In football when a team clinches a division, it means they have secured the top spot in their division for the season.
A team will clinch the division when it is guaranteed the other teams cannot catch them before the season is over.
Each NFL division has four teams, and the team that wins the division gets a guaranteed spot in the playoffs.
Even if opposing teams outside of the playoffs have a higher record a playoff spot is secured by any division winner.
Some teams have even made the playoffs with a losing record despite opponents with winning records being left out of the playoffs.
Why clinched divisions are important?
There are three main reasons that clinching a division is important in football. When clinching a division teams will guarantee a playoff spot, get a higher seed, and have a shot at winning the conference.
As we stated earlier in the article each division winner is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.
Additionally winning your division is going to give a team a top-four seed in their conference. Seeding is what is going to determine the matchups in each round of the playoffs.
The higher seeded teams will play the lower seeded teams in each round. This means the higher seed a team have the easier your opponents will be.
The winner of a division will automatically be given a top-four seed which places them above the wild card teams.
This is important because this allows division winners to avoid playing the top teams in the conference in the first round.
Winning your division also gives you a shot at clinching the conference. In order to win the conference, you must first win your division.
When a team wins their conference they get a bye for the first round of the playoffs. This makes it much easier to get into the Superbowl as they only have to win three games as opposed to four.
What is a clinched conference?
A clinched conference in spots occurs when a team has secured the top position in the conference for the season.
Most major sports break their leagues down into two conferences. In the NFL this is the AFC and the NFC.
In both conferences, there are sixteen teams seven of which make the playoffs.
Only two teams in the league clinch can clinch the conference. Clinching the conference in football is going to earn you a bye for the first round of the playoffs.
Previously the NFL allowed the top two seeds to get byes for the first round of the playoffs. But with the inclusion of two more teams into the playoffs the NFL got rid of one of the bye weeks.
Now only the team which clinches a conference title is able to get a bye for the first round.
Clinching the conference is also going to give you home-field throughout the playoffs. Since the conference winner is the highest-seeded team in the division they will play all games at home.
This can make a big difference when it comes to playoff football games. Only the Superbowl will be played at a predetermined location that doesn’t take a team’s seeding into account.
Additionally, the seeding of the top team in the conference is going to make their opponents noticeably easier. After the first-round bye the teams will re-seed and the top seed will play against the lowest.
This allows the conference winner to play the lowest-ranked team remaining in their conference. This makes their first game of the playoffs easier as they will not be matched up against one of the top teams.