What is a wild card in football?

A wildcard in football refers to one the six teams that make the playoffs without winning their division. Each conference in football is going to include three different wild card teams. 

In each conference, there are four divisions that are made up of four teams each. The winner of each division and a the wild card teams are guaranteed a position in the playoffs.

The winners of each different division make up the top four teams in each conference. The rest of the playoff spots in each conference are given to the wild card teams.


Wild cards in football also play a big role in seeding. Seeding in football refers to the rankings of each team as they enter the playoffs.

Seeding is important because it determines playoff byes and matchups for all teams including wild cards. The top team in each conference is going to earn themselves a bye to the next round.

Previously two teams would get a bye for the first round but when more wildcard teams were added the number of teams on bye was decreased to one in each conference.

The wild card teams are going to be the three lowest seeds in their conference. Even if they have a better record the teams that won their division will always be a higher seeding than wild card teams.

The wildcard teams are seeded based on the regular-season records. The wild card team with the highest winning percentage will be the highest-seeded wild card team.

If two teams have the same win percentage then a team must go to tiebreakers to determine which team is the higher seed. The tiebreakers for seeding are as follows:

  1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.

And continues on until it gets to a coin toss.

Additionally, seeding is going to determine which team you play throughout the playoffs.

The highest seed playing each weekend will play the lowest seed in their conference. 

The second-highest seed in the conference will play against the second-lowest seed and so on.

The higher seed team will also get home-field advantage. This means a wild card team will never get home-field advantage unless they play a lower-seeded wild card team.

What is wildcard weekend in football?

Wildcard weekend in the NFL refers to the first weekend of playoff football. This weekend is called wild card weekend due to the large number of games featuring wild card playoff games.

This weekend of playoff football will not include the top team from either conference as they have a bye for the first week of the playoffs.

Instead, the highest-seeded team will be the number two seed which is the division winner with the second-best record in the conference.

The number two seed will face off against the seventh seed which is the third wildcard team. The third wild card team usually has a fairly poor record meaning this game is often lopsided.

The third seed will play against the six seed which is the second-highest ranked wild card team.

The fourth-ranked division winner will play against the highest-ranked wild card team. Some divisions in football can be quite competitive which can lead to the wildcard team being the favourite in this game.

If you enjoyed this article on wild cards checks out some others such as our guide to clinched conferences and clinched playoff berths.

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