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 29, 2009
Posted on: January 11, 2012 10:22 am
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Sorry I have been away for a while, but am still interested in the discussion.  Here are a few thoughts I have on the matter.

  • I would continue to separate divisional tiebreakers from conference tiebreakers.  I agree with Joe that it is too confusing otherwise.  Specifially, doing that emphasizes the differences in application of common games vs. conferece record.  Also, there may be slight changes in wording for h2h and common games.  For example, group sweep language would only be necessary in the conference procedure (addressing Joe's comment concerning DEN-SD-OAK tie).  In a related matter, I would potentially advocate a 3rd section for draft order tiebreakers.
  • Regarding divisional tiebreakers, I would advocate keeping common games - currently step 3 - after divisional games.  This would be the pool of 8+ common games (conf, non-conf, plus a subset of already tied divisional games).  As a new step 4, I would advocate looking at "conference common games", which would be 4+ games including conf games plus a subset of already tied divisional games).  Then I would advocate conference record - current Step 4.  [As a side note, part of me wonders if this is necessary - if teams have a tied record, tied h2h, tied div, tied common, and tied conf-common, wouldn't the 2 non-common conf games HAVE to be tied?  I wanted to research this before posting but have not had the opportunity!]
  • The coin flip landing on its side?  Seriously?  Definitely not necessary.
  • For the record, I do believe in group sweep, but worry that it is hard to explain.  Also, what takes precedence in the case of 2-0-1, 2-0-1, 1-2, 0-3?  Team D being swept (advancing A, B, & C) or Team A & B advancing?



Since: Jan 8, 2010
Posted on: January 11, 2012 1:19 am
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Joe,

.  I spent a few hours on the presentation so I hope you read through it in it's entirety.  Just click the link then the start presentation button in the upper right corner.  

Thank you for the feedback on the procedure.  I've tightened up some of the language per your feedback  I finally folded and removed A and B and changed C to be note 3.

You made an excellent point about the problem with the group sweep definition since there is the potential for it to be applied to a group of division teams.  This didn't become a problem until I began trying to consolidate the procedure, because in the unconsolidated version it is only possible for conference teams to get to H2H sweep.

I spent some time last night considering how I was going to patch this up so that the definition didn't get ugly and could still be properly applied in all scenarios for the consolidated version of the procedure.  I probably had about 10 different versions of this but the one I settled on is this:
1. Head-to-head sweep (apply if a group of one or more clubs has each swept each of the remaining group of clubs)
This version can also be seen with the most recent updates that I've made to:


You'll notice that the main changes are that the word "defeated" was changed to "swept".  This word change patches the division problem that you pointed out.  I also removed the piece about if a group of one or more has been swept by each of the others, since this is the mirror image of when a group of one or more clubs each sweeps the others. 

The only other improvement I can think of to the procedure as a whole is to perhaps provide two examples of a H2H sweep in the Procedural Clarification section.  Example one can be a classic H2H sweep involving 3 teams, and the other example can be one of these rare 4-way tie H2H group sweep cases.  This will better help folks less mathematically inclined understand the new definition of H2H sweep.

-Cheers
-Jerry





Since: Aug 30, 2006
Posted on: January 10, 2012 3:06 am
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Jerry....below are some comments (in Bold and Italics) on your attempt at streamlining the Tiebreaking Rules.  Hope they help...

Also...on your question re: Comp. Committee...I rarely, if ever, chat with Committee members and Elias will sometimes get involved if asked...but they typically are only there to "enforce" or "calculate" the rules (Same as me).  Proposed rule changes come from within the League and typically from teams...so might be best to get one team or one committee member to be the sponsor of any proposed changes.  I'll check on latest procedure and get back with you.

 

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 non-division-champion with the best record.
  6. Wild-Card two, the non-division-champion with the second-best record.
TO BREAK ANY TIES FOR POST-SEASON PLAY
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 champions. The steps of the procedure will be applied until a single club emerges winner of the tie. Multiple clubs can be eliminated at any step of the procedure. If at any step one club remains, that club is declared winner of this application of tie-breaking process. If at any step multiple clubs remain after others have been eliminated, revert to step 1 with the remaining non-eliminated tied clubs. Once a winner of the tied group has been reached, the procedure is repeated with all of the eliminated clubs from the previous application of the procedure. This process is repeated as many times as necessary to break all ties.

A. If breaking ties to determine division ranking, include only clubs within that division.  [JOE: Still don't think this is necessary.]
B. If breaking ties to determine the seeding of the division leaders, exclude all non-division-champions.  [JOE: Also not necessary IMO, but makes more sense to include than "A" above]
C. If breaking ties to determine wild-card participants, eliminate all but the highest ranked non-division-champion in each division by referring to the previously determined division rankings.

(Note 1: Use of the word “record” always refers to Win-Loss-Tie percentage)
(Note 2: 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)  [JOE:  Still don't like this proposed change.  "Group Sweep" to me is not a sweep since all clubs didn't play all others.  Also...your language leaves open to interpretation where teams have played multiple games against others as in division play.  For example, in the DEN-OAK-SD tie this year...each of those clubs defeated each of the remaining group of clubs...it doesn't account for clubs that have defeated AND lost to 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 from same division.
  4. Best record in common games if all tied clubs from same division.  [JOE:  Due to consolidation of Division and Wild Card tiebreakers here, am guessing this will no doubt confuse just as many people as before...if not more...as many will ALWAYS put common games in front of conference despite your "if all tied clubs from same division" clarification.  Am just guessing here...and I would be fine with consolidation...but I think it will confuse.]
  5. Best record in games played within the conference.
  6. Best record in common games if tied clubs from multiple divisions, (applicable if each club has played a minimum of four 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 all games in points scored and points allowed.
  11. Best net points in common games if all tied clubs are from same division.
  12. Best net points in conference games if tied clubs from multiple divisions.
  13. Best net points in all games.
  14. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  15. Coin toss

PROCEDURAL CLARIFICATIONS:
  1. A common game is a game played against a common opponent, which is an opponent that each club within the tied group has played. Therefore, a club within the tied group can never be a common opponent to the tied group, because a club cannot play itself. It is permissible for clubs to have played an unequal number of common games.  [JOE:  You may want to add a further clarification here that ALL GAMES AGAINST COMMON OPPONENTS COUNT (e.g. divisional foes would count as two games)...or something like that as that is a question I get all the time]
  2. 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 counted, nor is it half-counted.
  3. Strength of schedule is the combined record of every match-up on a club’s schedule.
  4. To determine a club’s best combined ranking in points scored and points allowed, add a club's position in the two categories, and the lowest score wins. For example, if Club A is first in points scored and second in points allowed, its combined ranking is "3." If Club B is third in points scored and first in points allowed, its combined ranking is "4." Club A then wins the tiebreaker. If two clubs are tied for a position within the points scored or points allowed category, both clubs are awarded the ranking within that category as if they held it solely. For example, if Club A and Club B are tied for first in points scored, each club is assigned a ranking of "1" in that category, and if Club C is third, its ranking will still be "3."
  5. 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. A coin flip resulting on its side is a valid differentiable result.  [JOE:  I like this paragraph, but think you can leave out the "landing on it's side" part.  Not needed.  Should be a "flip over" as most fans would see that as not a valid coin flip win]



Since: Jan 8, 2010
Posted on: January 9, 2012 7:54 pm
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Once again the link to my procedure can be found here:



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 non-division-champion with the best record. 
  6. Wild-Card two, the non-division-champion with the second-best record.

TO BREAK ANY TIES FOR POST-SEASON PLAY
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 champions. The steps of the procedure will be applied until a single club emerges winner of the tie. Multiple clubs can be eliminated at any step of the procedure. If at any step one club remains, that club is declared winner of this application of tie-breaking process. If at any step multiple clubs remain after others have been eliminated, revert to step 1 with the remaining non-eliminated tied clubs. Once a winner of the tied group has been reached, the procedure is repeated with all of the eliminated clubs from the previous application of the procedure. This process is repeated as many times as necessary to break all ties.

A. If breaking ties to determine division ranking, include only clubs within that division.
B. If breaking ties to determine the seeding of the division leaders, exclude all non-division-champions.
C. If breaking ties to determine wild-card participants, eliminate all but the highest ranked non-division-champion in each division by referring to the previously determined division rankings.

(Note 1: Use of the word “record” always refers to Win-Loss-Tie percentage)
(Note 2: 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 from same division.
  4. Best record in common games if all tied clubs from same division.
  5. Best record in games played within the conference.
  6. Best record in common games if tied clubs from multiple divisions, (applicable if each club has played a minimum of four 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 all games in points scored and points allowed.
  11. Best net points in common games if all tied clubs are from same division.
  12. Best net points in conference games if tied clubs from multiple divisions.
  13. Best net points in all games.
  14. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  15. Coin toss

PROCEDURAL CLARIFICATIONS:

  1. A common game is a game played against a common opponent, which is an opponent that each club within the tied group has played. Therefore, a club within the tied group can never be a common opponent to the tied group, because a club cannot play itself. It is permissible for clubs to have played an unequal number of common games.
  2. 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 counted, nor is it half-counted.
  3. Strength of schedule is the combined record of every match-up on a club’s schedule.
  4. To determine a club’s best combined ranking in points scored and points allowed, add a club's position in the two categories, and the lowest score wins. For example, if Club A is first in points scored and second in points allowed, its combined ranking is "3." If Club B is third in points scored and first in points allowed, its combined ranking is "4." Club A then wins the tiebreaker. If two clubs are tied for a position within the points scored or points allowed category, both clubs are awarded the ranking within that category as if they held it solely. For example, if Club A and Club B are tied for first in points scored, each club is assigned a ranking of "1" in that category, and if Club C is third, its ranking will still be "3."
  5. 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. A coin flip resulting on its side is a valid differentiable result. 



Since: Jan 8, 2010
Posted on: January 9, 2012 7:16 pm
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Brett, yes
3 valid use cases? What about ranking all division teams (for scheduling/historical purposes), and breaking strength of schedule ties for the 1st round draft order? 
Yes those steps are meant for breaking ties for post-season play as the title suggests.

I mentioned that I was not going to make changes to the draft order steps, because I don't have any experience on the those steps yet.  I mentioned that if anyone was cooking up revised steps for the draft order that I would be happy to append them to this procedure.  Otherwise I'm simply going to insert the current steps for draft selection.  In principal I think that it being so easy to need the coin flip is a shame and should be fixed.  If anybody has draft order steps ready to go, submit.  Them.  If I like them.  I will append them instead of the current selection committee steps.

My goals are based on my experiece with the procedure and the feedback that I've received from those that I've shown my updates too.

As far as your goals, we overlap quite well, except for the consolidation part.
1) Wanting the proper handling of all scenarios (no matter how rare) to be well defined in the procedure.
I too share this goal.  In reviewing my version is there anywhere that anyone can see that this goal is not accomplished?  I would be happy to talk about or correct those areas.

2) Wanting the language to be void of all confusing and potentially confusing language.
I too share this goal.  In reviewing my version is there anywhere that anyone can see that this goal is not accomplished?  I would be happy to talk about or correct those areas.

I don't believe in consolidating the procedure into one single list of steps. I believe in one list for divisional tiebreakers and one list for interdivisional tiebreakers.
Why not,  When we consolidate the procedure becomes cleaner more consistent and easier to understand by newcombers, fans and media.  The current procedure has 47 numeric steps for breaking ties to determine post season play, most of which are duplicate steps.  My procedure has 15 numeric steps while maintaining the essence of the existing procedure and tweaking the H2H steps to our preferred understanding.  Besides no one is going to go for a list called "Interdivisional" because no one uses that term.  The feedback I've been receiving thus far is that folks like the consolidated list.

I don't care about trying to change any current practice.
The current practice does not ever resort to Best-Combined H2H record for breaking conference ties among 3 or more teams.  So when you say "any" do you also mean that you don't care about resorting to Best Combined H2H record in the absence of a H2H sweep but existence of a full round robin.  I thought we were all in agreement that we wanted this language clarified to include what we thought was proper practice all along?


-Cheers 
-Jerry 



Since: Dec 9, 2008
Posted on: January 9, 2012 5:32 pm
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Conference Games are easier to calculate int the standings than common games. Thats my vote.  I like that if 3 teams have played each other and its not a sweep best record among the teams tied should advance.  If you dont know what I mean please ask. 



Since: Nov 21, 2011
Posted on: January 9, 2012 5:21 pm
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Brett,
I think you are right, for consistency's sake. Doing it by WC would probably just throw off the entire system, because as you basically said a team nearly in division contention was not as far from the playoffs, and most likely needs less help in the future (a byproduct of the division structure). There's no ideal way to do draft order, but I do think that the idea of week eliminated from all contention is the best right now, because meaningless games really ought not to count. 



Since: Dec 9, 2008
Posted on: January 9, 2012 5:18 pm
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Thanks Brett



Since: Dec 18, 2008
Posted on: January 9, 2012 5:09 pm
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion



3 valid use cases? What about ranking all division teams (for scheduling/historical purposes), and breaking strength of schedule ties for the 1st round draft order?

What are your goals based on?

My goals are shaped around the following:

Wanting the proper handling of all scenarios (no matter how rare) to be well defined in the procedure.
Wanting the language to be void of all confusing and potentially confusing language.

I don't believe in consolidating the procedure into one single list of steps. I believe in one list for divisional tiebreakers and one list for interdivisional tiebreakers.

I don't care about trying to change any current practice. With regards to potential changes, I'm interested only in discussing these ideas.







Since: Jan 8, 2010
Posted on: January 9, 2012 4:21 pm
 

NFL Tiebreaking Rules and Procedures Discussion

Brett, I had hoped to possibly talk offline with you about some of this, but I never saw an email response to the email I set up tiebreakercontacts@gmail.com

I've been in discussion with Elias over the holidays and I have been soliciting input from folks knowledgeable and unknowledgeable of the existing procedure outside of this forum. 


My primary goal of the procedure update is to consolidate the steps and as concisely as possible explain upfront how to use the procedure and what the 3 valid use cases are (Division Ranking, Seeding Div Champs, and Seeding Wild-Card Participants).

Secondary to this goal is to clean up the language regarding how we should be handling all of the H2H scenarios, such as H2H Sweeps, and H2H round Robins in absence of sweeps. (The new language also handles the rare, but currently ignored, group sweep scenario).

Lastly I will be floating a suggestion to the competition committee that the NFL can simply remove the Best net points in common games step altogether.  The Best Combined Ranking steps only uses two sub-groups which are Conference Teams and All Teams.  Once past these steps it seems sufficient to simply keep with those same two sub-groups for best net points.  NOTE: prior to the Best Net Points steps being shuffled to the bottom of the procedure in 2002, it made much more sense back then to have greater stratification in the sub-groups being applied based on whether the collection was all division teams or a mix of conference teams.  Now that those steps are nearly last in the procedure it seems more than sufficient to just apply Best net Points in Conference Games then Best net Points in All games.  Making these change would cause the steps to appear as such for all cases:

...
Strength of victory.
Strength of schedule.
Best combined conference ranking among all games in points scored and points allowed.
Best combined league ranking among all games in points scored and points allowed.
Best net points in conference games.
Best net points in all games.
Best net touchdowns in all games.
Coin toss

Lastly I asked folks last week if someone could summarize where we all stand on the issue of the order of the common games / conference games steps, but no one responed.  So I leave us with the following question.  Is it practical for us to choose one method for the order of commongames / conference games steps to be applied no matter what the collection of tied teams is to be.  

While I'm not pushing for any such change in this year's offseason rule update since it's a slighlty more radical departure from the current essence of the procedure, it's something we can and should consider for the future. Potentially the steps of the procedure could be simplified down to the following if we can make our selves happy with a single order like as such:
  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 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 (applicable if each club has played a minimum of four games among common opponents)
  5. Best record in games played within the conference.
  6. Strength of victory.
  7. Strength of schedule.
  8. Best combined conference ranking among all games in points scored and points allowed.
  9. Best combined league ranking among all games in points scored and points allowed.
  10. Best net points in conference games.
  11. Best net points in all games.
  12. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  13. Coin toss

-Cheers
-Jerry

 


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