The following procedures are used to break ties in the standings for playoff seeds and in determining the order of teams in the annual draft.

For playoff seedings, all teams are seeded 1-4 within their divisions before the conference seeds are determined. Any ties in the standings within a division must be resolved first before proceeding to the conference seeds.

Additionally, when a tiebreaker is run, it is to establish the highest seed first. When multiple teams are tied, any time a team is eliminated from a tiebreaker, restart the tiebreaker from Step 1 if any other teams remain. That means that head-to-head might not apply in a three-team tie, but when one team is eliminated, head-to-head could be decisive for the remaining tiebreaker. Once the highest seed is established, the eliminated teams return to break the tie of the next seed, regardless of when they exited the previous tiebreaker.

As an example: Providence Steam Roller, Frankford Yellow Jackets, and Newark Tornadoes are tied for the final two wild-card seeds at 12-4, and let’s assume that they are all in different divisions. In head-to-head matches, Providence beat Newark and lost to Frankford, and Newark beat Frankford (each team is 1-1 in head-to-head). In conference games, Providence is 10-2, Frankford 9-3, and Newark 8-4. Since head-to-head is a tie, Providence gets the first wild-card seed on conference record. Then, Frankford and Newark start a new tiebreaker to resolve their tie. For the final wild-card seed, it is Newark on the basis of winning their game against Frankford, even though they have the lower conference record. The two seeds are not assigned in the three-team tiebreak all at once. This can result in a team having no chance of winning any tiebreaker, yet they play a spoiler in a multiple-team tie.

In the tiebreakers below, the win-loss record in all situations is the win percentage of the games under consideration, with ties counting as a half-win. It is possible that the number of games being considered in a tiebreaker step are not equal for the tied teams, so win percentage is used. Strength of victory and strength of schedule are the aggregate W-L records of all the teams beat and played, respectively. If an opponent was beat or played twice, that W-L is counted twice. For common games, count both games against a division rival, even though the other tied team only played those teams once.

For any step that has the “sum of rankings,” add the 2 rankings in the applicable category, with the lowest number winning. A team that is first in points scored and third in points against will have a 4 for that tiebreaker step. In case of a ranking tie (for example: 2 teams with the same points against in conference games), both teams receive the same rank number.

Ties in division seeds

  1. W-L in head-to-head games
  2. W-L in division games
  3. W-L in common games
  4. Strength of victory
  5. Strength of schedule
  6. Sum of conference rankings in points scored + points against
  7. Sum of league rankings in points scored + points against
  8. Point differential in common games
  9. Point differential in all games
  10. Best net touchdowns in all games
  11. Coin toss

Ties in conference seeds

Before beginning the tiebreaker, eliminate all the intradivisional ties, so that there is not more than 1 team from any division. If there are only teams from the same division in the tiebreaker, then use the division tiebreaker.

  1. Head-to-head sweep (only if a team has won or lost all games against the teams in tiebreaker)
  2. W-L in conference games
  3. W-L in common games, minimum of four.
  4. Strength of victory
  5. Strength of schedule
  6. Sum of conference rankings in points scored + points against
  7. Sum of league rankings in points scored + points against
  8. Point differential in conference games
  9. Point differential in all games
  10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  11. Coin toss.

Special procedures for playoff seeds

  1. Conference seeds #1-4 will always be from separate divisions.
  2. If at any step a team is eliminated, return to Step 1 of the tiebreaker for the remaining teams.
  3. When a team has won tiebreakers in both in the division and the conference, the next seeded team from that division joins the next conference tiebreaker, unless it is for conference seeds #1-4.

Draft order procedures and tiebreakers

The Super Bowl winner is 32, the Super Bowl loser is 31.

Next, group the teams that exited each round of the playoffs: losers of the Conference Championships (29, 30), Divisional Playoffs (25-28), and Wild Card games (19-24). Non-playoff teams are 1-18.

Within those groups, order teams based on W-L record in the regular season, with the better record getting the later pick. Teams in different groups with the same W-L record are not tied. For example, the team with the highest record of Wild Card losers will be 24, even if it has a better record than a Divisional Playoff loser.

If there is a tie within a group (examples: 2 Wild Card losers with a 10-6 record, or 4 non-playoff teams with a 7-9 record), these tiebreaker steps are applied:

  1. First rank teams by strength of schedule, lowest percentage getting the earlier pick
  2. If any tied teams are in the same division, take the lower seeded team using division tiebreaker
  3. If any tied teams are in the same conference, take the lower seeded team using the conference tiebreaker
  4. If two tied teams remain from each conference, the better draft seed goes to:
    1. The team losing head-to-head, if applicable.
    2. Lower W-L in common games, minimum of four
    3. Lower strength of victory
    4. Lower sum of league rankings in points scored + points against
    5. Lesser point differential in all games.
    6. Lesser touchdown differential in all games.
    7. Successfully calling a coin flip

Return to Step 1 as long as teams remain in the same group and have the same win-loss record. The process is inverted from the tiebreakers for playoff seeds, in that the lower seed (higher draft pick) is established first.

The draft position coin flip at the NFL Combine, is now a relic of history.

Note that the tiebreaker steps will not necessarily match the division and conference seeds from the previous season, as the tiebreaker will only include teams tied after the strength of schedule step.

Teams that are involved in a tiebreaker will cycle through the order each round, based on the tiebreaker order. Thus, in a 4-team tiebreaker, a team will rotate 1-4-3-2, the second team 2-1-4-3, the third 3-2-1-4, and the fourth 4-3-2-1.