NFL Playoffs 2019: Overtime Rules, Bracket and Postseason Format

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2019

FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018 file photo, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) throws against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of an NFL football game in Houston. For the first time in a decade, the top seed in the AFC playoffs goes to a team not led by Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Deshaun Watson is over rib and chest injuries that hampered him midseason and has been great over the last six weeks. The second-year pro, who is making his playoff debut, has eight TD throws and no interceptions in that span.  (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith, FILE)
Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

The last time a NFL postseason game went to overtime was Super Bowl LI, when the New England Patriots completed their incredible comeback to beat the Atlanta Falcons. 

While there weren't any overtime games last postseason, Super Bowl LI extended a streak of three consecutive seasons with postseason overtime put to use. 

Given the way the 2018 regular season played out with 15 overtime contests and two ties, we're accustomed to seeing contests go to extra periods. 

The NFL postseason overtime rules carry similar principles as the ones utilized in the regular season, but there are some differences.


NFL Playoff Bracket


The #NFLPlayoffs are SET! https://t.co/O7ytoh8Tl9

In addition to the broadcast networks, the NFL playoff games can be viewed on FuboTV.      


Postseason Format

Six teams from each conference qualified for the playoffs, with the top two franchises in the AFC and NFC earning first-round byes. 

In the wild-card round, the No. 3 seed takes on the No. 6 seed, while the No. 4 team goes up against the No. 5 seed. 

Once wild-card weekend concludes, the bracket is reseeded, with the No. 1 team in each conference facing the lowest remaining seed and the No. 2 side squaring off against the highest remaining seed. 

For example, if the Houston Texans, who are the No. 3 seed in the AFC, defeat the Indianapolis Colts Saturday, they'd automatically slide into a matchup with the second-seeded New England Patriots as the highest seed to advance from the AFC. 

Conversely, if the Colts or fellow No. 6 seed Philadelphia win their respective wild-card contests, they'll face the top seed in their respective conferences.


Overtime Rules

The NFL postseason overtime rules differ a bit from those used in the regular season because you can't tie in the playoffs. 

Just like at the start of games, there's a coin flip to decide which team starts the overtime period with the ball. 

If the team who receives the kickoff marches down the field and scores a touchdown, the game is over. 

However, if the receiving team kicks a field goal, its opponent has an opportunity to either win the game through a touchdown, or keep the contest going by tying it with a field goal. 

For example, if Saturday's game between the Colts and Texans goes into overtime and the Texans get the ball first, all they have to do is score a touchdown to come out victorious.

But if the Texans kick a field goal on their first drive of overtime, the Colts can win the playoff matchup by scoring a touchdown on their first offensive series. 

James Kenney/Associated Press

If the Texans were to turn the ball over after receiving the opening kickoff of overtime, the result of the game would be determined by sudden death. 

If the score is still tied after the first 10-minute overtime period, the game will go into a second overtime and so on until a victor is determined. 

The last NFL playoff game to go into double overtime was in 2004, when the Carolina Panthers beat the St. Louis Rams in the divisional round.  


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