How Do Wild Card Games Work in NFL?

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By Ralph Torres

If you’re a fan of the National Football League (NFL), you’ve probably heard of the term “wild card”. But what exactly does it mean? In this article, we’ll explore how wild card games work in NFL and what makes them so exciting.

What is a Wild Card Game?

A wild card game is a playoff game that involves teams that did not win their division. In the NFL, each conference has four divisions: North, South, East, and West.

The team with the best record in each division at the end of the regular season automatically qualifies for the playoffs. These teams are known as “division champions”.

The remaining two playoff spots in each conference are given to the two teams with the best records that did not win their division. These teams are called “wild card” teams and they play against each other in the first round of the playoffs.

How Are Wild Card Teams Determined?

The NFL has 32 teams divided into two conferences: American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC). At the end of the regular season, each conference has six playoff teams: four division champions and two wild card teams.

Wild card teams are determined by a combination of factors including overall win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head record against other playoff contenders, and conference record.

How Do Wild Card Games Work?

Wild card games are single-elimination games where one team advances to the next round while the other team is eliminated from postseason play. The higher-seeded team hosts the game on their home field.

In total, there are four wild card games played during NFL playoffs: two in AFC and two in NFC. The winners of these games advance to play against division champions in their respective conferences during Divisional Round.

Advantages and Disadvantages

One advantage of being a wild card team is that it allows a team to make the playoffs even if they didn’t win their division. This gives them another chance to compete for the championship.

However, wild card teams do not have home-field advantage in the playoffs. They must play on the road against higher-seeded teams, which can be a disadvantage.

Excitement and Drama

Wild card games are known for their unpredictability and excitement. Since both teams are fighting for survival, these games can be some of the most intense and dramatic of the entire NFL season.

In fact, some of the most memorable moments in NFL history have come from wild card games. From “The Music City Miracle” to “The Catch”, these games have produced some of the most iconic moments in sports history.


Wild card games are an important part of NFL playoffs. They provide an opportunity for teams that didn’t win their division to compete for a championship. While they may not have home-field advantage, they do offer excitement and drama that make them must-watch television for football fans around the world.