December 4, 2016

Tiebreaker Overview (Or, Why This Game Is Important)

By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff

We know that Monday night’s Patriots/Jets game means a ton in terms of playoff and division positioning. Even radio talk show hosts who don’t have the slightest idea of the actual tiebreakers involved know that this is a very important game for both teams. One says it gives him an ice cream headache. Let’s look at some possibilities.

To review, here are the official NFL Tiebreaker rules in play here:

TO BREAK A TIE WITHIN A DIVISION

If, at the end of the regular season, two or more clubs in the same division finish with identical won-lost-tied percentages, the following steps will be taken until a champion is determined.
Two Clubs

1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
5. Strength of victory.
6. Strength of schedule.
7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
9. Best net points in common games.
10. Best net points in all games.
11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
12. Coin toss

If we start with the first tiebreaker, it is easy to see that this game is much more important to New England. If they win, they will tie the season series with the Jets. A Jet victory means they have swept the two regular season games, and the Patriots will need to finish a game ahead of them in order to win the division and a probable first-round bye. A Patriots loss puts them a game behind the Jets, meaning they’d have to make up two games over the last four in order to win the division. Very tough.

Moving on to the second tiebreaker. At the moment, the Jets are 3-0 in the division, while the Patriots are 2-1. A Patriots win ties them in terms of divisional record. Each team has a game with the Bills and Dolphins remaining on their schedule – the Jets have both of those games at home, while the Patriots still have to go to Buffalo and host Miami in the season finale. A win by the Patriots on Monday night does not help them all that much if they end up losing one of those remaining AFC East games.

If the Patriots win on Monday night, the season could come down to the third tiebreaker, which is common games. Here are the games the two teams have in common:

Buffalo – both teams have beaten the Bills once, and have one more game to play with them.

Miami – both teams have beaten the Dolphins once and have one more game to play with them.

Baltimore – The Jets lost to the Ravens, while the Patriots beat the Ravens.

Pittsburgh – The Patriots have beaten the Steelers, while the Jets play them on December 19th in Pittsburgh.

Green Bay – The Jets have lost to the Packers, while the Patriots play the Packers at home on December 19.

Minnesota – Both teams have beaten the Vikings.

Detroit – Both teams have beaten the Lions.

Chicago – Both teams have yet to play the Bears, The Patriots on December 12th and the Bears on December 26th, both at Soldier Field.

Cleveland – The Patriots lost to the Browns while the Jets beat the Browns.

Cincinnati – Both teams have beaten the Bengals.

Patriots 7 wins, 1 loss.

Jets 6 wins, 2 losses.

Remaining to play:

Patriots – Bears, Packers, Bills, Dolphins

Jets – Dolphins, Steelers, Bears, Bills.

So even though the Patriots have a slight edge at the moment in common games, every game remaining on the schedule for each team is also a common opponent game.

Could they end up tied through that? If the Patriots win on Monday, and the both the Patriots and Jets win their remaining divisional games, and the Patriots lose to the Packers (Rodgers is gonna hang on that D, bro) while the Jets sweep their remaining games, the teams would both be 13-3 and tied in the division and in common games. That would lead to the fourth tiebreaker – conference record. Other scenarios could happen, of course, if the Jets lose to the Steelers while the Patriots lose to Bills, the Patriots win with a 10-2 common opponents record to the Jets 9-3.

In the first scenario in the previous paragraph, both teams would then be 10-2 in the AFC.

That brings us to the 5th tiebreaker – strength of victory. That would take some figuring. Remember, this isn’t strength of schedule, that’s #6, this is strength of victory. So that means margin of victory? No. (See the first comment below for a good explanation of strength of victory vs strength of schedule. ) The remaining games will have a lot to say in determining strength of victory.

Confused yet? Let’s just say Monday night is a pretty big game, and then we’ll go week-by-week from there.

Comments

  1. Strength of victory has NOTHING to do with margin of victory.

    SoV is simply the combined record (expressed as a winning percentage) of all the teams you beat. Similarly strength of schedule is the combined record (expressed as a winning percentage) of all the teams you played. In both cases if you beat/play a team twice you include their record twice in SoV/SoS.

    As of now the Pats have beaten:
    CIN (2-9)
    BUF (2-9)
    MIA (6-5)
    BAL (8-3)
    SD (6-5)
    MIN (4-7)
    PIT (8-3)
    IND (6-5)
    DET (2-9)
    —————
    44-55 = SoV of 0.444

    You are correct in saying that the upcoming games have huge effects on SoV, and not only our games but the games played by everyone we’ve beaten. Basically, as long as we’re ahead of other teams we want everyone we’ve beaten to win, especially if we’ve beaten a team the Jets have not.

  2. One other technical point. If the Jets win they’re only 11/2 games ahead not two. That is a tie game could come into play which almost happened in the Jets/Cleveland game. I’m still upset about that game. Cleveland should have played for a tie from their 3yd line and the Jets only 1 timeout. All they needed to do was take a knee for 3 downs. Bad game management by Mangini. Maybe like Vick he didn’t know the rules.

  3. If both teams win out, apart from us dropping a game then SOV ROOTING IS EASY:
    We want the Ravens and the Pack to win and Cleveland and the other team we lose to to lose.

  4. Ice cream headache

  5. It should also be noted that while the Pats are 44-55 in SoV, the Jets are 37-62.

    The only two teams the Jets have beaten that currently have a winning record are the Pats and Dolphins. Their other seven wins are against teams that are a combined 22-55.

    Comparing non-common opponents, the Pats have beaten SD (6-5) and Indy (6-5), while the Jets have beaten Denver (3-8) and Houston (5-6), which also helps NE with regards to SoS.

  6. The important thing is that if the Patriots win on MNF then they are 1-1 against the Jets and both teams are also tied for the 2nd tiebreaker at 3-1. The Patriots would win because they have a better record, not because of a tiebreaker.

    The Third tiebreaker will not affect the outcome. As the Patriots and Jets are in the same division, they have common opponents in 12 games. As long as they have the same record in the other 4 games, they will have the same record in the 12 common games. The Patriots beat SD and Indy, and the Jets beat Denver and Houston. For any of this to matter, the Pats and Jets would also be 1-1 against each other. Subtract that 3-1 record from the final (tied) record of the 2 teams and the 12 game common record would be the same.

    The Patriots could afford to lose 1 game against the NFC. That is due to the 4th tiebreaker, the Patriots would have a better record against the AFC. The teams would be tied on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd

    If the Jets lose some of their other 4 games:

    If the Jets lose to the Steelers or Bears, then the Patriots can afford to lose 2 games against the NFC, or 1 game against the Bills/Dolphins. If they only lose 1 game to Bills/Dolphins then they win by outright record, not a tiebreaker. If they lose 2 games to the NFC, they would finish tied with the Jets, but win on tiebreaker 4.

    If the Jets lose to the Dolphins or Bills, then the Patriots can afford to lose 1 game to the Dolphins/Bills and one game to an NFC opponents. The Patriots would win on the 4th tiebreaker (AFC record)

    If the Jets lose to the Steelers or Bears, and to the Dolphins or Bills. Then the Patriots have 3 games they can lose and finish tied. They could lose 2 games to the NFC, and win on the 2nd tiebreaker (AFC East record), or they could lose 1 NFC game and one of Dolphins/Bills, and win on 4th tiebreaker (AFC record). They could lose both games to the Bills/Dolphins and win on outright record as long as they beat Chicago/Green Bay.

    If the Jets lose to the Steelers and Bears and to either the Dolphins or Bills. Then the Patriots have 3 games they can lose and end up tied. Why only 3? Because if they lose all 4 they would end up tied in overall record, but they would lose based on tiebreaker 2 (AFC East record).

    If the Jets lose to the Dolphins and Bills, then the Patriots have 3 games in hand that they can lose to any combination of their opponents. The Patriots would win on the 4th tiebreaker (AFC record)

    If the Jets lose to the Dolphins and Bills and the Steelers, then the Patriots can lose all 4 of their games. They would again win on the 4th tiebreaker (AFC record)

    there are probably 100 things I forgot

    • “If the Jets lose to the Steelers or Bears, and to the Dolphins or Bills. Then the Patriots have 3 games they can lose and finish tied. They could lose 2 games to the NFC, and win on the 2nd tiebreaker (AFC East record), or they could lose 1 NFC game and one of Dolphins/Bills, and win on 4th tiebreaker (AFC record). They could lose both games to the Bills/Dolphins and win on outright record as long as they beat Chicago/Green Bay.”

      should be:

      “If the Jets lose to the Steelers or Bears, and to the Dolphins or Bills. Then the Patriots have 3 games they can lose and finish tied. They could lose 2 games to the NFC, and win on the 2nd tiebreaker (AFC East record), or they could lose 2 NFC games and one of Dolphins/Bills, and win on 4th tiebreaker (AFC record). They could lose both games to the Bills/Dolphins and win on outright record as long as they beat Chicago/Green Bay.”

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