From the recently-updated NFL playoff scenarios page, there are now five possible ways Green Bay can get into the playoffs. Much depends on Saturday’s game between the New York Football Giants and the Washington Redskins. And, of course, Green Bay needs to beat the fearsome-appearing Chicago Bears.

The NFL’s tiebreaking procedures can get quite elaborate. If Green Bay and the Giants finish with the same record, these are the tiebreaking priorities:

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.

I’m a football junkie, and I’m not real sure how to calculate “strength of victory.” Yahoo! calculates the Giants’ current strength of victory at (45-58) and the Packers’ at (33-71). So, if I’m understanding this right, should both teams win, New York would have (50-69) and Green Bay would have (46-74). But that’s only adding up the combined wins and losses of all of a particular team’s opponents, and something doesn’t look right here (the totals for the two teams are not the same; perhaps the Giants’ score does not take into account tonight’s games).

As I think I’ve calculated above, it looks mathematically impossible for Green Bay to achieve a better strength of victory tiebreaker over the Giants. So disregarding the possibility of any tie games, which happen about once every 500 games (the last tie was November 11, 2002; Atlanta and Pittsburgh tied, 34-34), this means that New York has to lose to Washington Saturday. If New York wins, its all over. Then on Sunday, the trifecta of St. Louis, Philadelphia, and New Orleans must somehow fail. Should all of that happen, then Green Bay will control its own destiny against Chicago.

Confused? Sure you are. Even I am. To map it all out requires working a set of quintuple trinary variables: in other words, predicting the outcomes (win, lose, or tie) of five games. It’s complex — not only are New York and Green Bay in the hunt, there are ways that Carolina, Atlanta, and St. Louis could all make it in to the playoffs if both New York and Green Bay lose next week. This is way more complex than my tired, insomnia-stricken brain can handle right now.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. Aha. A Green Bay fan! I am a New York Football Giants fan and I live with a Green Bay fan. I’m relatively sure that the Giants will lose to the Redskins this week. We are horrible. I’ve given up. Watching a team get completely blown out in the first week of the playoffs CAN actually be more painful than missing the playoffs all together. I recall that clearly from a Carolina/Giants game last January.I hope Favre comes back for another season…

  2. What you say is true, leila; it can be quite painful to watch a beat-down. And your Giants have been underwhelming as of late. Still, I’ve been reasonably pleased with Jeremey Shockey this year and I wouldn’t hesitate to take him or even Eli (as a #2 or #3) next year.

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