The 9-7 Chargers and 9-7 Raiders square off Sunday for a chance at an AFC Wild Card berth. (Harry How/Getty Images)
STATS & ANALYSIS

What Are the NFL Playoff Tiebreakers for Postseason Seeding?

The final division titles and Wild Card berths are on the line — but how are ties broken for teams with identical records? Would the NFL actually just do a coin toss? Let’s get to the bottom of this.

We used to know how many wins it took to make the NFL Playoffs every year. You finished 10-6? It would take an act of the almighty (a.k.a. Fred Dryer, two-time All-Pro defensive end and star of television’s Hunter) to keep you out of the postseason. 9-7? Maybe, maybe not. 8-8? That could still win you the NFC East, because the NFC East is typically one sandwich short of a party platter.

But in this first-ever 17-game regular season in football history, we know practically nothing about how this stuff is supposed to go — there are 10-6 AFC teams still alive not just for at least one home playoff game, but for the conference’s No. 1 overall seed.

With that in mind, it’s time to answer a pressing question: As playoff seeds are set, how does the NFL determine a tiebreaker for two teams with the same record? What happens when more than two teams are tied?

You have questions, Boardroom has answers.

Spoiler alert: Sometimes, it literally comes down to a coin toss.

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NFL Tiebreaker Rules for Division Titles

  1. Head-to-head record
  2. Record against divisional opponents
  3. Record against all common opponents
  4. Record against conference opponents
  5. Strength of victory (combined record of defeated opponents)
  6. Strength of schedule (combined record of all opponents)
  7. Combined rankings in points scored and points allowed among conference teams
  8. Combined rankings in points scored and points allowed among all teams
  9. Scoring differential against common opponents
  10. Scoring differential against all opponents
  11. Touchdown differential against all opponents
  12. Coin toss

NFL Wild Card Tiebreakers

  1. Head-to-head record (which obviously may not apply)
  2. Record against conference opponents
  3. Record against all common opponents — if fewer than four, skip this step
  4. Strength of victory (combined record of defeated opponents)
  5. Strength of schedule (combined record of all opponents)
  6. Combined rankings in points scored and points allowed among conference teams
  7. Combined rankings in points scored and points allowed among all teams
  8. Scoring differential against conference opponents
  9. Scoring differential against all opponents
  10. Touchdown differential against all opponents
  11. Coin toss
What if more than two teams are involved in a playoff tiebreaker?

When one team is eliminated during any of the steps listed above, the procedure starts over again with head-to-head record among the remaining tied teams. The process continues to play out in this way until no ties remain.

What are the NFL postseason clinching scenarios for Week 18?

Click here to read Boardroom’s full list of teams still fighting for home field, division titles, and Wild Card berths.

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Additional NFL Playoff Tiebreaker Notes

  • Wild Card tiebreakers are also used to determine home field advantage among division champions.
  • To determine home field advantage in the Wild Card round, apply division tiebreakers for teams from the same division. Wild Card tiebreakers will be applied for teams from different divisions.