NFL playoffs 2023-24: Dates, format and a bold prediction

It'll probably be easier to be an NFC team in the playoffs this year than an AFC team.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

For those curious on how the NFL playoffs work, we've got you covered (with a big prediction, too).

Regular-season football is great, sure. But have you tried playoff football?

There's nothing quite like the NFL playoffs. Unlike Major League Baseball, the NBA or even the NHL, NFL playoffs employ a "one and done" format. If you lose one game, you're out of the tournament. It's that simple.

In 2021, the NFL altered its playoff format by adding a seventh seed to each conference and giving just one team, the No. 1 seed, a first-round bye in the Wild Card round. Previously, the first two teams received first-round byes, and there were only six teams per conference in the postseason.

Sound confusing?

Read more: What is the 49ers schedule for the 2023 season?

If you're not overly familiar with the NFL playoffs and their format, that's OK. We've got you covered.

NFL playoffs: Dates for 2023-2024 season

The first round of the postseason begins a week after the conclusion of the regular season (Week 17).

  • Wild Card round: Jan. 13-15, 2024
  • Divisional round: Jan. 20-21, 2024
  • Conference championship games: Jan. 28, 2024
  • Super Bowl LVIII: Feb. 11, 2024

Current NFL playoffs format (who plays who in each round)

A total of 14 teams make the postseason, seven from each conference. As was the case prior to a seventh team being added, the first four seeds in a conference go to division winners, while the Wild Card teams boast the best remaining records without having won their respective divisions:

  1. Division winner (receives first-round bye)
  2. Division winner
  3. Division winner
  4. Division winner
  5. Wild Card team
  6. Wild Card team
  7. Wild Card team

Seeds are based on regular-season records, and a number of tiebreakers are in place if two teams finish with identical records.

In the Wild Card round, the No. 2 seed hosts the No. 7 seed, while the No. 3 seed hosts the No. 6 seed. Then, the No. 4 seed hosts the No. 5 seed.

In the divisional round, the No. 1 seed hosts the lowest seed to advance beyond Round 1 of the NFL playoffs, while the next highest seed would host the second-to-lowest seed to advance.

The winner of both divisional-round games play each other in the conference championship for the right to advance to the Super Bowl.

Bold prediction for 2023-2024 season and NFL playoffs

The San Francisco 49ers finally get that exclusive sixth Lombardi Trophy. That's the bold prediction, and we call it bold because we've singled out just one of the league's 32 teams to do this.

It's not without reason, though.

The Niners' Super Bowl window is open now, and after making (and losing in) the NFC Championship game in back-to-back years, one has to figure the floodgates finally open for head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co.

Besides, it's not as if Shanahan boasts one of the most talented rosters in the entire league right now.

Also assisting San Francisco's chances to make it to the Super Bowl is the fact the NFC is the weaker conference by a significant margin, and it's reasonable to assume only the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and potentially the Seattle Seahawks pose a major threat to bump the 49ers from the postseason.

Now, getting to the Super Bowl is one thing. Winning it is another. That's where we rely on a simple law of averages about numbers balancing themselves out over time.

It's time for the Niners to win their next Super Bowl, particularly with this window open.

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