|Dates: Saturday, February 14 – Monday, February 16|
|Live text coverage: On the BBC Sport website and app on Saturday (21:00-04:00 GMT), Sunday (17:30-04:00) and Tuesday (00:45-04:30)|
|Radio range: New York Giants against Minnesota Vikings on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra and the BBC Sounds app on Sunday (9pm-01.30am).|
Drama, emotion, pure athleticism – this season the NFL has once again proved that it has it all.
However, there was also a clear reminder of the risks associated with a physical sport like American football.
Security Buffalo Bills Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest during the penultimate round of the regular season, sparking a wave of support from across the league.
While he is recovering at home, emotions are still running high, especially in Buffalo as they prepare to start the playoffs this weekend.
Last season’s most valuable player, Aaron Rodgers, will not appear as his The Green Bay Packers were missing on the final weekend of the regular season, while this year’s MVP favorite Patrick Mahomes deserved a respite as his Kansas City Chiefs seeded the AFC number one.
Record-breaking seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady returns as many young quarterbacks are ready to fight for glory and a place in Super Bowl 57.
How do the NFL playoffs work?
|AFC Conference||NFC conference|
|1. Kansas City bosses||1. Philadelphia Eagles|
|2. Buffalo Bills||2. San Francisco 49ers|
|3. Cincinnati Bengals||3. Minnesota Vikings|
|4. Jacksonville Jaguars||4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|5. Los Angeles Chargers||5. Dallas Cowboys|
|6. Baltimore Ravens||6. New York Giants|
|7. Miami Dolphins||7. Seattle Seahawks|
This is the third season since the NFL increased the number of teams advancing to the playoffs from 12 to 14, seven from each conference.
The number of games during the wild card weekend has increased from four to six, so now 12 games are played over three weeks to decide who advances to the Super Bowl.
Now only the top seeds in each conference win a bye to week two of the playoffs, not the top two previously, and teams from each conference are kept separate until the Super Bowl.
The second through seventh seeds battle it out in what some NFL enthusiasts are now calling a “super wild card weekend” as there are as many as six knockout games over three days.
The winners of each game then join the top seeded divisions in the round, and the four winners from there meet in the Conference Championship, or Super Bowl semi-final, where the two winners earn the right to represent their Conference in the big game.
This year it takes place on February 12 at State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, but this season’s playoffs are a bit quirky.
Usually the highest remaining seed plays the lowest seed at home for the entire playoffs.
However, if the Bills face the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game, then will be played at a neutral stadium – namely Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta – because the game that was canceled due to Hamlin’s injury means the Buffalo have one less in their tally, which determines the seeding.
Wild Card Matches (Away Teams First, GMT First Matches)
- Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (21:30 Saturday)
- Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars (01:15 Sunday)
- Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (6 p.m. Sunday)
- New York Giants vs. Minnesota Vikings (21:30 Sunday)
- Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals (01:15 Monday)
- Dallas Cowboys v Tampa Bay Buccaneers (01:15 Tuesday)
Who is the favorite to win the Super Bowl?
The Bosses they are slight favorites, and quarterback Mahomes wants to lead them to a third Super Bowl in four years.
Both they and Philadelphia Eagles he finished the regular season with a 14–3 record and finished top of the standings—and bid farewell to the first week of the play-offs, giving Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts the chance to recover from a shoulder problem that kept him out for two games.
After the start 6:3 Bills they showed why they started the season as Super Bowl favorites, winning the last seven games, and are now carried by an emotional wave of support after the Damar Hamlin incident.
The Cincinnati Bengalslast year’s Super Bowl runners-up are also in good form, having won their last 8 games, while a mid-season double threat trade for Christian McCaffrey helped propel San Francisco 49ers to a 10-fight win streak, despite a third-pick quarterback starting the last six.
Brock Purdy has been “Mr. Irrelevant” this season, the man drafted last in the NFL draft, but is poised to lead the 49ers to the playoffs after losing Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo to injury.
Will Brady win his eighth Super Bowl ring?
Brady was a veteran quarterback he retired just 40 days before returning for his 22nd season as a starter in the NFL.
And although he had his first losing season (8-9), it was enough for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win their division and hold Brady’s record for reaching the playoffs every year since 2002 (he was injured in 2008).
It was a mixed year for the Bucs on both sides of the ball, with their offense not as dangerous as Brady’s first two seasons in Florida.
Despite this, the 45-year-old still holds the NFL record for most passing attempts in a season (733) and broke his own passing record (490) from just two weeks ago he threw three touchdowns and a season-best 432 yards.
The Dallas Cowboys may have a better record (12-5), but in a knockout scenario it’s hard to write off a man who already has 47 playoff games under his belt.
“Everything will depend on what we do from now on,” Brady said. “The team that advances is the team that plays the best that day, not the team that had the best score or home ground.”
Hamlin recuperates at home, but Tagovailoa has ruled out
After a mixed start, the Bills regrouped and had a strong end to the regular season when disaster seemed to strike in the penultimate game.
Hamlin collapsed after a tackle against the Bengals on January 2 and suffered cardiac arrest, but his heart rate was restored on the pitch.
With Hamlin watching from his hospital bed The Bills produced a moving display to defeat the New England Patriots last Sunday, with runner Nyheim Hines scoring in the first game since Hamlin fell back from the kick-off.
Hamlin was released from the hospital on Wednesday and Bills coach Sean McDermott said it was up to him when he returned to the team’s facilities, adding that security and his father Mario wanted the players and staff to focus on Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.
“They want us to do our job and that’s what we have to do,” McDermott said.
Miami is to be without Tua Tagovailoa as it stays in NFL concussion protocol that has been changed after the quarterback was also shaken in September.
The 24-year-old was cleared to play despite suffering a concussion just five days earlier in the Dolphins’ loss to the Bills.
Miami limped into the playoffs having lost five of their last six, and there are now concerns about Tagovailoa’s NFL future after two diagnosed brain injuries in the same season.
What else to pay attention to
Not long ago, Mahomes was the most exciting young talent in the NFL. Interestingly, at the age of 27, the 2018 MVP will be the oldest AFC quarterback in this year’s playoffs.
It looked like Mahomes vs. Allen would be competing for many years in the AFC after the two had an epic shootout in the regular season of the previous season.
But Joe Burrow showed he would be in the mix by overtaking Mahomes in the championship game to lead the Bengals to surprise appearance at the Super Bowl last year – and they’re back in the playoffs this season.
nora i Trevor Lawrence they were the 2020 and 2021 draft picks, and both helped turn their team’s fortunes around as that year Lawrence led the Jacksonville Jaguars to the post-season for the first time in five years.
This weekend, Lawrence will face the Los Angeles Chargers and Justin Herbert will also make his first playoff appearance after the Chargers narrowly missed out last year.
Lamar Jackson, the 2019 MVP, is another of the AFC’s exciting quarterbacks, but he’s been struggling with a knee injury, so Tyler Huntley could still fill in for the Baltimore Ravens in Cincinnati.
In the NFC, the New York Giants have completed a six-year playoff season, and the Seattle Seahawks make an unexpected appearance.
They were expected to have one of the worst records in the NFL this season after quarterback Russell Wilson was traded to Denver, but his replacement Geno Smith, 32, defied the odds in his first season as a regular starter since 2014.