clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NFL playoff tiebreaking procedure for division champions, wild card teams in 2020

We’ve got a rundown of how the NFL determines standings when there are ties. This year the process is the same but we have some additional teams in the mix.

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 chugging along through the 2020 season, and with the holidays approaching, the playoff picture is tightening up. This year, the NFL has expanded the playoffs and could expand further if the Covid-19 pandemic costs the schedule significant games.

The league expanded to 14 playoff teams this offseason, adding one wild card team to each conference. The No. 1 seed is the only team with a first round bye this year. If games get canceled or postponed due to Covid-19, the owners and players agreed to add two more playoff teams so we would have four division winners and four wild card teams in each conference.

The more playoff spots the league adds, the greater the possibility that tiebreaking scenarios arise when it comes to securing playoff berths. Below we’ve got a full list of all the pertinent tiebreakers to highlight how seeding will be decided for the 2021 NFL playoffs.

Seeding

This is how the seven playoff teams in each conference will be seed. We’ll update if the league ends up moving to the eighth team scenario:

  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.