NFL tiebreaker rules: How are ties decided in division, playoff standings?

No coin flips... well, not usually...
Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals
Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals / Michael Owens/GettyImages

What happens if two or more teams hold the same record in the NFL playoff standings or in their respective divisions?

The top four teams in each conference's playoff seedings are division winners, who are seeded based on their record. The final three playoff spots are Wild Cards and they're the teams who have the best remaining records in their conference.

If there are two teams with the same record, if the two played a head-to-head game earlier in the year, the winner gets the better seed. If multiple teams have the same record, it's based on win percentage.

There are 12 different ways to determine a tie in the division, according to NFL Operations. The first four are head-to-head matchups, win-loss records in the division, win-loss records in common games, and win-loss records in conference games.

NFL tiebreakers explained

To break ties for wild card teams, the most important factor is a head-to-head matchup. If the two teams didn't square off in the regular season, then it's a win-loss record in the conference that determines who gets the better spot.

It can get kind of confusing when looking at playoff standings but the first four factors are the most common ones. We're not going to see a situation like the Cincinnati Bengals faced in the 2022 season when a coin flip was going to be involved because that happened due to only 16 games being played by two notable playoff teams.

It is worth noting that a coin flip is a possibility in these situations but it's the 12th and final option to determine a tiebreaker. In other words, it's rare.

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