Though they are incredibly rare, ties are very much a possibility in American football. In the national football league, two teams can tie if they come to the end of an overtime period without either team being declared the winner.
For a tie to happen in the NFL the teams will first have to end regulation time with the same score. This means that after all four quarters are completed both teams have scored the same number of points.
At the end of regulation, there is a ten minute overtime period which usually determines the winner. When you score a touchdown in overtime the game is immediately over.
Additionally, a field goal will end the game unless the opposing team has not yet had a chance to possess the ball. This means there are only two ways in which an overtime period can result in a tie.
Either neither team scores throughout the entire overtime period. Or the first team to possess the ball scores a field goal, the opposing team responds with a field goal of their own and then no one else scores in the remainder of overtime.
How Common Are Ties In The NFL
Ties have been uncommon throughout the history of the NFL but a recent rule change allowed them to occur more frequently. In 2017 the NFL changed the overtime period from a single fifteen-minute period to a ten minute overtime period.
This rule change made ties more frequent as this gave the offense less time to score. Since this rule change in 2017, a total of four games have ended in a tie.
The 2017-2021 regular seasons included a total of 1088 NFL games. This means that 0.36% of NFL regular season games end in a tie.
Additionally, all four of the games that tied occurred in the month of September. This may be a sign of offences being a little rusty to start the season.
What Happens With Ties In The NFL Playoffs?
As you likely already guessed NFL playoff games cannot end in a tie. This begs the question of what happens when an overtime period ends with a tie in the playoffs.
When this situation occurs the game will simply extend to another overtime period. When the first overtime period ends teams will get a two-minute break in order to rest their players.
Once the break is over the captain that lost the first coin toss of overtime is able to select if his team wants to receive or defer.
The game will continue to be played until a winner is selected. If a winner has not been selected by the fourth overtime period another coin toss will occur to determine possession to start the overtime period.
How Are Ties Counted In The NFL Standings?
Unlike hockey or soccer, NFL standings do not have a points column that awards teams for wins in ties. Instead, the NFL simply uses win percentage to determine where teams rank in the standings.
This is why ties in the NFL are considered half a win and half a loss. This means if you have the same number of wins as a team and one more tie you will be ahead in the standings.
This also means that if a team has one more win than you yet you have two ties then you are even in the standings. In other words 9-7 = 8-5-2, this is because these two ties are worth a total of one win and one loss.
If two teams are tied in the standings the team with more wins does not rank higher than the team with ties. Instead, tiebreakers are used to determine which team should rank higher in the standings.