It’s been 45 years since any NFL team had multiple tie games in a season, so if you’ve never given any thought to what would happen in the NFL standings when a team has two ties, that’s understandable.
But this year, there are two teams fighting for playoff berths that have already played a tie game: The Steelers and Vikings, both of which are 8-6-1. So what happens if one or both of them ties on Sunday, and finishes 8-6-2?
They would be treated as if they’re 9-7. The NFL treats a tie as half a win and half a loss, so a team with eight wins, six losses and two ties would be treated the same as a team with nine wins and seven losses.
For the Vikings, an 8-6-2 record would clinch a playoff berth. Minnesota would be tied with 9-7 Philadelphia (if Philadelphia beats Washington) and 9-7 Seattle (if Seattle loses to Arizona). The Eagles would be eliminated from that three-team tie based on its conference record, and then the Seahawks would win the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Vikings. So the 9-7 Seahawks would be the No. 5 seed, the 8-6-2 Vikings would be the No. 6 seed, and the 9-7 Eagles would be out of the playoffs. If the Seahawks win and it’s only two teams tied for the last NFC playoff berth, the 8-6-2 Vikings would win the head-to-head tiebreaker with the 9-7 Eagles.
For the Steelers, an 8-6-2 record would leave them needing the 9-6 Ravens to lose. If the Ravens lose to finish 9-7, they would be tied with the 8-6-2 Steelers for the AFC North title, and the Steelers would win the tiebreaker based on the better division record. But if the Ravens win to finish 10-6 (or tie to finish 9-6-1), they would have a better record than the 8-6-2 Steelers, and the Ravens would win the division and the Steelers would be eliminated from playoff contention.
An 8-6-2 record is an unlikely result, but it’s not impossible. And now you know what happens if the unlikely happens.