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Mailbag: What are the Playoff Tiebreakers?

Q:  How are ties broken up to decide who wins the division and wild card spots for playoffs? Thank you. – Craig Smith

A:  With five more games left this season and the Bolts back in the thick of the race, I understand why everyone is eager to talk playoffs.  However, the team isn’t worried about that quite yet.  They know they must take a week-to-week approach, which has helped them get back in the hunt by winning five of their last seven games.  As Head Coach Anthony Lynn stressed earlier in the week, the Chargers are still the hunters, not the hunted as they aren’t even “bowl eligible.”  Before getting into tiebreakers, I wanted to share what Philip Rivers had to say:

“The only scoreboard I’m concerned with is ours. If we control what we have an opportunity to, then we don’t really need to watch any other scoreboards. It’s controlling what we can control — and I don’t even really like to watch ours….  Coach Lynn’s done a great job of getting that message to the guys, of, ‘Let’s not worry about the score and all that. Let’s just focus on our business one play at a time, and about playing our best. If we do that, it’ll be enough.’ I think it’s been enough, certainly, in the last five. We need to bear down here, starting this week with these last five, and see what happens.”

Still, with so many teams bunched together in the post toward the playoffs, this was the most popular question into the mailbag this week.    So, here is a closer look at tiebreakers:

Between Two Teams for a Division

  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.
  12. Coin toss

Between Two Teams for 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.
  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.

Q:  What's the current kicking situation with the injury to Novak? – Anthony Watts

A:  The Chargers made a move on Wednesday, signing kicker Travis Coons to the practice squad.  He previously played with the Browns in 2015, converting 28 of 32 attempts (87.5-percent) with a long of 47.  However, the team is hopeful Nick Novak will play on Sunday, and plans to increase his workload on Thursday and Friday before making any decision.  Lynn called the addition of Coons as an “insurance” policy should Novak be unable to play.

Q:  Now that we are 12 weeks into the season, how would you rate the 2017 Draft Class? – Brian Frye

A: Incomplete.  But then again, I would rate the 2016 Draft Class headlined by Joey Bosa and Hunter Henry as incomplete as well.  I firmly believe you can’t truly grade a draft class until three years have passed, so perhaps I should save this question to answer in November of 2019.

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