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NFL playoff tiebreaking procedure for division champions, wild card teams in 2021-22

The NFL playoffs are fast approaching. We break down how the NFL determines standings when there are ties. With a seventh playoff team in each conference, it’s getting busier.

A General View of the Vince Lombardi Trophy during Super Bowl Opening Night for the Los Angeles Rams on January 28, 2019 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, GA. Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL is coming down the home stretch of the 2021 regular season, and parity has created chaos in the playoff picture. The NFL expanded the playoffs to include a seventh team in each conference, and that has only further muddied the waters. It makes for a wild finish, but it will be interesting to see if one of those more mediocre teams is able to make any noise in January and February.

The league expanded to 14 playoff teams last year, and while they’ll continue that this year, we also got an added week on the regular season schedule. This year is running 18 weeks, which bumps everything back a week. This year, Super Bowl 56 will air on February 13.

This year we’re seeing a host of teams sitting right around .500. Entering Week 16, two games separated sixth place from 11th place in the NFC and one game separated fourth place from 13th place. We also have four NFC teams tied at 10-4 and two AFC teams tied at 9-5. It’s safe to say tiebreakers are going to play a role in determining some of the playoff teams and seeding positions.

The NFL provides a full rundown of its tiebreakers. Below we’ve got a full list of all the pertinent tiebreakers to highlight how seeding will be decided for the 2022 NFL playoffs.

Seeding

This is how the seven playoff teams in each conference will be seed.

  1. Division champion with best record
  2. Division champion with second-best record
  3. Division champion with third-best record
  4. Division champion with fourth-best record
  5. Wild card with best record
  6. Wild card with second-best record
  7. Wild card with third-best record

How to break a tie within Division

Two teams

  1. Head-to-head (best win-loss record percentage in games between the teams)
  2. Best won-lost-tied record percentage against division opponents.
  3. Best won-lost-tied record percentage in common games.
  4. Best won-lost-tied record percentage in conference games.
  5. Strength of wins
  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

Three teams

  1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games among the clubs).
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in division games.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in conference games
  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

How to break a tie for Wild-Card teams

If the two teams are from the same division, you can apply the steps listed above. If not, here’s how it shakes out.

Two teams

  1. Head-to-head (if applicable)
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage within conference games
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games (minimum of four)
  4. strength of wins
  5. strength of schedule
  6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in both points scored and points allowed
  7. Best combined ranking among all teams in both 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

  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 conference games
  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

All of this information and other tiebreaking procedures can be found at this link.