As die-hard football fans know, the NFL has the shortest regular season in major American professional sports. The season, which takes a significant physical and mental toll on players, is broken down in three blocks: preseason, regular season and playoffs.
Thirty teams play four preseason games each. Two teams each play five preseason games, including the traditional Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. Preseason games give coaches an opportunity to evaluate players and determine the final 53-man roster.
The regular season is played in 17 weeks, with each of the 32 teams receiving a bye — an off week.
After the regular season, the playoffs begin, with 12 teams participating in a single-elimination tournament culminating in a championship game we all know as the Super Bowl. In total, there are 11 playoff games: four in the wild-card round, four in the divisional round, two in the conference championships and, of course, the Super Bowl.
The playoffs are composed of the four division champions from each conference (the AFC and NFC) and two wild-card qualifiers from each conference — teams with the best records that did not win their divisions. The two division champions with the best record from each conference receive first-round byes and home-field advantage in the divisional round.
In total, the NFL schedules 333 games each season: 65 preseason games, 256 regular-season games, 11 playoff games and the Pro Bowl — an all-star game featuring the best players from each conference. For passionate NFL fans, the season seems to fly by too fast.