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When do the NFL playoffs start?

Washington Football Team v New York Giants
Washington Football Team v New York Giants
Amaar Burton
ANALYST
Modified 19 Dec 2020, 08:08 IST
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So many new things are happening in the NFL this season, it can hard for some fans to keep up with all the changes.

The most notable changes with the biggest impact have of course been related to the COVID-19 pandemic. From NFL games being played in nearly empty stadiums, to games being postponed and rescheduled, to coaches wearing face masks, to key players and even TV announcers missing time due to exposure to the coronavirus, COVID-19 has undeniably changed the way NFL games have been viewed and how they've been played this season.

Another major change for the NFL in 2020 is the expansion of the playoff field.

This is the first year of the NFL's move to 14 playoff teams instead of 12, with seven teams making the postseason per conference. The No. 1 seed earns a first-round bye, while the remaining six teams in the conference play each other during the opening playoff weekend.

As a reminder, that opening weekend of the playoffs will be Jan. 9 and 10 of next year.

2020-21 NFL Playoff Format

Wild-Card Weekend will feature three games on Saturday, Jan. 9, and three games on Sunday, Jan. 10. Kickoff times on each day are currently scheduled for 1:05 p.m. EST, 4:40 p.m. EST, and 8:15 p.m. EST.

Which teams actually make the playoffs will likely determine which games get which time slots. NFL teams closer to the East Coast in the U.S. typically host earlier games, while NFL teams closer to the West Coast typically host the later games. The primetime games tend to be determined by which matchup seems most intriguing to the TV networks.

The winners of the Wild-Card Weekend games on Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 will advance to the divisional round.

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Divisional Weekend is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 16, and Sunday, Jan. 17. That's when the No. 1 seeds will enter the picture and host their first playoff games.

The winners of the divisional games will move on to the AFC Championship Game and the NFC Championship Game. Those games will be held on Sunday, Jan. 24.

The conference champions of course advance to the Super Bowl. The 55th edition of football's biggest game is scheduled for Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Fla.

Entering Week 15 of the NFL regular season, with three weeks remaining, four teams have already clinched their playoff spots. The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC, and the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints in the AFC.

The remaining 10 playoff spots are up for grabs, with 22 teams still in contention.

Published 19 Dec 2020, 08:08 IST
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