Blog Entry

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Posted on: January 3, 2012 1:51 am
 

Due to incredible demand (okay...maybe it's just a few vocal individuals)...I'd like to float this blog entry to discuss NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures.

Discussion topics should include:

- Any questions on the Rules and how they are applied in figuring out NFL scenarios prior to the end of the regular season (my job for last 18 seasons)

- Historical Anecdotes on NFL Tiebreaking Rules and past examples of the application of the Rules on Prior seasons

- Potential ways for the NFL to improve the Tiebreaker Rules

- Why can't we all just get along?  (kidding...sort of)

- Anything else that comes up NFL Tiebreaker, Draft order, Scheduling Formula related


Hopefully we'll get our regulars here along with some new voices to chime in...and I will check here as often as possible to answer any questions directed at me.


Let the party begin!!! 

 

Comments

Since: Dec 27, 2006
Posted on: January 5, 2012 8:30 am
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

db,

I like the single format.

First editorial comment would be to say, for example,

"If all teams from same division, best ....", rather that "Best..., if all teams are from same division".

I guess we can debate the group sweep, and the order of common non-confernce games and uncommon conference games.




Since: Nov 20, 2007
Posted on: January 5, 2012 12:18 am
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Hi all,

I know this is the Tiebreaker Discussion Blog, but since the Week 17 blog is not too much on anyone's agenda, I thought I'd post next season's Strength of Schedule here and see if people concur with my numbers.

1----N.Y. Giants----140-116-0---.547
2----Denver--------139-117-0---.543


3----Cleveland-----135-121-0---.527


T4---St. Louis------134-122-0---.523
T4---Baltimore-----134-122-0---.523


6----San Diego----133-123-0---.520
7----Philadelphia--132-124-0---.516


T8---Minnesota----131-125-0---.512
T8---Arizona-------131-125-0---.512


10---Carolina------130-126-0---.508


T11--Dallas--------129-127-0---.504


T11--New Orleans-129-127-0---.504
T11--Seattle-------129-127-0---.504


T14--Cincinnati----128-128-0---.500


T14--Pittsburgh----128-128-0---.500


T14--Indianapolis-128-128-0---.500
T14--Jacksonville--128-128-0---.500


T18--Miami--------127-129-0---.496
T18--Oakland------127-129-0---.496
T20--Chicago------126-130-0---.492
T20--Detroit-------126-130-0---.492


T20--N.Y. Jets-----126-130-0---.492
T20--Kansas City--126-130-0---.492
T24--Washington--125-131-0---.488
T24--Atlanta-------125-131-0---.488


T24--San Francisco-125-131-0--.488
27---Tampa Bay---124-132-0---.484
28---Tennessee---123-133-0---.480
T29--Buffalo-------121-135-0---.473


T29--Houston------121-135-0---.473
31---Green Bay----120-136-0---.469
32---New England--116-140-0---.453



Since: Jan 8, 2010
Posted on: January 4, 2012 5:23 pm
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Here is the New NFL Seeding and Tiebreaking Procedure

 

NFL Seeding & Tie-Breaking Procedure

Within each division, clubs will be first ranked from best record to worst record. After clubs within each division have been ranked, the six postseason participants from each conference will 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. Wild-Card one, the division loser with the best record.  
  6. Wild-Card two, the division loser with the second-best record.

TO BREAK ANY TIES

The following procedure will be used when two or more clubs are tied when determining division ranking, Wild-Card participants, or seeding of the Division Leaders. The steps of the procedure will be applied until a single club emerges winner of the tie. If additional clubs remain tied after determining a winner of the tied group, the procedure is repeated with these remaining tied clubs to exclude all previous winners of the tie. This process is repeated as many times as necessary to break all ties. 

A. If breaking ties to determine Division Ranking, include only teams within that Division.
B. If breaking ties to determine the seeding of the Division Leaders, exclude all Non-Division-Leaders.
C. If breaking ties to determine Wild-Card Participants, eliminate all but the highest ranked non-division-winner in each division prior to starting the procedure. The original seeding within a division always remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the Wild-Card participants

(Note 1: At any step, if any clubs remain tied after other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1)
(Note 2: Use of the word “record” always refers to Win-Loss-Tie percentage)
(Note 3: Tie games count as one-half win and one-half loss for both clubs.)

  1. Head-to-head sweep (applicable if a group of one or more clubs has each defeated or each lost to each of the remaining group of clubs)
  2. Best combined head-to-head record among tied clubs (applicable only if each tied club has played each other tied club)
  3. Best record in games played within the division if all tied clubs are from same division.
  4. Best record in common games if all tied clubs are from same division.
  5. Best record in games played within the conference.
  6. Best record in common games if all tied clubs are not from same division (applicable if each team has played a minimum of 4 games among common opponents)
  7. Strength of victory.
  8. Strength of schedule.
  9. Best combined conference ranking among all games in points scored and points allowed.
  10. Best combined league ranking among in points scored and points allowed.
  11. Best net points in common games if all tied teams are from same division.
  12. Best net points in conference games if all tied teams are not from same division.
  13. Best net points in all games.
  14. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  15. Coin toss

OTHER PROCEDURAL CLARIFICATIONS:
  1. Multiple clubs can be eliminated at any step of the procedure.  If one club remains, that club is declared winner of this application of tie-breaking process.  If multiple clubs remain after others have been eliminated, revert to step 1 with the remaining tied teams.
  2. In comparing 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. Strength of victory is the combined record of all of the clubs it has beaten.  If a club has beaten an opponent twice then their record is counted twice.  If a club has tied an opponent, their record is not half-counted.
  4. Strength of schedule is the combined record of every matchup on a club’s schedule.
  5. To determine a team’s best combined ranking in points scored and points allowed, add a team's position in the two categories, and the lowest score wins.  For example, if Team A is first in points scored and second in points allowed, its combined ranking is "3." If Team B is third in points scored and first in points allowed, its combined ranking is "4." Team A then wins the tiebreaker. If two teams are tied for a position within the points scored or points allowed category, both teams are awarded the ranking within that category as if they held it solely. For example, if Team A and Team B are tied for first in points scored, each team is assigned a ranking of "1" in that category, and if Team C is third, its ranking will still be "3."
  6. If the coin toss is needed to break ties among 3 or more clubs, each club will have one league assigned representative flip a coin at the same time as the other representatives. The winner is the club whose coin flip result is different from each of the other clubs.  If this condition is not met, such as HHH or TTHH, then this process is continually repeated until a winner is reached.

The above procedure captures the essence of the existing procedure while being significantly shorter and flows better than the current procedure.  Most of the existing procedure is repeat steps from other sections.  It was fairly easy to consolidate it down into one cohesive procedure.  The only deviations in terms of essence of the existing procedure are related to the H2H steps.  I've redefined H2H sweep to account for the rare group sweep scenario, since there is mathematical basis for it, and would be mathematically illogical to not include it.  And I've added a step for best-combined H2H record.  For a long time I had those as a single step but in the end I feel that it reads better as two seperate steps.  Also I thought I'd mention that the order of step 1 and step 2 never matters.

I've left out the tie breaking steps for the selection committee since it seems that other folks have spent considerably more time on that than I have.  In fact I haven't really even looked at the selction committee steps. Ever.  I'd be happy to include/append an adequate version of it if someone is willing to submit those steps.

So there you have it.

-Cheers
-Jerry 



Since: Jan 8, 2010
Posted on: January 4, 2012 4:37 pm
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

When assessing the language of the procedure we must take the perspective of somebody whom has no prior knowledge of how to properly apply the steps of the procedure.  I will give you my best example of how the langauge is misleading and can lead to improper application of the procedure.  Here Goes:

1. Apply division tie-breaker to eliminate all but highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step two. 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 two Wild Card participants.

Three years ago I knew basically nothing about the NFL tiebreaking process.  As such I turned to the procedure to educate myself on the proper application.  And it was the above paragraph that caused me to believe that Division Leaders are eligible to be included in the Wild Card Tiebreaking process.  Literally interpreting the language above, "eliminating all but the highest ranked club in each division", by definition can include some division leaders because the procedure never explicitly instructs us to exclude the division leaders from the wild card process.

It was therefore my interpretation that ALL clubs with the same record would be used in the tiebreaking process, and if a Division Leader were to emerge as the winner of the application of the wildcard tiebreaking procedure, then that club would be discarded and the process would be repeated without that discarded club as they had already been awarded a higher seed.

Compounding this misunderstanding is the fact that the NFL.com wording still had and has the following statement.  

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.

The only way you can have more than three teams in the division involved in the process is if sometimes the Division Leader is among the collection of tied clubs within a given division.  I now realize that this piece of the language was carry over from when it was possible for 5 teams to exist in the division, but someone new to the procedure should not have to be knowledgeable of the historical evolution of the procedure to know it's current proper application.  I also know that the NFL official Record and Fact book has removed the part that mentions "three or more" and it now just reads "three".  But the NFL.com procedure is still not up to date.  

Joe... who's arm do we have to twist to get the NFL to update it's own website?

Having said all that, it would still be best to provide some words that explicitly instructs us to exclude the Division Leaders when determing the wildcard winners.  Vice versa, we should also be explicitly instructing users to exclude non-division-winners when seeding the division titlists.

I know a lot of you might think it would be common sense to not include the division leaders when breaking ties amongst wild card teams but it actually makes a lot of sense.  It's possible that you can get different results by including the Division Leaders in the process.  For example suppose you have two teams wild card eligible and one division leader all with the same record.  

Wildcard Team A  10-6-0
Wildcard Team B  10-6-0
Division Leader C 10-6-0

You can have scenarios where Wildcard Team A wins against Wildcard Team B when excluding the Division Leader C from the process, but if Division Leader C is included in the process it's possible for Wildcard Team B to win the Tie over Wildcard Team A.  You could make an arguement that the latter is a better process since they all have the same record and Division Leader C is a better team based on it's higher seeding by virtue of being a division leader.  Therefore among the larger collection of better teams Wildcard Team B can be better than WildCard Team A.


Here is one possible solution:

TO BREAK A TIE FOR THE WILD-CARD TEAM OR TO DETERMINE HOME FIELD PRIORITY
If necessary to break ties to determine the two Wild Card clubs from each conference or to break ties to determine the seeding of the division titlists, the following steps will be taken:

A. If breaking ties to determine Wild Card clubs, exclude the Division Titlists
B. If breaking ties to determine the seeding of Division Titlists, exclude the Division Losers

C. If all the tied clubs are from the same division, apply division tie-breaker.
D. If the tied clubs are from different divisions, apply the following steps:

I'm still not sure if this is the best way to clarify this or if it would be better to just add another note somewhere in the procedure.  But nontheless I believe this to be an important clarification that should some how be explicitly conveyed within the procedure. 

I've actually been working on a total overhaul of the procedure since it's my belief that the procedure is excessively long and overly redundant.  For example we have seperate procedures for two team and three or more team formats when very little in the steps actually differs.  I am going to give you folks a preview of what I've been working on in my next post.

-Cheers
-Jerry 



Since: Dec 9, 2008
Posted on: January 4, 2012 11:39 am
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

As soon as I can, I will post my division, conference, and draft orders the way I think it should be and why.



Since: Dec 27, 2006
Posted on: January 3, 2012 10:05 am
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

I'm generally satisfied with the state of the TB process and language at this time. There is a little redundancy in the notes on wild-card process, but none of this verbosity adds ambiguity or contradiction, in my opinion.

Over the years, explanatory notes have been added to clarify the following points:

-- That one spot (either divison or wild-card) is determined for one TB process. There is no 'ranking' performed among multiple tied teams based on a single TB process.
-- That division seeding is primary in determining wild card spots (ie. one can no longer leapfrog a 2nd place division finisher for the wild card).
-- That each time a team drops out of a TB, the TB "reverts" to the appropriate TB for the remaining eligible teams, not only when the last 2 teams are left standing).


The issues that some have raised over the past few seasons are:

-- the wildcard 3-or-more-way tie with no H2H sweep, but with all teams having played each other.
-- db's "group sweep", where A and B have both beaten C and D, but have not played each other.
-- whether non-conference common gam
es should be given primacy in the division TB over non-common conference games.
-- Draft order determined by a set of TBs that determines the worst-to-best tied teams rather than the current process of reversing the best-to-worst order determined by the wildcard TB. Additionally that SOS and coin-flips are the go-to tie-breaker steps , when perhaps certain steps in the TB can be used first, even between interconfernce teams.
-- "Tightening" of language in the current process.





Since: Dec 27, 2006
Posted on: January 3, 2012 10:03 am
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

I'm generally satisfied with the state of the TB process and language at this time. There is a little redundancy in the notes on wild-card process, but none of this verbosity adds ambiguity or contradiction, in my opinion.

Over the years, explanatory notes have been added to clarify the following points:

-- That one spot (either divison or wild-card) is determined for one TB process. There is no 'ranking' performed among multiple tied teams based on a single TB process.
-- That division seeding is primary in determining wild card spots (ie. one can no longer leapfrog a 2nd place division finisher for the wild card).
-- That each time a team drops out of a TB, the TB "reverts" to the appropriate TB for the remaining eligible teams, not only when the last 2 teams are left standing).


The issues that some have raised over the past few seasons are:

-- the wildcard 3-or-more-way tie with no H2H sweep, but with all teams having played each other.
-- db's "group sweep", where A and B have both beaten C and D, but have not played each other.
-- whether non-conference common gam
es should be given primacy in the division TB over non-common conference games.
-- Draft order determined by a set of TBs that determines the worst-to-best tied teams rather than the current process of reversing the best-to-worst order determined by the wildcard TB. Additionally that SOS and coin-flips are the go-to tie-breaker steps , when perhaps certain steps in the TB can be used first, even between interconfernce teams.
-- "Tightening" of language in the current process.




Since: Dec 27, 2006
Posted on: January 3, 2012 9:38 am
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

 I think some of the issues with tiebreakers are when one team beats another head-to-head and then can use a third team to beat them in a tiebreaker.  
I think you meant when one team loses to another head-to-head but can use a third team to beat them in a tiebreaker.  

Freshest example is CIN/TEN. If NYJ had won last game, TEN would have been the 6th seed. As it finished CIN got 6th seed on H2H by beating TEN.



Since: Dec 21, 2008
Posted on: January 3, 2012 3:32 am
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Joe,

Let me start by saying that i believe the logic in the tiebreaker steps is very solid.

When considering teams within a division, you look at what makes a division a division.  And it is first and foremost the same schedule.  That is why we reward division champions, even when we find them unworthy (everyone has an example or two that they like here).  When given the same schedule, who performs the best.  Therefore when we break ties within a division, we look at head to head then games within that group, then games that are the same.  Then games within the conference, because that is the teams against whom you will play in the playoffs, and finally stuff like points for, points against, and coin tosses.

On the other hand, when considering conference foes.  The conference schedule is not largely the same.  It is an accumulation of teams.  So, when breaking ties, we look first to head-to-head, then the conference games because that is the pool of teams against whom you are competing, then games that are common, and finally stuff like SoV and SoS.

The thing I really like is that all ties are broken within a division first.  This really places a premium on winning your division and doing well against those teams with whom you have the same schedule.

With that said, I think some of the issues with tiebreakers are when one team beats another head-to-head and then can use a third team to beat them in a tiebreaker.  Or where one team has the chance to win an individual tiebreaker against each of three teams, but if all four are tied, they may not.  I'm not sure if there is an equitable way to do that perfectly (though I will propose theories as we go), but that would be where I think the discussion should begin.

Matt West 


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com