How To Win A Division In The NFL

If you are new to the game of football you may be wondering how to win a division in the NFL. Players and fans alike care a lot about winning the division, mostly because it means beating your rivals but also because it gives you favourable playoff seeding.

Luckily the answer to this question is fairly straightforward. To win a division in the NFL you must have a better overall record than the three opponents that make up the rest of your division.

Throughout the season each team will play seventeen games. The team in your division that won the most games throughout the season is declared the division winner.

Tiebreakers For Winning A Division In The NFL

If the win total between teams is tied they must move on to tiebreakers to determine the seeding of the teams. The first tiebreaker is head to head matchups.

Head To Head

The head to head tiebreaker is exactly what it sounds like. Teams with the same record will compare their head to head records against one another.

This means if the teams played each other once throughout the year then the winner of the game will be the winner of the tiebreaker.

If they played each other twice and split the games then they will move on to the next tiebreaker.

Best Divisional Record

If head to head matchups are even the teams then must compare their divisional records. Each year teams play six divisional games, two against each opponent in their division.

The tiebreaker will compare these two records and the team with the higher win percentage will get the higher seeding. If the teams again tie in this regard then the tiebreaker moves to common games.

Common Game Tie breaker

The common games tiebreaker takes into account teams that both the tiebreaker teams played against. If they are in the same division this will include divisional games as well.

Again they will look at the total winning percentage of each team against common opponents. The team with the higher winning percentage will move on.

Conference Tiebreaker

If the teams are still even after the first three tiebreakers we then head to the conference tiebreaker.

This takes into account all the games played within the conference. So if you are in the AFC this is all AFC opponents and the NFC it includes all NFC opponents.

Like the previous tiebreakers, this takes the winning percentage of these games into account to determine the higher seed.

Strenght Of Victory

Once you have gone through four tiebreakers you can throw your seventeen game record out the window because now it comes down to the strength of your opponents.

Since win totals can no longer be used the NFL begins to use the quality of the opponents to determine who was the better team. This is first done by measuring the strength of your opponents.

To do this the NFL measures the total number of wins of the teams each team defeated. Whichever team defeated opponents had a better cumulative record will be given the higher seed.

Strength Of Schedule

If each team defeated opponents had the same number of wins then the tiebreaker moves on to strength of schedule. This takes the total difficulty of each team seventeen game schedule into account.

Whichever teams opponents had the better cumulative record at the end of the season gets the higher seeding.

The reasoning behind this is that one team may have faced more difficult opponents making them the better team if all other statistics are even.

Points Allowed/ Points Scored Conference Ranking

Following strength of schedule, the teams will be compared in terms of their points for and points against rankings in the conference. This means each team will be ranked in the conference for the number of points they allowed and scored.

These two rankings will be averaged out and the team with the higher ranking will win the tiebreaker.

Points Allowed/ Points Scored NFL Ranking

Next the teams will compare their points scored and allowed ranking amongst all teams. This again will take their average ranking between their points allowed and points scored.

The team with the higher ranking will get the higher seed.

Best Net Points In Common Games

The next tiebreaker is net points in common games. To calculate this the teams will subtract their points against from their points scored in games against common opponents.

The team with the higher cumulative points will win the tiebreak.

Best Net Points In All Games

This next tiebreaker takes into account the total net points across the entire season. The total points scored throughout the season will be subtracted by the total points allowed throughout the season.

The team with the higher number will win the tiebreaker.

Best Net Touchdowns In All Games

This next tiebreaker looks to determine the division winner by only counting touchdowns. Instead of all points scored this tiebreaker gets rid of field goals and focuses on touchdowns.

The teams will compare the total touchdowns they scored vs the amount they gave up. The team with the higher net score moves on.


Finally, if none of the eleven tiebreakers above settles this dispute it comes down to a coinflip.

Just like on opening kickoff one team will pick a side and a coin will be flipped to determine who has won the divison. To date, a tiebreaker has never reached the point of a coin flip.

Concluding Thoughts

We hope this article on how to win a division in football taught you everything you needed to now. If you have any more questions baout this topic please feel free to reach out.

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more check out our guide to how the home team is picked for the superbowl or how America’s game of the week is chosen.

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