How do NFL conferences work?

Updated: 9/27/2023
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16y ago

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For each conference (AFC and NFC) the four division winners receive the 1 through 4 seeds, ranked according to their season records. The two wild card teams (the teams with the best records that did not win the division) receive the 5 and 6 seeds. Example from the NFC after the 2007 regular season:

1. Cowboys 2. Packers

3. Seahawks 4. Bucs 5. Giants 6. Redskins During the Wild Card Weekend, 3 hosts 6 and 4 hosts 5. One game is played on Saturday and one on Sunday. Teams 1 and 2 get the week off (referred to as a "bye").

The following weekend is the Divisional round of the playoffs. 1 hosts the lower seeded survivor from the Wild Card round, and 2 hosts the higher seeded survivor. Again, one game on Saturday and one on Sunday.

The winner of the Saturday Wild Card Game will play their next game on Saturday. For example, the Seattle Seahawks beat the Washington Redskins in the Saturday wild card game and they will play the Green Bay Packers on Saturday in the Divisional playoff. Leaving the Dallas Cowboys to play the winner of the New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

The next weekend is the conference championships. The higher seeded survivor from the Divisional round hosts the lower seeded survivor. The winner goes to the Superbowl to face the winner of the other conference.

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16y ago

The NFL's 32 teams are split into two conferences, the American Football Conference and National Football Conference. Each conference of 16 teams is split into four four-team divisions, called the East, West, North and South, so the teams are generally placed in their divisions by geographic proximity. There is one notable exception, that being the placement of Dallas in the NFC East when there are numerous other teams further east than Dallas. Each team in the NFL plays the teams in their division twice. They also play each team from a pre-determined division within their conference once each (the divisions rotate playing against each other). They also play each team from a pre-determined division in the other conference once a year. These determinations were set in 2002 and are not set to change any time soon. To fill out the 16-game schedule, each team plays a 'corresponding' team in the two divisions within their own conference. Example: Philadelphia finished fourth in the NFC East in 2007. In 2008, they will play twice against each team in the NFC East. They will also play all four teams in the NFC West and all four teams in the AFC North. Their final two games will be against the fourth-place teams from the NFC South (Atlanta) and NFC North (Chicago). Essentially, each team in every division plays 88% of the same games...the locations may change, but the opponents are the same. For the playoffs, the division champions, plus the two non-division champions with the best records after tie-breakers qualify. Each team is seeed by record, and the top two teams receive a bye into the second round. The first round games are hosted by the two division titlists with the worst records, even if the wild-card teams have better records. The second-round games are hosted by the teams who received byes. The highest seed plays against the lowest seed remaining, while the second seed plays the other first-round winner. The championship games in each conference are hosted by the highest remaining seed. The winners advance to the Super Bowl.

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12y ago

Each conference has four divisions. The teams with the best regular season record in their respective divisions get an automatic bid and are ranked 1-4 accordingly. Then of the remaining teams, the two with the best records in each conference are the wild cards and they are ranked 5 and 6 accordingly. It does not matter if the wild card team's record is better than a division winner's record; they are still ranked lower. This gives a total of 12 teams, six from the AFC and six from the NFC. The 1 and 2 teams in each conference receive a bye and jump to the next round with home field advantage. In the wild card round, the 3 seed plays the 6 seed and the four seed plays the 5 seed in each conference, the higher seed getting home filed advantage. In the following round, the 1 seed plays the lowest seed remaining and the 2 seed plays the other winner from the first round. The third round are the conference championships where the final two teams from each conference play, the higher seed getting home field advantage, and the winner being crowned conference champion. Finally the two conference champions play in the Superbowl, in which home field alternates each year.

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15y ago

They win their conference when they beaten every team in it. Or have beaten every team in the playoffs in their conference.

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Q: How do NFL conferences work?
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