Clinched Playoff Berth vs Clinched Division Explained

Have you ever looked at NFL standings and wondered what the little x and y exponents are above each teams name? Yeah, we have too and after finding out they stand for clinched playoff berth vs clinched division we figured we would break down these terms for our readers.

In the NFL there are eight different divisions across the league. Each division has four teams, with the winner of each division is guaranteed to go to the playoffs.

Additionally, six more teams (three from each conference) are selected to make the playoffs as well. These six teams are chosen based on the best regular-season record amongst the teams that did not win their division.

If you have clinched the division it means none of the teams in your division can pass you in the standings before the year is over. In other words, you have already won the division.

If you have clinched a playoff berth this means regardless of what happens in the remainder of the season you have won enough games to be one of the fourteen teams to make the playoffs.

When you have clinched a playoff berth you may still win your division or end up a wild card. When you have clinched the division you have already established yourself as the division winner for the year.

Why Does It Matter If You Clinch The Division

Now that you know the difference between these two terms it’s time to break down why it matters.


When you win a division you are already seeded above the wild card teams. The teams that won their division will be ranked one to four. Your matchup for the first round of the playoffs will be determined by your seeding.

The higher seeds playing the lower seeds in the first round. This means if you win your division you will have an easier matchup than if you simply secure a playoff birth.

Home Field Advantage

Additionally with higher seeding comes home-field advantage. All throughout the playoffs up until the Superbowl the team with the higher seed will play on their home turf.

Not only does this offer your team fan support during the game it can also mean your team will not have to travel during these games.

What Is A Clinched Wild Card?

A wild card is a term used to designate the teams that made the playoffs without winning their division. Along with clinching a division or playoff berth you may also clinch a wildcard.

In order to clinch a wild card, you must be far enough behind your division leader that you cannot catch up. You must also have enough wins that you are guaranteed to be one of the six teams selected as a wild card.

In most cases, a clinched wild card occurs when there is a quality team playing in a division with a Superbowl contender.

Can You Clinch A Conference?

Though this is not common terminology you can in fact clinch a conference. In most terms clinching a conference is referred to as clinching the number one seed.

This is especially important because only the number one seed is able to get a bye for the first round of playoffs.

This bye allows you to skip over the first round of playoffs. Not only does this increase your chance of winning the Superbowl as you have one less opponent. It also allows your players one extra week of rest prior to their first playoff game.

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