The National Football League playoffs are a single-elimination tournament held after the end of the regular season to determine the NFL champion.
A single-elimination tournament—also called an Olympic system tournament, a knockout, single penetration, or sudden death tournament—is a type of elimination tournament where the loser of each bracket is immediately eliminated from winning the championship or first prize in the event.
The playoffs, play-offs, postseason and/or finals of a sports league are a competition played after the regular season by the top competitors to determine the league champion or a similar accolade.
The National Football League is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference.
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Six teams from each of the league's two conferences qualify for the playoffs based on regular season records, and a tie-breaking procedure exists in the case of equal records.
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The tournament ends with the Super Bowl, the league's championship game, which matches the two conference champions.
The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League, the highest level of professional American football in the world.
NFL postseason history can be traced to the first NFL Championship Game in 1933, though in the early years, qualification for the game was based solely on regular season records.
Throughout its history, the National Football League and other rival American football leagues have used several different formats to determine their league champions, including a period of inter-league matchups determining a true world champion.
From 1933 to 1966, the NFL postseason generally only consisted of the NFL Championship Game, pitting the league's two division winners.
The NFL playoffs then expanded in 1967, when four teams qualified for the tournament.
When the league merged with the American Football League in 1970, the playoffs expanded to eight teams.
The American Football League was a major professional American football league that operated from 1960 until 1969, when it merged with the National Football League.
The playoffs were expanded to 10 teams in 1978 and 12 teams since 1990.
The NFL is the only one out of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States to use a single-elimination tournament in all four rounds of its playoffs; Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League all use a "best-of" format instead.
The National Basketball Association is the pre-eminent men's professional basketball league in North America, and is widely considered to be the premier men's professional basketball league in the world.
Major League Baseball is a professional baseball organization, the oldest of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada.
The National Hockey League is a professional ice hockey league composed of 31 member clubs: 24 in the United States and 7 in Canada.