When do the NFL playoffs start in 2021? Date, TV schedule & updated playoff picture for expanded format

Even though the NFL’s upcoming playoffs take place in 2021, they’re the conclusion of the 2020 season, and if we’ve learned one thing, it’s to expect the unexpected.

The league could have decisions to make about putting teams into bubbles, expanding the field, altering game times and who knows what else based on COVID-19 as it rises across the country through the holiday season. You can be sure of one thing: The NFL will make sure the Super Bowl gets played. The current plan is for an expanded 14-team field to compete for the chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Tampa on Feb. 7.

There’s still a lot to be determined down the stretch of the season. The Steelers and Chiefs are fighting for the AFC’s lone playoff bye, while the NFC will almost certainly have a sub-.500 division champion in the NFC East messing up what otherwise is a pretty logical playoff picture. 

Below is everything you need to know about the NFL playoffs in 2021, including dates and a TV schedule for each round, how all the tiebreakers work and how the playoff picture currently sits. 

When do the NFL playoffs start in 2021?

In the NFL’s expanded playoffs for the 2021 postseason, seven teams from each conference make the field. That’s different from recent years, when six teams from the AFC and NFC each participated.

With seven teams advancing to the postseason, that changes the bye scenario — while in the past two teams received first-round byes, it’s only the top seed in each conference receiving a bye week now. After that, things proceed as they classically have, with four teams playing on each side of the divisional bracket before the conference championship games and Super Bowl.

NFL playoff schedule

Wild-card round

Saturday, Jan. 9

Sunday, Jan. 10

Divisional round

Saturday, Jan. 16

Sunday, Jan. 17

Conference championships

Sunday, Jan. 24

Super Bowl 55

Sunday, Feb. 7

How do the NFL playoffs work?

Although the postseason will take place in 2021, this is the 2020 season we’re talking about, so of course things are different. For the first time, the NFL is rolling out a 14-team playoff system (up from the recently used 12-team system). This doesn’t alter how teams make the postseason too heavily — it just means that instead of two wild-card teams, there are now three. It also lowers the number of first-round byes to one from each conference compared to the old two.

The seeding works as follows: 1. the division champion with the best record; 2. the division champion with the second-best record; 3. the division champion with the third-best record; 4. the division champion with the fourth-best record; 5. the wild-card team with the best record; 6. the wild-card club with the second-best record.

The team with the higher seed gets home-field advantage in each playoff game from the wild-card round through the AFC and NFC championship games.

Below are the NFL’s tiebreaking procedures for the NFL playoff field.

To break a tie in division standings:

(Between two teams)

(Between three or more teams)

To break a tie in wild-card standings:

(Between two teams)

(Between three or more teams)

NFL playoff picture 2021

Source: Read Full Article