NFL

What are NFL tie breaking procedures for playoffs?

Once we reach the post-season, if teams have identical won-lost-tied percentages, we need to consider the finer details to decide who makes it to the playoffs.

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What are NFL tie breaking procedures for playoffs?
CHRIS DELMAS AFP

Every year the excitement starts to grow as thoughts of playoffs drift into the mind and a dream game in the Super Bowl grows ever closer. But how do teams actually make it there if there is a tie at the end of the season?

NFL tie-breaking procedures: within a division

The first important thing to understand is which seven teams make it through from each conference. These are seeded as follows:

Seeded positions:

  1. The division champion with the best record.
  2. The division champion with the second-best record.
  3. The division champion with the third-best record.
  4. The division champion with the fourth-best record.
  5. The Wild Card club with the best record.
  6. The Wild Card club with the second-best record.
  7. The Wild Card club with the third-best record.

So, it's been a gruelling season and your ciub has edged so near to a place in the playoffs but have ended up tied with one of more other clubs. What next?

Well, if the win-draw-loss records are the same, a number of steps are checked to decide which club is the winner.

If two clubs tied:

  1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  5. Strength of victory.
  6. Strength of schedule.
  7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  9. Best net points in common games.
  10. Best net points in all games.
  11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  12. Coin toss

Obviously when there are more than two clubs level, it can sometimes get a little more complicated but similar steps are taken.

If three or more clubs tied:

  1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games among the clubs).
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  5. Strength of victory.
  6. Strength of schedule.
  7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  9. Best net points in common games.
  10. Best net points in all games.
  11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  12. Coin toss

NFL tie-breaking procedures: for Wild Card teams

For Wild Card clubs, a similar approach is taken. First of all, the division tie-breaker above is used for tied clubs from the same division.

If, however, the tied clubs are from different divisions, then the following steps are applied. (Again these vary slightly if more than two clubs tied.

If two clubs tied:

  1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  4. Strength of victory.
  5. Strength of schedule.
  6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best net points in conference games.
  9. Best net points in all games.
  10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  11. Coin toss.

Once the first Wild Card has been determined, the process is repeated to find the second Wild-Card.

If three or more clubs tied:

  1. Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the two Wild-Card participants.
  2. Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  5. Strength of victory.
  6. Strength of schedule.
  7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  9. Best net points in conference games.
  10. Best net points in all games.
  11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  12. Coin toss

For more information on the standings, the current picture of the playoffs, and the rules, everything can be found at the official NFL website.