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Who Made the NFL Playoffs? Breaking Down the Bracket and How We Got to Super Bowl 58
Let's look back at how we got to the latest installment of the Big Game.
The 2023-2024 NFL Playoffs are officially on the books. Everything wrapped up on Feb. 11 when the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in an overtime thriller to win Super Bowl LVIII, cementing their status as back-to-back champions and a true modern dynasty. It's the end of a long road that began way back in August of 2023, so now that it's all over, let's take a look back at how we got here through the 2023-2024 Playoff picture.
Who Made the 2023-2024 NFL Playoffs?
The San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers, and Pittsburgh Steelers all made the playoffs in the 2023-2024 NFL season.
The playoff picture in the NFL always starts with the teams that earned the coveted Number One seed in their conference. These are the teams that won consistently all year and finished as the very best in their group of 16 teams, granting them home field advantage for the entirety of the playoffs and, of course, a week off during the Wild Card round to get ready for their next opponent. This year, those teams were the San Francisco 49ers (12-5) in the NFC, and the Baltimore Ravens (13-4) in the AFC.
The next three of the seven slots for each conference were filled in by the Division Champions from each conference. The 49ers won the NFC West, of course, and the Ravens took the AFC North, but that left three spots per conference for other teams to fill in. In the NFC, those teams were the Dallas Cowboys (12-5) in the NFC East, the Detroit Lions (12-5) in the NFC North, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-8) in the NFC South. In the AFC, the other conference champions included the Buffalo Bills (11-6) in the AFC East, the Houston Texans (10-7) in the AFC South, and the Kansas City Chiefs (11-6) in the AFC West.
The other three slots from each conference went to the Wild Card teams, who didn't win their divisions but still managed an impressive enough record to land in the playoffs. The NFC's Wild Card teams this year were the Philadelphia Eagles (11-6), the Los Angeles Rams (10-7), and the Green Bay Packers, (9-8), while the AFC ended up with the Cleveland Browns (11-6), the Miami Dolphins (11-6), and the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-7). So, that was 14 teams total heading into the playoffs, but how did we arrive at the final matchup?
This year's Wild Card weekend was very wild indeed, and gave us some notable upsets heading into the second round. In the NFC, the second seeded Cowboys fell to the Packers, the Lions held on to beat the Rams, and the Buccaneers blew out the Eagles. In the AFC, things were a bit more predictable, as the second seeded Bills defeated the Steelers, the third-seeded Chiefs beat the Dolphins, and the fourth-seeded Texans beat the Browns.
The winners headed into the Divisional Round, where the top seeded Ravens and 49ers proved why they were ranked so highly in the bracket. The Ravens handled the Texans in their Divisional game, while the 49ers held on to beat the Packers. The other two games were a pair of thrillers, as the Lions took down the Bucs, and the Chiefs defeated the Bills in another instant classic between those two franchises.
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That set up a pair of hard-fought conference championships. In the AFC, the Chiefs took down the Ravens 17-10, while in the NFC, the 49ers overcame a 17-point deficit and fought their way back to beat the Lions 34-31 in an incredible game.
It all culminated in Super Bowl LVIII, where the 49ers and the Chiefs squared off in what was largely a defensive battle until an exciting fourth quarter, which then led to a 19-19 tie game heading into overtime. The 49ers led off the overtime period with a field goal, but the Chiefs answered with a touchdown, sealing their victory and the first back-to-back Super Bowl wins in almost two decades.
That means that the playoffs are officially done for this season, but we don't have all that long to wait until more NFL football emerges. The 2024 preseason kicks off in August, launching a journey that will culminate in Super Bowl 59 in New Orleans on Feb. 9, 2025.
For more NFL news, head to NBC Sports.
Originally published Jan 8, 2024.