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Browns playoff hopes could depend on these NFL tiebreaker procedures

The AFC has 10 teams with 6 of more victories fighting for playoff spots

NFL: NOV 19 Steelers at Browns Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns have had a rough season when it comes to injuries and quarterback performance during the 2023 NFL season. Despite that, after a Week 12 defeat to the Denver Broncos, the Browns are 7-4.

The problem for Cleveland’s playoff hopes is that the AFC is a conference full of teams with good records, unlike the NFC.

Going into Week 13, the AFC will have 10 teams with six or more victories including three from the AFC North. The NFC, on the other hand, has just six teams with that many wins. That means the AFC playoff picture could be ultimately decided by the NFL tiebreaker procedures.

For the Browns, who have or will play six of the other teams that currently have winning records, many of the tiebreakers could come into play.

First, if there is a tie between two teams, the following tiebreakers will decide who gets a seed or gets into the playoffs as a wild card:

  1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  4. Strength of victory in all games.
  5. Strength of schedule in all games.
  6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed in all games.
  7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed in all games.
  8. Best net points in conference games.
  9. Best net points in all games.
  10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  11. Coin toss.

Knowing Cleveland’s luck, let's just hope the coin toss doesn’t come into play.

If more than two teams are tied, things get a little nutty. Basically, the tiebreakers are run through until a team is eliminated then they start back over at the first tiebreaker once again. Over and over again until as many teams are eliminated, these slightly different tiebreakers are used:

  1. Apply division tiebreaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tiebreaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the two Wild-Card participants.
  2. Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  5. Strength of victory in all games.
  6. Strength of schedule in all games.
  7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed in all games.
  8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed in all games.
  9. Best net points in conference games.
  10. Best net points in all games.
  11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  12. Coin toss

With the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and a second matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals still on the schedule, too many things can change between now and the end of the season to know which tiebreakers would impact the Browns.

We do know that Cleveland has split with the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, beat the Indianapolis Colts and lost to the Broncos in the AFC so far this year.

Six games left and, likely, a tiebreaker process will decide if the Browns are in the postseason or not.