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NFL playoff tiebreaking procedure for division champions, wild card teams in 2022-23

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.

Andrew Whitworth #77 of the Los Angeles Rams raises the Vince Lombardi trophy during the Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl LVI victory parade on February 16, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NFL is headed into the final stretch of the 2022 regular season and it’s a tight race sorting out the field for the 2023 NFL Playoffs. The field will include 14 teams with seven in each conference. The expansion of the field from 12 to 14 teams and the season from 17 to 18 games has made for tighter races for the final wild card, and we’re seeing it again this season.

The field is filling up, but even the seeding from top-to-bottom is uncertain heading into the final weeks. The playoff bracket will take some time to sort out ahead of the run up to Super Bowl 57. Almost every seed in each conference is up for grabs, and that means we will likely see some tiebreakers come into play.

The NFL has had a goal of building greater parity, thus providing more teams a chance to reach the playoffs. We’ve seen that this year with numerous teams sitting at or near the .500 mark. Heading into Week 17, we saw six AFC and five NFC teams no more than a game above or a game below .500, and all of them had a shot at either the No. 7 seed or the No. 4 seed for the AFC and NFC South divisions. Those two divisions provide a decent chance we see one and maybe two playoff teams with a sub-.500 record. And it will likely come down to some tiebreakers.

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 2023 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 tiebreaker 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 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 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.