Prior to 1967, there were variations of a postseason or playoffs in different forms in the National Football League (NFL) but it was only during that year when the league formally adopted a system where a number of top teams from the regular season move on to play a single elimination tournament leading up all the way to the Super Bowl. In all of the major professional sports leagues in the United States, only the NFL uses a knockout format.
From 1967 to 1969, four out of 16 teams advanced to the postseason. The four division champions figured in a first round match-up for the conference championship and the winners battled in the Super Bowl. After the formal merger in 1970 up until 1977, eight teams– four from each conference advanced to the playoffs. 1978 saw 10 teams advance and by 1990, the number of teams making the postseason was 12.BET ON SPORTS
Today, the NFL has a total of 32 teams and 12 teams (6 per conference) qualify for the postseason. Eight teams (four per conference) move on as division champions and four teams (2 per conference) as wild card qualifiers. The division champions from each conference are seeded #1 to #4 based on regular season W-L-T records and the wild card qualifiers are seeded #5 and #6 on regular season records as well.