Position Battles to Watch

Team-by-Team Camp Guide

NFL Playoff Scenarios: Every Team's Chances Plus Tiebreaker Rules

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
NFL Playoff Scenarios: Every Team's Chances Plus Tiebreaker Rules
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

There are 55 possible clinching scenarios for various prized playoff positions at stake in Week 16 of the NFL season. Rarely do we see every spot clinched prior to Week 17 and that is very unlikely with the number of teams still in the chase in 2009.

The NFL must love the fact that 19 of the 32 teams were still alive heading into this week. Tennessee was eliminated on Thursday evening by the San Diego Chargers 42-17. That leaves 18.

The AFC is full of questions after the Denver Broncos lost to the Oakland Raiders last week. It gave six teams hope at a shot for the Super Bowl. It could all mean nothing if Denver pulls the upset this week in Philadelphia.

With a win on the road and a home game against the Chiefs in Week 17, the Broncos could pretty much sew up their playoff ticket with a win tomorrow.

Then, there are the Baltimore Ravens, an AFC Championship team last season, a team who has defeated San Diego, Denver, and Pittsburgh, but also a team that has lost to Indianapolis, New England, Green Bay, Minnesota, and Cincinnati twice. All are potential playoff teams and if you were ever willing to consider a six-loss wild card team for Super Bowl potential, wouldn't it be the Ravens?

Even if the Broncos and Ravens win this week, there will still be question in Week 17. I witnessed the Broncos lose at home to a 6-9 San Francisco 49ers team in 2006, allowing the Kansas City Chiefs into the playoffs which had very little to no hope in Week 16.

One thing the NFL has proven over time is it is unpredictable every week and every year. You never know which team will lay an egg and you never know which team will jump up and take that playoff spot from you.

The following is a list of every possible scenario that could be played out this week to either earn a playoff spot or clinch a division title.

 

Week 16 Playoff Scenarios

American Football Conference (AFC):

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-5)

Can clinch AFC East—four ways

1. Win Against Jacksonville

2. Tie Against Jacksonville

3. Miami loses to Houston

4. Miami Ties Houston

 

CINCINNATI BENGALS (9-5)

Can clinch the AFC North—three ways

1. Win against Kansas City

2. Tie Kansas City and Baltimore Ties Pittsburgh

3. A Baltimore Loss against Pittsburgh

Can clinch a playoff spot—five ways

1. Tie against Kansas City

2. Jacksonville Loses New York (A) Loses + Houston and Miami Tie Each Other

3. Jacksonville Loses to New York (A) Tie + Houston and Miami Tie Each Other

4. Jacksonville Tie New York (A) Loses + Houston and Miami Tie Each Other

5. Jacksonville Tie New York (A) Tie + Houston and Miami Tie Each Other

 

BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-6)

Can clinch a playoff spot—eleven ways

1. Win against Pittsburgh + Jacksonville Loses + New York Jets Lose

2. Win against Pittsburgh + Jacksonville Ties + New York Jets Lose

3. Win against Pittsburgh + Jacksonville Loses + New York Jets Tie

4. Win against Pittsburgh + Jacksonville Tie + New York Jets Tie

5. Win against Pittsburgh + Jacksonville Loses + Denver Loses

6. Win against Pittsburgh + Jacksonville Ties + Denver Loses

7. Win against Pittsburgh + Miami Loses + New York (A) Loses + Denver Loses

8. Win against Pittsburgh + Miami Ties + New York (A) Loses + Denver Loses

9. Win against Pittsburgh + Miami Loses + New York (A) Ties + Denver Loses

10. Win against Pittsburgh + Miami Ties + New York (A) Ties + Denver Loses

11. Tie against Pittsburgh + Jacksonville Loses + New York (A) Loses + Houston and Miami Tie Each Other

 

DENVER BRONCOS (8-6)

Can clinch a playoff spot—16 ways

1. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Loses + Miami Loses + Pittsburgh Loses + New York (A) Loses

2. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Ties + Miami Loses + Pittsburgh Loses + New York (A) Loses

3. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Loses + Miami Ties + Pittsburgh Loses + New York (A) Loses

4. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Loses + Miami Loses + Pittsburgh Ties + New York (A) Loses

5. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Loses + Miami Loses + Pittsburgh Loses + New York (A) Ties

6. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Ties + Miami Ties + Pittsburgh Loses + New York (A) Loses

7. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Ties + Miami Loses + Pittsburgh Ties + New York (A) Loses

8. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Ties + Miami Loses + Pittsburgh Loses + New York (A) Ties

9. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Ties + Miami Ties + Pittsburgh Ties + New York (A) Loses

10. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Ties+ Miami Ties + Pittsburgh Loses + New York (A) Ties

11. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Ties + Miami Ties + Pittsburgh Ties + New York (A) Loses

12. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Ties + Miami Ties + Pittsburgh Ties + New York (A) Ties

13. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Loses + Miami Ties + Pittsburgh Ties + New York (A) Loses

14. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Loses + Miami Ties + Pittsburgh Loses + New York (A) Ties

15. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Loses + Miami Loses + Pittsburgh Ties + New York (A) Ties

16. Win against Philadelphia + Jacksonville Loses + Miami Ties + Pittsburgh Ties + New York (A) Ties

 

 

National Football Conference (NFC):

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-4)

Can clinch the NFC East—three ways

Win against Denver + Dallas Loses to Washington

Win against Denver + Dallas Ties Washington

Tie against Denver + Dallas Loses to Washington

 

DALLAS COWBOYS (9-5)

Can clinch a playoff spot—three ways

1. Win against Washington + New York (N) Loses

2. Win against Washington + New York (N) Ties

3. Tie Washington + New York (N) Loses

 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (11-3)

Can clinch a first-round bye—three ways

1. Win against Chicago + Philadelphia Loses to Denver

2. Win against Chicago + Philadelphia Ties Denver

3. Tie Chicago + Philadelphia Loses to Denver

 

GREEN BAY PACKERS (9-5)

Can clinch a playoff spot—four ways

1. Win against Seattle + New York (N) Loses to Carolina

2. Win against Seattle + New York (N) Ties Carolina

3. Tie Seattle + New York (N) Loses to Carolina

4. Win against Seattle + Dallas Loses to Washington

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (13-1)

Can clinch the No. 1 overall NFC seed —three ways

1. Win against Tampa Bay

2. Minnesota Loses to Chicago

3. Minnesota Ties Chicago

 

THE FOLLOWING ARE THE OFFICIAL TIE-BREAKING PROCEDURES PROVIDED BY THE NFL AND COURTESY OF ESPN.COM

Tie-Breaking Procedures

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 club with the best record.
6. The Wild Card club 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 clubs

 

To Break a Tie Within a Division

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

 

Two Clubs


1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
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 Clubs


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

 

Two Clubs


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 Clubs


(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.)
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 three 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 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 club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2, and repeated a third time, if necessary, to identify the third Wild Card. 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 tie breaker if the top-ranked team in that division qualifies for a Wild-Card berth.

 

Other Tie-Breaking Procedures

1. Only one club advances to the playoffs in any tie-breaking step. Remaining tied clubs revert to the first step of the applicable division or Wild-Card tie breakers. As an example, if two clubs remain tied in any tie-breaker step after all other clubs have been eliminated, the procedure reverts to step one of the two-club format to determine the winner. When one club wins the tie breaker, all other clubs revert to step 1 of the applicable two-club or three-club 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 tie breakers.
4. To determine home-field priority for Wild-Card qualifiers, apply division tie breakers (if teams are from the same division) or Wild-Card tie breakers (if teams are from different ivisions).

 

Tie-Breaking Procedure for Selection Meeting

If two or more clubs are tied in the selection order, the strength-of-schedule tie breaker is applied, subject to the following exceptions for playoff clubs:

1. The Super Bowl winner is last and the Super Bowl loser next-to-last.
2. Any non-Super Bowl playoff club involved in a tie shall be assigned priority within its segment below that of non-playoff clubs and in the order that the playoff clubs exited from the playoffs. Thus, within a tied segment a playoff club that loses in the Wild-Card game will have priority over a playoff club that loses in the Divisional playoff game, which in turn will have priority over a club that loses in the Conference Championship game. If two tied clubs exited the playoffs in the same round, the tie is broken by strength of schedule.

If any ties cannot be broken by strength of schedule, the divisional or conference tie breakers, whichever are applicable, are applied. Any ties that still exist are broken by a coin flip.

Load More Stories

Follow B/R on Facebook

NFL

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.