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NFL Playoffs: NFC Tiebreaker Scenarios Through Week 16

With plenty of NFC playoff races heading toward close finishes, the NFL playoff tiebreakers are of the utmost importance. At its core, NFL playoff berths are simple: The best record is in. In a division like the NFC West, though, we’re staring down a two-way tie that may have to be broken when the dust of the regular season settles.

Here’s how the tiebreakers work:
1. Head-to-head.
2. Best win/loss record within the division.
3. Best win/loss in common games.
4. Best win/loss in games against conference opponents.
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.

In the unlikely event a team is still tied after all 11 tiebreakers, it goes to a coin toss. Longshot would be the best way to describe a situation like this.

In the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks own the tiebreaker if they beat the St. Louis Rams in week 17. The Seahawks and Rams split the season series and the Seahawks would win by virtue of the best record within the division.

For the NFC Wildcard, the New Orleans Saints or Atlanta Falcons are in the driver’s seat for the top wildcard spot, depending on which team wins the NFC North. For the second wildcard spot, it gets a bit more complicated.

The Green Bay Packers get the second spot with:
A win
A loss coupled with losses by the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The New York Giants get the second spot with:
A win and a Green Bay loss.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers gets the second spot with:
A win and losses by Green Bay and New York.

Complicated? You bet. Three teams are all vying for the second NFC wildcard spot in a race that may not be decided until the Giants leave the field next Sunday. In the NFC, the Western division and second wildcard spot are hotly contested and come down to week 17 games for all the marbles.