Football lovers, welcome to the holiest time of the season: The NFL playoffs. Over the next few weeks, the 12 postseason teams will slowly be whittled down to two, culminating in that most sacred of events on February 3: The big, long Super Bowl commercial with a football game squeezed in between.
Whether you’re stocking up on buffalo wings and Imodium in preparation for a playoff binge, or are just reluctantly accompanying someone who is, here’s everything you need to know about the postseason picture, including a full schedule of games.
What teams are in the playoffs?
Here are the 12 teams, by seed and conference:
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. New England Patriots
3. Houston Texans
4. Baltimore Ravens
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. Indianapolis Colts
1. New Orleans Saints
2. Los Angeles Rams
3. Chicago Bears
4. Dallas Cowboys
5. Seattle Seahawks
6. Philadelphia Eagles
When are the games and where can I watch them?
There are four rounds of playoffs: The wild card round, which consists of four games wherein the third-seeded teams play the sixth seeds, the fourth seeds play the fifth, and the first and second seeds get the week off as a reward for their excellence. The fifth and sixth seeds are “wild card” teams: they reached the playoffs by having the best records without winning their division. Then come the divisional rounds, where the first and second seeds put their tight pants back on and play the survivors of the wild card round. Then come the conference championships, which determine the two teams that go to the Super Bowl.
So anyway, that’s a lot of games! Eleven, to be exact. Let’s break them down by week.
WILD CARD ROUND
Saturday, January 5:
Indianapolis Colts 21, Houston Texans 7
Dallas Cowboys 24, Seattle Seahawks 22
Sunday, January 6:
Los Angeles Chargers 23 Baltimore Ravens 17
4:40 p.m. ET on NBC: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Then everyone takes a break to eat some orange slices and get ready for the…
Saturday, January 12
4:35 p.m. ET on NBC: Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
4:40 p.m. ET on Fox: Mystery Wild Card Winner vs. Los Angeles Rams at LA Memorial Coliseum.
Sunday, January 13
1:05 p.m. ET on CBS: Los Angeles Chargers vs. New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.
4:40 p.m. ET on Fox: Other NFC Mystery Wild Card Winner vs New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
The remaining teams then get Gatorade squirted in their mouths by a random person on the sidelines in order to be hydrated for the…
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND
Sunday, January 20
3:05 p.m. ET on Fox: NFC Divisional Winner 1 vs. NFC Divisional Winner 2 in the NFC Championship. Whichever team has the higher seed will host.
6:40 p.m. ET on CBS: AFC Divisional Winner 1 vs. AFC Divisional Winner 2 in the AFC Championship. Whichever team has the higher seed will host.
The winning teams will pat each other on the back, kiss their children and then hop on a plane bound for…
SUPER BOWL LII
Sunday, February 3
6:30 p.m. ET on CBS: AFC Champion vs. NFC Champion at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta!
Then it’s all over and you can get back to basketball and hockey.
Who should I root for?
Well that’s a complicated question. There are some pretty great storylines to explore: Two NFL greats who are old as dirt by sports standards (That’s 41-year-old Tom Brady of the Patriots and 39-year-old Drew Brees of the Saints, for those of you keeping score), two exciting teams with new homes in Los Angeles, which surely thrills people from their abandoned hometowns of St. Louis and San Diego, and the return of last year’s Super Bowl upset winner, the Philadelphia Eagles. The list goes on.
Of course you could root for whatever team is closest to you, or whatever team your mom likes. But it may also be liberating to shrug off the yoke of parochialism and chose a new favorite. Especially if you’re a New England fan. Behold, a guide:
I want to support smaller market teams and watch networks sweat over viewership: Root for the Kansas City Chiefs.
I want someone different to win for a change: Root for the Los Angeles Chargers. They are the only remaining team that hasn’t won a Super Bowl.
I think every team in the entire country should relocate to Los Angeles, thus completing a football singularity that will open a portal to the center of the Earth: Root for the Los Angeles Chargers or the Los Angeles Rams.
I like underdogs: Root for the Indianapolis Colts.
I like underdogs, but I also want to maintain a slight superiority complex: Root for the Dallas Cowboys.
I like underdogs, but only if they are also reigning Super Bowl champs. But before that, they were underdogs. Also, I’m craving Wawa: Root for the Philadelphia Eagles.
I like legendary quarterbacks who have already WON Super Bowls and don’t NEED any more and/or I want the entire city of Atlanta to SUFFER DEEPLY: Root for the New Orleans Saints or the New England Patriots.
This is too much. Just tell me what teams might win
While we can’t predict the future, maybe Vegas can: As of the beginning of the wild card round, odds from Vegas Insider have the New Orleans Saints as Super Bowl favorites at 11/4, followed by the Kansas City Chiefs at 9/2. If you would like to burn your money, pick the Cowboys or Colts to win it all. They fall to the bottom of the pile with odds at 25/1.
Unsurprisingly, these odds mimic the playoff seeds. But who knows, anything can happen!