The NFL playoffs are a descendant of English association football, which is known as "soccer" in the USA. "Soccer" was developed into rugby and in 1874 was imported from Canada to the United States of America, and later was modified into American college football. Football playoffs history begins in 1920 when the American Professional Football Association was founded at a Hupmobile dealership in Canton, Ohio. The first president of the association was elected Jim Thorpe, the great athlete. After some years the APFA began relinquishing official standings and in 1922 the company changed its name to the National Football League.
In the 1950s, pro football at least earned its place as a major sport. The NFL playoffs embraced television and the National Football League championship which was held in New York in 1958 drew record TV viewership and made national celebrities out of Johnny Unitas and his Baltimore Colts teammates. Many considered this championship to be the most-important game in the rise of the NFL playoffs. The rise of the NFL playoffs was so fast that it had surpassed America's favorite spectator sport - baseball in the middle of 60s.
In 1960, the American Football League (AFL) was founded. The AFL made some changes in their features: wider-open passing offenses, bright uniforms with players' names on their jerseys, an official clock visible to fans and it established the precedents for gate and television revenue sharing between all of its teams. The war for players between the NFL and AFL almost ruined the sport's ascent.
By 1966, the leagues agreed to merge a of the 1970 season. As a result the ten AFL teams joined three existing NFL teams to form the NFL's American Football conference. The remaining 13 NFL teams became the National Football Conference. When in early '80s the United States Football League was established it was a great challenge to the NFL playoffs. It was a well-financed competitor with big-name players and a national television contract. But the USFL failed to make money and collapsed after three years.
Currently, the 32 teams of the league are divided into two conferences: the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference. Each conference is subdivided into four divisions consisting of four teams each. The divisions are categorized East, West, North, and South. The teams do not consistently follow geographic borders as the NFL wanted certain rivalries intact to be kept.
In its early years the NFL did not have a set of football playoffs schedule. In 1990, the NFL playoffs introduced a bye-week to the schedule. Each team would play sixteen regular season games over seventeen weeks and during the season each team would have the one weekend off. As a result, opening weekend was moved up to Labor Day weekend. In 1993, the league included to the schedule two bye weeks per team, and the sixteen games have to play over eighteen weeks.
In 1994, the schedule was changed back to seventeen weeks. In 2001, the NFL decided to shift opening week to the weekend after Labor Day. The reason was that during the holidays the television ratings seemed to be falling, and the stadiums were empty because of vacationing fans and higher average temperatures of early September. In 2002, the football playoffs schedule began a Thursday night special opening game, which would be nationally televised. Festivities and a pre-game concert would start the season.