How Are Super Bowl Teams Picked? 7 Things To Know About Playing In The Big Game

Super Bowl Sunday is upon us, and this year, viewers will have to choose sides between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers. While avid football fans have already picked their favorite team based on their hometown, their favorite player, or a team's chance of victory, you're still sitting here, trying to figure out how teams are picked for the Super Bowl to begin with.

Professional sports in the United States are among some of the most competitive in the world. The teams are made up of the most elite athletes and the sharpest coaches the sports world has to offer, and the fans are in a league all their own, especially when it comes to football. The legions of fans are faithful, loyal, and pretty intense when it comes to their favorite sport, which makes them a pretty intimidating bunch. I mean, have you ever seen a die-hard football fan talk about the game without raising their voice and waving their hands wildly? That's what I thought.

But what if you're new to the sport, and just want to find out how the whole thing works? Whether this is your first time watching the big game or you've always wanted to know but you've been too afraid to ask, here are seven things to know about how teams are picked for the Super Bowl.

1. The National Football League Has 32 Teams

From Boston to Seattle, Philadelphia to Minnesota, there are 32 teams across the United States that make up the NFL. Each year, they all compete for the ultimate win: a Super Bowl Championship.

2. The Teams Are Divided Into Two Conferences With Four Divisions Each

The 32 NFL teams are divided into two conferences, the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC), which are further broken down into four divisions: north, south, east, and west. The division of teams makes scheduling the games throughout the season fair and systematic.

3. Each Team Plays 16 Regular Season Games

Before the playoffs are set, each NFL team plays 16 regular season games over the course of 17 weeks, with one bye week per team. A team plays each team in its division (NFC or AFC East, West, North, or South) two times each, which makes up the majority of their games. In addition, every year, each team is also matched up with another division within its conference and plays each of that division's teams once. A team will also face one team each from the remaining divisions within its conference, as well as one team each from the four divisions outside of its conference.

4. 12 Teams Compete In The Playoffs

At the end of the regular season, six teams from each conference advance to the NFL playoffs: the teams with the best records within their respective divisions, and then the next two teams with the best record within their conference, called Wild Cards. If two teams are tied for a Wild Card spot, there are tie-breaking procedures the league follows to determine who goes on, and who goes home.

5. There Are Three Rounds Of Playoffs Before The Super Bowl

Before any team gets to the Super Bowl, they must make it through the playoffs. The six teams from each conference are given a rank, one through six. In the first round, the Wild Card playoffs, the fifth seed (a wild card team) faces the fourth seed, and the sixth seed (also a wild card team) faces the third seed.

In the second round, the Divisional Playoffs, the winners of the Wild Card playoffs between the fifth and fourth seeds compete against the second seed team, and the winners of the Wild Card playoffs between the third and sixth seeds compete against the first seed team.

The third round, the Conference Championship, is played between the the winners of the Divisional Playoffs. Whoever wins this last round of playoffs is named Conference Champions and move on to the Super Bowl.

6. The NFL Playoffs Are Single-Elimination

Unlike the other professional sports leagues in the U.S. — the NHL, MLB, and NBA — the NFL playoffs are single-elimination, meaning the loser in each bracket is out of the playoffs immediately.

7. The Winners From Each Conference Compete In The Super Bowl

When all is said and done, the two conference champions — this year, the AFC champions, the Denver Broncos, and NFC champions, the Carolina Panthers — compete in the in Super Bowl. After 16 regular season games and two to three playoff games, these two teams go head to head for the trophy, the ring, and the bragging rights.

Who will walk away victorious this year?

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