The term clinched playoff berth refers to a team that has officially secured a spot in the playoffs.
Regardless of what happens in the rest of the regular season a team that has clinched a playoff berth has a spot in the postseason.
As the end of the regular season approaches you will find that more and more teams will have clinched a playoff berth.
The top teams in the league will clinch their playoff berth with games to spare. While the teams which are in the middle of the standings may not clinch until the final game.
Teams that have clinched a playoff berth are often denoted with a small x in the standings.
How to clinch a playoff berth in football
In football, there are three separate ways in which you can clinch a playoff berth. A team can clinch their conference which gives them the first seed in their half of the league.
Teams can also win their division which guarantees them a spot in the playoffs regardless of their record. And finally, a team can clinch a playoff berth via wild card position.
Clinching the conference
Clinching a conference is not only going to secure a playoff birth for the team it will also give you several other advantages.
There are two conferences in the NFL which divide the league. This means only two teams are going to win their conference each year.
Conference winners have the advantages of playing on their home field, getting a first-round playoff bye, and playing lower seeds.
Home field advantage allows these players less travel and the advantage of their home town fans.
The first-round bye in the playoffs is given to the conference winners which means they only need to win a couple of games to get to the Superbowl.
For this reason winning the conference is incredibly important as it gives you a large advantage once the playoffs begin.
Winning your division
Each NFL team is placed into a four-team division. Whichever of the four teams is able to win the division is going to be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.
No matter what your record is on the year so long as you win your division you have guaranteed a playoff birth. This has caused some arguments in amongst football fans as teams with poor records have gotten into the playoffs simply because they have won their division.
Teams that clinch their division are also given one of the top four seeds. Even if a wild card team has a better record they will be behind all division winners in the seeding.
As we mentioned earlier in the article seeding is going to determine home-field advantage as well as the matchup you have in each round.
Clinching a wild card
The other way in which a team can clinch a playoff berth is by securing a wild card position. Each conference allows three teams to enter the playoffs that did not win their divisions.
These spots are given to the non-division winners with the best regular-season records.
The wild card teams will be given the lowest seeds and will therefore have to play the top teams. A wild card team will never play at home in the playoffs unless they end up playing a lower-seeded wild card team later in the playoffs.
When reading about clinched playoff berths the wild card spots are often referenced. This is because these are spots given to the teams that are looking to squeek into the playoffs.
When a team wins their conference or division it is usually referenced as clinching a division or clinching a conference as opposed to clinching a playoff berth.