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Indianapolis Colts. Seattle Seahawks. New York Jets. Detroit Lions. Green Bay Packers. Los Angeles Chargers.
Atlanta Falcons. San Francisco 49ers. Washington Football Team. Philadelphia Eagles. New Orleans Saints. Buffalo Bills.
The Colts came into the last game of the season undefeated, but were beaten by the Rams. This event figured into the decision in to include a wild-card team in the playoff tournament after the AFL—NFL merger.
During the s, a third-place playoff game was played in Miami , called the Playoff Bowl. It was contested in early January following the — 69 seasons.
Though official playoff games at the time they were played, the NFL now officially classifies these ten games and statistics as exhibitions, not as playoff games.
There was no tie-breaker system in place, so ties atop the Eastern Division final standings in and Western Division in necessitated playoff games to determine each division's representative in the championship.
For the season, a first round was added whereby each division winner played the second-place team from the other division.
In its last year , the AAFC would merge its two conferences when one of its teams folded, and use a four-team playoff system. In , the aforementioned issue of playoff inequity came into play when the San Francisco 49ers would miss the playoffs with a 12—2 record; they were in the same conference as the 14—0 Cleveland Browns , who would go on to win the Western Conference and then the AAFC's championship game against the 7—7 Buffalo Bills AAFC.
The success of the rival league would eventually lead to a full merger of the two leagues. When the leagues merged in , the new NFL with 26 teams reorganized into two conferences of three divisions each.
From the season to the season, four teams from each conference for a total of eight teams qualified for the playoffs each year.
These four teams included the three division champions, and a fourth wild-card team. Originally, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation.
The league did not institute a seeding system for the playoffs until , where the surviving clubs with the higher seeds were made the home teams for each playoff round.
However, two teams from the same division could not meet prior to the conference championship game. Following an expansion of the regular season from 14 to 16 games in , the league added one more wild-card team for each conference.
The two wild-card teams played the week before the division winners. The winner of this game played the top seeded division winner as was done from — The league continued to prohibit intra-divisional games in the divisional playoffs, but allowed such contests in the wild-card round.
During the strike-shortened season , only nine regular season games were played, and a modified playoff format was instituted. Divisional play was ignored there were some cases where division rivals had both games wiped out by the strike, although each division ultimately sent at least one team to the playoffs , and the top eight teams from each conference based on W-L-T record were advanced to the playoffs.
As a result, this became the first time that teams with losing records qualified for the playoffs: the 4—5 Cleveland Browns and the 4—5 Detroit Lions.
Several times between —89, the two wild-card games had to be played on different days. Normally they both would be held on Sunday. In and , the games were split between Saturday and Monday because Sunday was Christmas, and the NFL had avoided playing on that day at the time.
In , both games were played in the Pacific Time Zone , so they had to be played on Saturday and Sunday to accommodate for time differences. In , both the New York Giants and Jets hosted wild-card games.
As they have shared a home stadium since , the games had to be played on different days. For the season , a third wild-card team for each conference was added, expanding the playoffs to the current twelve teams.
The lowest-seeded division winner was then "demoted" to the wild-card weekend. Also, the restrictions on intra-divisional games during the divisional playoffs were removed.
The season became the first time that playoff games were played in prime time. The format continued until the expansion and reorganization into eight divisions.
In this format from , as explained above , the four division winners and two wild cards are seeded 1—6, with the top two seeds receiving byes, and the highest seed in each round guaranteed to play the lowest seed.
Seedings also determine the home-field advantage. A limitation of the team format was that division winners, including one with a.
Home field advantage does not guarantee success, however; during the —16 season , every road team won their respective playoff game, the first such occurrence in NFL history.
Calls to expand the playoffs to 14 teams began in Proponents of expansion noted the increased revenue that could be gained from an additional two playoff games.
They also noted that the team playoff system was implemented when the league still had 28 teams, four fewer than the expansion.
The opposition to such a move notes that an expansion of the playoffs would "water down" the field by giving access to lower-caliber teams.
Opponents to expansion further point to the NBA playoffs and the NHL playoffs where more than half of the teams qualify for the postseason, and there is often a decreased emphasis on regular season performance as a result.
However, by February , the Washington Post reported that support among team owners had eroded, and league leaders expressed reluctance to make a change until the end of the season.
The league eventually revisited and implemented the team playoff format in , placing a third wild-card team in each conference, and only giving the top seed a bye.
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