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When do the NFL playoffs start? And how will the canceled Bills-Bengals game affect them?

NFL teams wrap up their regular season this weekend. Then, the real fun begins

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates a touchdown Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during a game Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. The NFL playoffs begin soon.

Ed Zurga, Associated Press

This weekend marks the 18th and final week of the NFL’s regular season, and it will feature several high-stakes contests.

Teams like the Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are still fighting for a spot in the playoffs, while others are competing to be their conference’s top seed.

After this weekend’s action, football fans won’t have to wait long to see more exciting games. The NFL playoffs start the week after the regular season ends, meaning the first few playoff games will be scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 14.

How many teams make the NFL playoffs?

Fourteen teams make the NFL playoffs, but only 12 take part in the first round.

The top seed in each conference receives a bye, giving them extra time to rest and get healthy after the regular season.

How do the NFL playoffs work?

The NFL playoffs consist of four rounds of competition: wild-card weekend, the divisional round, the conference championships and the Super Bowl. After each round, the winners move on, while the losers say goodbye to the 2022-23 season.

During the first three rounds, teams compete against members of their own conference. Then, the Super Bowl brings together the two teams that won the conference championship games.

Although playoff seeding is set at the end of the regular season, playoff matchups are not. Each round’s pairings won’t be finalized until league officials know the highest and lowest remaining seeds.

In other words, the two top seeds don’t know which team they’ll face during the divisional round until after the wild-card round is complete. They only know they’ll play the lowest remaining seed, whether that’s No. 4 or No. 7.

This year’s seeding and scheduling process is further complicated by the fact that the league has decided not to reschedule the Jan. 2 game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals that was postponed after Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a life-threatening injury during the first quarter.

On Friday, NFL teams will vote on a proposal that would require the AFC championship game to be played on a neutral site “if the participating teams played an unequal number of games and both could have been the number one seed and hosted the game had all AFC clubs played a full 17-game regular season.”

When do the 2023 NFL playoffs start?

The NFL playoffs kickoff on Saturday, Jan. 14 this year. The wild-card round spans from that day to Monday, Jan. 16.

The divisional round is scheduled for the next weekend (Jan. 21-22) and then the conference championship games are set for the weekend after that.

But the two conference champions get a week off before the Super Bowl, which will take place on Sunday, Feb. 12, this year.