How Are NFL Wildcard Teams Chosen

Football season is back, and even at the very beginning of the season, thoughts are turning to the Super Bowl. There is a long journey that must take place to get there which includes the regular season and the play-offs. That may leave some wondering how are NFL wildcard teams chosen.

It is actually a pretty simple formula that is used to determine the wild card teams. The 32 teams are divided into two conferences, each conference has four divisions. The team that wins each division is able to play in the playoffs. Next the rest of the teams are evaluated and the two teams who did the best throughout the regular season yet did not win their division are chosen to be the wild card teams.

The wild card round is the first round in the playoffs, however, the wild card teams do not play. Two division winners play each other in the first round. In the second round, each wild card team will play a divisional winning team. With the winners going on to the next round, the playoffs continue this way until the last two teams standing make it to the Super Bowl.

The NFL was the first league to begin using wild cards, the term was not used until 1970, but in the year 1969 the Kansas City Chiefs were the first team that had not won their division, to go on to win the Super Bowl. Had they won a year later, they would have been the first wild card team to win the Super Bowl, but since that term had not been used yet, they are first non-division winning team to win the Super Bowl.

Six wild card teams have gone on to win the Super Bowl. While ten teams went on to win in the playoffs and make it to the Super Bowl. The first NFL playoff took place in 1967 when four teams were in the championship, later when the NFL merged with the American football league in 1970, that brought the number of teams eligible for the championship up to eight.


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