Playoff field set: Bucs’ Brady back for run at eighth Super Bowl ring

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Seven of the 14 teams in this year’s playoffs didn’t make the field last season, giving the NFL’s upcoming wild-card weekend a mix of traditional powerhouses and underdogs.

Tom Brady begins his quest for an unprecedented eighth Super Bowl title when his Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night. Meanwhile, Jacksonville second-year standout Trevor Lawrence and Seattle veteran Geno Smith will be among at least five quarterbacks making their playoff debuts.

The schedule is set: In the AFC, it’ll be the Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville, Miami at Buffalo and Baltimore at Cincinnati. In the NFC, it’s Seattle at San Francisco to begin the playoff slate, followed by the New York Giants at Minnesota and Dallas at Tampa Bay.

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The Seahawks were the last team to make the field after Detroit beat Green Bay 20-16 on Sunday night. The Lions were eliminated from playoff contention earlier Sunday when Seattle beat the Rams, but Detroit pushed past the disappointment to deny Aaron Rodgers and the division rival Packers a spot in the postseason.

The Lions’ win capped a Week 18 that saw the Dolphins make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The surprising Jaguars also return to the postseason for just the second time since 2007.

Among those who didn’t make the cut: The New England Patriots and six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Bill Belichick, eliminated after a loss to the Bills.

The No. 1 overall seed in the AFC was claimed by Kansas City with its 31-13 win over Las Vegas on Saturday. The NFC’s top spot was taken by Philadelphia, which beat the Giants 22-16 on Sunday.

Here’s a look at some other developments as the postseason approaches:

Wild-Card Schedule


Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers, 3:30 p.m., Fox

Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars, 7:15 p.m., NBC


Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills, noon, CBS

New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, 3:30 p.m., Fox

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals, 7:15 p.m., NBC


Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 7:15 p.m., ESPN/ABC

Playoff Format

This is the third consecutive year of the current NFL playoff format, which includes the top seven teams from both the AFC and the NFC.

The four division winners in both conferences automatically get the top four seeds, regardless of record, and then the top three teams with the best record that didn’t win their division are the wild-card selections. That’s why it’s fairly common for a wild-card selection to have a better record — but worse playoff seeding — than a team that finished as a division winner.

The No. 1-seeded team in each conference gets a bye into the second round — that’s the Chiefs and Eagles — while No. 2 hosts No. 7, No. 3 hosts No. 6 and No. 4 hosts No. 5 during the wild-card weekend.

The NFL re-seeds teams after each round. That means no matter how the bracket started, the lowest-seeded team will always travel to the highest-seeded team.

There are four rounds to the playoffs: the wild-card round is during the upcoming weekend, the divisional round is Jan. 21-22, the conference championship games are on Jan. 29 and the Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.

What Changed with the Bills-Bengals Cancellation?

Players and fans watched in horror on Jan. 2 when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field at Cincinnati when his heart stopped and had to be given CPR before leaving the field in an ambulance. A few days later, those same players and fans reacted with joy at news of Hamlin’s recovery.

The cancellation of the Bills-Bengals game because of Hamlin’s injury could lead to one big change.

The AFC championship game would be played on a neutral site if the Chiefs and Bills reach that point under a rule adjustment approved by NFL owners last Friday. That’s because Buffalo (13-3) played one fewer game than Kansas City (14-3) and missed out on a chance to earn the top seed.