An Arduous, Thorough Explanation of HOW Ravens Control Their Own Destiny

December 28, 2009 | Glenn Clark

There have been a few rumors flying tonight that the Ravens might actually NOT control their own destiny for reaching the NFL playoffs. This is not the case. So instead of sleeping, I decided to crack the code and explain all of this to you step by step.

Let me begin this exercise by explaining the rules for determining a multiple-team tiebreaking scenario. From NFL.com, here we go….

TO BREAK A TIE FOR THE WILD-CARD TEAM
If it is necessary to break ties to determine the two Wild-Card clubs from each conference, the following steps will be taken.

Three or More Clubs
(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.)
1. Apply division tie breaker 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 tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the three 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.
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 conference games.
10. Best net points in all games.
11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
12. Coin toss.

When the first Wild-Card team has been identified, the procedure is repeated to name the second Wild-Card, i.e., eliminate all but the highest-ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2, and repeated a third time, if necessary, to identify the third Wild Card. In situations where three or more teams from the same division are involved in the procedure, the original seeding of the teams remains the same for subsequent applications of the tie breaker if the top-ranked team in that division qualifies for a Wild-Card berth.

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Okay, so that’s established. Given the fact that there are currently 5 AFC teams all at 8-7 (Ravens, Steelers, Jets, Broncos, Texans), we must assume that all 5 teams will improve to 9-7 in order to determine who “controls their own destiny.” So for the purposes of this exercise….everyone wins next week. Now, with 5 teams tied at 9-7; Step 1 will allow us to make our first elimination.

“1. Apply division tie breaker 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 tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the three Wild-Card participants.”

With the AFC North being the only division with 2 potential 9-7 teams, we must eliminate either the Ravens or Steelers. Here are the tie-breaker procedures for determining a winner within the division….

TO BREAK A TIE WITHIN A DIVISION

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.

With the Ravens and Steelers splitting their 2 games, step 2 is where we make our first cut. Thanks to the Browns defeating the Steelers in Cleveland on a brutal Thursday night-the Steelers went just 2-4 against the AFC North. While the Ravens were swept by the Bengals, they managed to sweep the Browns-leaving their division record at 3-3. With that, we bid adieu to the Pittsburgh Steelers. So sorry to see you go.

This leaves 4 teams (Ravens, Jets, Broncos, Texans) all at 9-7 and vying for 2 Wild Card spots. We move on to our 2nd tie-breaking procedure….

“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.)”

Rarely do 4 teams from 4 different divisions all happen to have played each other this year. It’s ALMOST impossible. It didn’t happen this year. Let’s move on….

“3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.”

All 4 teams play conference foes next week (Ravens @ Raiders, Broncos vs. Chiefs, Jets vs. Bengals, Texans vs. Patriots), and since we’re assuming that all 4 teams will win-we must also assume that they each get one more conference win. So here are your conference records….

Ravens 7-5, Jets 7-5, Broncos 7-5, Texans 6-6. Houston, we have a problem. With the Texans now eliminated, 3 teams remain. Let’s move on…..

“4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.”

With the Ravens, Jets and Broncos still standing, all 3 played 5 games each against a total of 4 opponents (Patriots, Raiders, Colts, Bengals). Here’s how they shape up against those opponents….

Ravens: 1-4 (We’re giving them the win over the Raiders)
Jets: 4-1 (They split with the Patriots, but they get a win over the Bengals next week to win all others.)
Broncos: 3-2 (Losses to Indianapolis and Oakland ultimately doom them.)

And with that, we have our first Wild Card team, the New York Jets.

A common thought process here would be to say, “Well gee, don’t the Broncos get the 2nd spot because they had a better record against common opponents?” Well, not exactly. Let’s revert back to our tie-breaking procedures….

“When the first Wild-Card team has been identified, the procedure is repeated to name the second Wild-Card, i.e., eliminate all but the highest-ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2, and repeated a third time, if necessary, to identify the third Wild Card. In situations where three or more teams from the same division are involved in the procedure, the original seeding of the teams remains the same for subsequent applications of the tie breaker if the top-ranked team in that division qualifies for a Wild-Card berth.”

Therefore, we go back to the drawing board with all 4 remaining teams (Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Broncos).

Remembering the first step from before-we eliminate the Steelers and we have 3 teams left (Ravens, Texans, Broncos).

Neither the Ravens nor the Broncos played the Texans this season, so we advance past our 2nd tie-breaker.

The 3rd tie-breaker is again conference record, so once again-we eliminate the Texans at 6-6…..

And we’re left with the Ravens and Broncos.

NOW-we get an answer. Remember this note from our original tie-breaker explanation….

“(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.)”

With just two teams standing following the elimination of the Texans, we are forced to check the TWO-Team Tie-breaking Procedures…..

TO BREAK A TIE FOR THE WILD-CARD TEAM
If it is necessary to break ties to determine the two Wild-Card clubs from each conference, the following steps will be taken.
1. If the tied clubs are from the same division, apply division tie breaker.
2. If the tied clubs are from different divisions, apply the following steps.

Two Clubs
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.
5. Strength of schedule.
6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
8. Best net points in conference games.
9. Best net points in all games.
10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
11. Coin toss.

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With the Ravens and Broncos being from different divisions; we need only visit Step #1 on this list, as the Ravens defeated the Broncos 30-7 at M&T Bank Stadium back on November 1.

The Ravens get the 2nd Wild Card spot.

What’s the likelihood of all of this playing out? Slim to none. But if it does, this is your answer.

Some of you might ask “What if the Jets lose and the Ravens finish tied with the Broncos and Texans only?” Well, just skip the part of this process where we annointed the Jets as the first Wild Card team. The Ravens would get the #5 seed in that scenario. They hold tie-breakers over the Steelers (division), Texans (conference) and Broncos (head to head). Only the Jets can finish ahead of them if they win.

Now, if everyone finishes 8-8……..I’m going to need a drink.

(Editor’s note: I understand how everyone is confused by looking at the playoff brackets on ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, etc. The reason the Broncos and Jets are listed as IN “if the season ended today” is because the Jets play the Bengals next week-who will be a common opponent for all 3 teams. With a win, the Jets seize the “common opponents” tiebreaker. With a loss, they would fall to 8-8 and not be in the conversation. It is only a formality that gives the Broncos a playoff spot “if the season ended today.”)

-G

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