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NFL Standings, NFC South: Inside The Falcons-Saints Tiebreaker Process

The Atlanta Falcons pounded the Carolina Panthers to become the first NFL team to reach 11-2 in 2010, and the New Orleans Saints are just a couple minutes from putting away the St. Louis Rams to become 10-3. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Washington Redskins on a missed extra point, so, like, they're in there too.


That week 16 Monday night showdown between the Saints and Falcons is looming larger and larger by the week. The Falcons have beaten the Saints already, so Atlanta holds the tiebreaker at the moment, but what happens if New Orleans takes the Georgia Dome game to split the series?


Here's how the NFL tiebreaker process works:

  1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs): If the Saints win, this becomes a tie.
  2. ↵
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division: The Falcons are 4-0 in the NFC South, the Saints 3-1. If Atlanta beats Carolina and New Orleans beats Atlanta and Tampa Bay, this is also a tie.
  4. ↵
  5. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games: Now we're cookin'! Assuming both teams sweep Carolina and Tampa Bay, this tiebreaker would most involve Arizona, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. The Falcons are 2-1 against those teams, the Saints 1-2. Common opponents remaining for each: the Falcons play Seattle, who the Saints have beaten. The Saints get Baltimore, likewise beaten by the Falcons. So there are still moving pieces, but this is as far as we need to go at this point.
  6. ↵

If the Falcons beat the Seahawks and Panthers, it doesn't even matter whether they beat the Saints or not. How about that?


And with the Chicago Bears losing today, they're no longer in the home field advantage picture unless Atlanta loses. So we're sort of talking about the NFC here, not just the NFC South.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.