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2021 AFC tiebreakers after Week 17 (plus DEN-KC)

The following charts seek to answer the following question: If these two (or more) teams finish with the same record, who wins the tiebreaker?

Notes and assumptions:

  1. Limited possibility of future tie games (PIT appears in the table for the first time).
  2. Tiebreaker winners are as they would be if the teams were tied at the end of the season, NOT as if the season ended right now.
  3. Tiebreakers that don’t affect playoff berths or seeding are ignored. (Example: any tie at 9 wins that doesn’t include both IND and the LV-LAC loser.)
  4. Division ties are broken first. If LAC, LV, and PIT all finish 9-7-1, break the AFC West tie between LAC and LV first, then break the tie between the LAC-LV winner and PIT.
  5. If three or more teams are tied, apply that tiebreaker, not the two-team tiebreaker.
  6. Strength of victory is the combined winning percentage (essentially, the number of wins) of the teams a team has beaten. It has nothing to do with point totals.
  7. CIN has clinched the AFC North. TEN has clinched the AFC South. KC has clinched the AFC West.
  8. BUF and NE have clinched playoff berths.
  9. The final playoff berths will go to two of PIT, BAL, IND, LAC, and LV.
  10. Scenario by which BAL makes the playoffs: BAL win + MIA loss/tie + IND loss + LAC loss.
  11. MIA, NYJ, CLE, HOU, JAX, and DEN have been eliminated.

The complete tiebreaker rules are here.

Jump to East | West | Interdivisional ties 2-way • 3-way • 4-way

AFC East

If these teams tie at tie goes to based on
BUF-NE BUF division record

AFC West

If these teams tie at tie goes to based on
LAC-LV 9-7-1 LAC head-to-head

Interdivisional ties

2-way ties

If these teams tie at tie goes to based on
BUF-CIN CIN conference record
BUF-TEN 11-6 TEN head-to-head
BUF-IND 10-7 IND head-to-head
BUF-LAC 10-7 LAC conference record
BUF-LV 10-7 LV conference record
NE-CIN 11-6 NE common opponents
NE-TEN 11-6 NE head-to-head
NE-IND 10-7 IND head-to-head
NE-LAC 10-7 NE head-to-head
NE-LV 10-7 LV common opponents
CIN-TEN 11-6 CIN conference record
PIT-IND 9-7-1 IND conference record
PIT-LAC 9-7-1 LAC head-to-head
PIT-LV 9-7-1 LV head-to-head
TEN-KC 12-5 TEN head-to-head
IND-LAC 9-8 IND conference record
IND-LV LV head-to-head

3-way ties

If these teams tie at tie goes to based on
BUF-CIN-TEN 11-6 CIN conference record
BUF-IND-LAC 10-7 IND conference record
  1. BUF eliminated on conference record
  2. head-to-head
  1. TEN eliminated on conference record
  2. common opponents
  1. LAC eliminated on conference record
  2. head-to-head
NE-IND-LV 10-7 LV strength of victory
MIA-IND-LAC 9-8 IND conference record
MIA-IND-LV 9-8 LV head-to-head
PIT-IND-LAC IND conference record
PIT-IND-LV LV head-to-head
BAL-IND-LAC 9-8 BAL head-to-head
BAL-IND-LV 9-8 LV head-to-head

4-way ties

If these teams tie at tie goes to based on
MIA-BAL-IND-LAC 9-8 IND conference record
MIA-BAL-IND-LV 9-8 LV head-to-head
MIA-PIT-IND-LAC 9-8 / 8-7-2 LAC
  1. MIA & PIT eliminated on conference record
  2. head-to-head
MIA-PIT-IND-LV 9-8 / 8-7-2 LV head-to-head


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2 thoughts on “2021 AFC tiebreakers after Week 17 (plus DEN-KC)

  1. Afraid I have spotted an issue in the 4-way tiebreaker section. It seems quite impossible for LV to win a tiebreaker involving MIA-PIT-IND-LAC :).

    My read would be IND wins this tiebreak outright on conference record (7-5 with loss to JAX, PIT 6-5-1 with tie to BAL, LAC 6-6 with loss to LV, MIA 5-7 with win over NE)

    1. On further thought, I think your notes are correct on the scenario for the row below on MIA-PIT-IND-LV :)!

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