

Why did the NFL expand the playoff field?

The expansion of the playoffs was largely about money. The NFL can generate extra revenue from having two more prime-time postseason broadcasts — one of which is an extra “Monday Night Football” game — during the first week of the playoffs.

Additionally, the extra playoff spot in each contest keeps teams alive in the postseason race longer. In turn, that keeps the fan bases of middling teams interested as the season continues. It also gives teams that get off to slow starts — like the 2022 Lions — a better chance to turn it around and make a legitimate playoff push.

Patrick Mahomes

Does the No. 2 seed have any benefit without a bye?

The No. 2 seed certainly loses a bit of its luster compared to its standing under the old playoff format. Not having a bye means that the No. 2 seed will have to win four games to win a Super Bowl whereas it previously only needed to win three.

Still, the No. 2 seed does come with an advantage. Each of its first two playoff games will be held at home and if the No. 1 seed in the conference is eliminated, the No. 2 seed retains home-field advantage.

Additionally, the No. 2 seed holds a 4-0 record over the No. 7 seed in the first four iterations of the 2 vs. 7 game. The second seed has won by an average of 13 points per game, and all but one contest have been decided by double digits.

The difficulty of the 2 vs. 7 game could change from year to year, but it still appears that the No. 2 seed has a bigger advantage over its opponents than would the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds.

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Does the NFL’s 17th game have an impact on the playoffs?

The NFL expanded to a 17-game season in 2021. The added contest hasn’t had much of an impact on the playoffs, but it does slightly elongate the playoff race at the end of the regular season.

The other big change is that the Super Bowl now takes place on the second Sunday in February instead of the first. That move was made because the NFL preferred tacking on an extra week to its season as opposed to shifting its preseason calendar to add a game in early September.

NFL playoff bracket

Here’s a look at the complete NFL playoff bracket for 2023, updated through Week 14:

AFC

1. Buffalo Bills (BYE)
2. Kansas City Chiefs vs. 7. New England Patriots
3. Baltimore Ravens vs. 6. Miami Dolphins
4. Tennessee Titans vs. 5. Cincinnati Bengals 

NFC 

1. Philadelphia Eagles (BYE)
2. Minnesota Vikings vs. 7. New York Giants
3. San Francisco 49ers vs. 6. Washington Commanders
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. 5. Dallas Cowboys

NFL playoff schedule 2023

The NFL’s playoff schedule for 2023 will be provided once the matchups, times and TV channels for each contest are available.


Credit: sportingnews.com

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