Just as the Super Bowl is the culmination of the football year, our Basics information is also coming to a close. This is our LAST Basics post!!! We made it!!! Next week we’ll have two more divisional posts and then…a final exam! Time to start hitting the books!
In the NFL, there are two conferences, the NFC and the AFC. There are four divisions within each conference (north, south, east, and west), and four teams in each division (resulting in 32 teams). Twelve teams make it to the playoffs, six from each conference.
To make the playoffs, a team has to place first in their division. During the 16-game schedule a team plays all of the other teams in their division twice: once at home, and once away. Example: the Packers will play the Lions, the Bears, and the Vikings once at Lambeau (home), and they will also travel to Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota to play each team at their own stadium (away). That accounts for 6 games each season. The results of these divisional games are especially important because a team needs to win their division to make it to the Playoffs. If two teams in the same division have the same overall record the team that has the best divisional record gets the playoff spot.
The remaining 10 games are played in an even split of home and away games on a rotating schedule against all of the other teams in the league.
The four teams that win their division from each conference are ranked (“seeded”) according to their regular season record. That results in 8 teams total. The remaining 4 teams are called “Wildcard” teams. These are the two teams from each conference who have the best regular season record. Don’t count them out just because they’re the last ones in – Wildcard teams can be dangerous in the playoffs! (2010 Packers, I’m looking at you.) (!!!)
The playoffs are a single elimination tournament played over the course of four weeks (one of which is a free week in between the conference championship game and the Super Bowl). At the end of the playoffs, one AFC team and one NFC team remain. The AFC and NFC Champions play each other in the apex of all that is good in the world: the Super Bowl.
And after the Super Bowl we mourn the offseason…the absence of football for an ETERNITY (or about 6 months).