NFL tiebreaking procedures

With the NFL realigning into eight four-team divisions to accommodate the arrival of the Houston Texans, the league adopted new tiebreaking rules.

Common opponents will now be the third tiebreaker within a division after head-to-head games and division record because each of the four teams will have 14 common games in the 16-game schedule. The owners also moved the strength-of-victory tiebreaker ahead of the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker.

The six postseason participants from each conference will now be seeded as follows:

  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.
The following procedures will be used to break standings ties for postseason playoffs and to determine regular-season schedules.

NOTE: Tie games count as one-half win and one-half loss for both clubs.

TO BREAK A TIE WITHIN A DIVISION
If, at the end of the regular season, two or more clubs in the same division finish with identical won-lost-tied percentages, the following steps will be taken until a champion is determined.

Two Clubs
  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.
Three or More Clubs
(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated during any step, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of the two-club format).
  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.
TO BREAK A TIE FOR THE WILD-CARD TEAM
If it is necessary to break ties to determine the two Wild-Card clubs from each conference, the following steps will be taken.
  • If the tied clubs are from the same division, apply division tie breaker.
  • If the tied clubs are from different divisions, apply the following steps. Two Clubs
    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.
    Three or More Clubs
    (Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.)
    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
    When the first Wild-Card team has been identified, the procedure is repeated to name the second Wild-Card, i.e., eliminate all but the highest-ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. In situations where three or more teams from the same division are involved in the procedure, the original seeding of the teams remains the same for subsequent applications of the tie breaker if the top-ranked team in that division qualifies for a Wild-Card berth.

    OTHER TIE-BREAKING PROCEDURES
    1. Only one club advances to the playoffs in any tie-breaking step. Remaining tied clubs revert to the first step of the applicable division or Wild-Card tie breakers. As an example, if two clubs remain tied in any tie-breaker step after all other clubs have been eliminated, the procedure reverts to step one of the two-club format to determine the winner. When one club wins the tie breaker, all other clubs revert to step 1 of the applicable two-club or three-club format.
    2. In comparing division and conference records or records against common opponents among tied teams, the best won-lost-tied percentage is the deciding factor since teams may have played an unequal number of games.
    3. To determine home-field priority among division titlists, apply Wild-Card tie breakers.
    4. To determine home-field priority for Wild-Card qualifiers, apply division tie breakers (if teams are from the same division) or Wild-Card tie breakers (if teams are from different ivisions).
    TIE-BREAKING PROCEDURE FOR SELECTION MEETING
    If two or more clubs are tied in the selection order, the strength-of-schedule tie breaker is applied, subject to the following exceptions for playoff clubs:
    1. The Super Bowl winner is last and the Super Bowl loser next-to-last.
    2. Any non-Super Bowl playoff club involved in a tie shall be assigned priority within its segment below that of non-playoff clubs and in the order that the playoff clubs exited from the playoffs. Thus, within a tied segment a playoff club that loses in the Wild-Card game will have priority over a playoff club that loses in the Divisional playoff game, which in turn will have priority over a club that loses in the Conference Championship game. If two tied clubs exited the playoffs in the same round, the tie is broken by strength of schedule.
    If any ties cannot be broken by strength of schedule, the divisional or conference tie breakers, whichever are applicable, are applied. Any ties that still exist are broken by a coin flip.


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