NFL playoffs tiebreaking procedures

Originally Published: November 19, 2008

PLAYOFF SEEDING CRITERIA

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 team with the best record.
6. The wild-card team 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 teams.

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

Two teams
1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the teams).
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 teams
(Note: If two teams remain tied after the third step or other teams are eliminated during any step, tiebreaker reverts to step 1 of the two-team format.)
1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games among the teams).
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 teams from each conference, the following steps will be taken.
1. If the tied teams are from the same division, apply division tiebreaker.
2. If the tied teams are from different divisions, apply the following steps.

Two teams
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 teams
(Note: If two teams remain tied after the third step or other teams are eliminated, tiebreaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-team format.)
1. Apply division tiebreaker to eliminate all but the highest-ranked team in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tiebreaker 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 team has defeated each of the others or if one team 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 team 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 tiebreaker if the top-ranked team in that division qualifies for a wild-card berth.

OTHER TIEBREAKING PROCEDURES
1. Only one team advances to the playoffs in any tiebreaking step. Remaining tied teams revert to the first step of the applicable division or wild-card tiebreakers. As an example, if two teams remain tied in any tiebreaker step after all other teams have been eliminated, the procedure reverts to step one of the two-team format to determine the winner. When one team wins the tiebreaker, all other teams revert to step 1 of the applicable two-team or three-team 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 tiebreakers.
4. To determine home-field priority for wild-card qualifiers, apply division tiebreakers (if teams are from the same division) or wild-card tiebreakers (if teams are from different divisions).
5. To determine the best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed, add a team's position in the two categories, and the lowest score wins. For example, if Team A is first in points scored and second in points allowed, its combined ranking is 3. If Team B is third in points scored and first in points allowed, its combined ranking is 4. Team A then wins the tiebreaker. If two teams are tied for a position, both teams are awarded the ranking as if they held it solely. For example, if Team A and Team B are tied for first in points scored, each team is assigned a ranking of 1 in that category, and if Team C is third, its ranking will still be 3.

TIEBREAKING PROCEDURE FOR DRAFT ORDER
If two or more teams are tied in the selection order, the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker is applied, subject to the following exceptions for playoff teams:

1. Teams not participating in the playoffs shall select in the first through 20th positions in reverse standings order.
2. The Super Bowl winner is last and Super Bowl loser is next-to-last.
3. The losers of the conference championship games shall select 29th and 30th based on won-lost-tied percentage.
4. The losers of the divisional playoff games shall select 25th through 28th based on won-lost-tied percentage.
5. The losers of the wild-card games shall select 21st through 24th based on won-lost-tied percentage.

If ties exist in any grouping except (2) above, such ties shall be broken by strength of schedule. If any ties cannot be broken by strength of schedule, the divisional or conference tiebreakers, if applicable, shall be applied. Any ties that still exist shall be broken by a coin flip.