NFL Playoff Guide: How to watch the games, bracket format and betting favorites

Six teams – the Steelers, Browns, Lions, Packers, Texans and Rams – are in the playoffs after missing out last season. At least four teams that failed to make the playoffs one season have made the playoffs the following year every year since 1990.

The Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys are riding high after big wins in Week 18 ended their regular seasons. The Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles are reeling after stumbling down the stretch.

With or without momentum, the NFL playoffs begin for 12 of the 14 postseason qualifiers during wild card weekend. The games begin on Saturday when the Texans host the Browns and the Chiefs host the Dolphins.

The No. 1 seeds — including the AFC’s Baltimore Ravens and the NFC’s San Francisco 49ers — get a bye until next week’s divisional round.

Of the six wild card games this weekend, two have particularly juicy storylines.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was 0-3 in the playoffs with the Lions, is returning to Detroit as a member of the Los Angeles Rams. The Lions tied a franchise record with 12 regular season wins and will be looking for their first playoff win since beating Dallas on Jan. 5, 1992.

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy will face his former team when Jordan Love leads the Packers in Dallas on Sunday. The Cowboys routed Washington 38-10 to win the NFC East title and will host Green Bay as they look to remain undefeated at home this season.

How to watch


No. 5 Browns at No. 4 Texas, 4:30 p.m. EST, NBC

No. 6 Dolphins at No. 3 Chiefs 8pm EST, Peacock

(The Dolphins-Chiefs game will be the first NFL playoff game to be broadcast exclusively on Peacock, NBC’s subscription service. Fans in the Kansas City and Miami markets will still be able to watch for free on their local NBC affiliates.)


No. 7 Steelers at No. 2 Bills, 1 p.m. EST, CBS/Paramount+

No. 7 Packers at No. 2 Cowboys, 4:30 p.m. EST, Fox

No. 6 Rams at No. 3 Lions, 8 p.m. EST, NBC


No. 5 Eagles at No. 4 Buccaneers, 8:15 p.m. EST, ABC/ESPN

The format

This is the fourth season of the current NFL playoff format. The field was expanded to 14 teams in 2020 when the league added a third wild card qualifier from both the AFC and NFC.

Wild Card Weekend: 12-14 Jan

Divisional Round: 20-21 Jan

Conference Championships: January 28

Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium: February 11.

The four division winners in each conference automatically receive the top four seeds, regardless of record, and then the top three teams with the best record who did not win their division are the wild card selections. That’s why it’s fairly common for a wild-card selection to have a better record — but a worse playoff seed — than a team that finished as the division winner.

The No. 1 seed in each conference gets a second-round bye, while the No. 2 seed hosts the No. 7 seed, the No. 3 seed hosts the No. 6 seed and the No. 4 seed hosts the No. 5 seed during wild-card weekend.

The NFL has a reseeding policy after each playoff round. This means that no matter how the bracket started, the lowest seeded team will always travel to the higher seeded team in the AFC and NFC.

Betting favourites

The odds expect good matches in the first round.

There are two favorites on the road during wild card weekend, according to FanDuel Sportsbook: The Browns are a 2 1/2-point favorite over rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and the Texans, while the Eagles are also a 2 1/2-point favorite against the Pirates.

Not every game is expected to be tense. The Cowboys are 7 1/2-point favorites over the Packers, while the Bills have a 10-point advantage over the Steelers.

As for the Super Bowl winner, the odds favor the top seeds. The 49ers are +230 to win it all, while the Ravens are +350.

Want to bet on a longshot? The Steelers (+13000) and Packers (+10000) would bring in the most profit if they win it all.

And – as always – there are also support bets. Among them, a weekend wild-card touchdown on the kickoff carries a +5,000 win.

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