How many teams make the NFL playoffs? Updated standings for 2021 expanded playoff bracket

The NFL expanded its playoff field for the 2020 season, and that just means more teams in the hunt in the season’s final weeks.

In the past, 12 teams have advanced to the NFL postseason, but for the first time in 2020, it’ll be 14 teams making the field to contend for the Super Bowl. It’s a move that adds two games to the overall postseason slate, along with two markets that otherwise would’ve had their season ended. In the end, it amounts to more money for the National Football League.

An extra playoff spot in each conference presents hope for more fan bases as December carries on. The Patriots still have hope. So too do the Cardinals and 49ers. And it’ll mean one less team feels hard done by missing out in favor of an underwhelming NFC East champion.

Here’s what you need to know about the NFL’s expanded postseason for 2020, along with how teams are positioned currently in the field.

How many teams make the NFL playoffs in 2021?

The 2020 NFL playoffs will feature 14 teams overall, seven from the AFC and seven from the NFC. That’s a new expansion for the 2020 season that means each conference gets three wild-card teams in addition to the four division winners.

The NFL expanded the playoffs prior to 2020 from the most recent format of six teams in each conference. The larger field doesn’t mean any difference in the number of postseason rounds, but it does affect the number of byes. Instead of the top-two seeds in each conference getting a first-round bye, now only the top seed in each conference moves straight to the divisional round. 

The expansion meant that the NFL would have two additional franchises in the postseason, along with two additional games to be played. Adding extra anything to the NFL schedule equals more money to the league.

The NFL did approve a contingency plan earlier this year to expand the playoffs to 16 teams if COVID-19 prevents the chance to play a meaningful game (which would likely mean not even in a created Week 18). So it’s an unlikely outcome, but one to be aware of if the coronavirus hits the NFL extra hard as the holidays approach. 

NFL playoff bracket 2021

Here’s a look at the latest NFL playoffs matchups for 2020, updated during Week 17:


1. Kansas City Chiefs (bye)
2. Buffalo Bills vs. 7. Indianapolis Colts
3. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. 6. Cleveland Browns
4. Tennessee Titans vs. 5. Baltimore Ravens


1. Green Bay Packers (bye)
2. New Orleans Saints vs. 7. Chicago Bears
3. Seattle Seahawks vs. 6. Los Angeles Rams
4. Washington Football Team vs. 5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Current NFL playoff picture

In the hunt: Dolphins (10-6)

In the hunt: Cardinals (8-7), Giants (6-10)

NFL tiebreakers for playoffs

The NFL’s tiebreaker system is far from simple, so hope you can follow along.

To break a tie within a division between two teams: 

To break a tie within a division between three or more teams:

To break a tie in the wild card between two clubs:

To break a tie in the wild card between three or more clubs: 

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