The 49ers and Seahawks could be barreling toward an end-of-season tie that’ll require the league to go deep into the tiebreaker rules to determine the division winner.
Since the difference between winning and not winning the NFC West this year could be the difference between home-field advantage and a first-round bye, these tiebreakers will be extremely vital for San Francisco.
Here are the tiebreaker steps provided by the NFL, with some notes on where each one stands going into Week 14, including the ones we’ll likely never reach:
1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs)
The Seahawks leads this one 1-0 thanks to their Week 10 win in Santa Clara. No matter how the final four weeks shake out, the 49ers are likely going to need to win at Seattle in Week 17 to secure a division title.
2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division)
The Seahawks have the edge in division record thanks to a 3-0 start. The 49ers are 3-1 with their only loss coming at the hands of Seattle. San Francisco has division bouts with the Rams and Seahawks left. Seattle has a game each against the Rams, Cardinals and 49ers. Any one of those the Seahawks lose is huge for San Francisco’s chances to win the NFC West.
3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games
San Francisco holds the edge 8-1 to 7-2 in this one. Seattle’s two losses came at the hands of the Ravens and Saints. The 49ers only lost to the Ravens. Common games will get a shakeup in Week 14 when the 49ers face the Saints. There’s a very strong possibility Seattle and San Francisco wind up with an identical record in common games.
4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
Both teams are 7-1 with all their games left against NFC opponents. If these clubs finish with the same record, they’ll be tied in this fourth tiebreak step as well.
5. Strength of victory (combined record of teams beaten)
This is where the 49ers’ easy front half of their schedule hurts them. Their strength of victory going into Week 14 is just .408, while Seattle’s is .454. This one is going to be very tough to overcome since it’ll come largely down to the combined winning percentages of the teams’ uncommon opponents, especially if the 49ers and Seattle lose to the same teams.
The Seahawks played the Vikings and Eagles. The 49ers played the Packers and Washington. Barring a dramatic turnaround from Washington or a drastic collapse from the Vikings, the advantage would tick toward Seattle, but this won’t be determined until the final week of the season.
Realistically, this is as far as the teams get in the tiebreak procedures since finishing with identical strength of victory is fairly unlikely.
6. Strength of schedule (combined record of teams played)
The only way the 49ers win this one is if Washington and the Packers combine for a better record than the Vikings and Eagles. It’s not out of the question, but it’s a scenario San Francisco probably wants to avoid.
If the teams have losses to the same three clubs, and their strength of victory is the same, they’d also have the same strength of schedule. This ride could get wild.
7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed
The 49ers are in a great spot for this tiebreaker. They lead the NFC in points scored while Seattle checks in at the No. 3 spot. San Francisco also leads in points allowed, whereas the Seahawks are No. 10. This is one the 49ers may wish was higher up in the tiebreak hierarchy.
8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed
San Francisco holds an even greater advantage here. They’re second in points scored and points allowed. Seattle is No. 5 in points scored and No. 23 points allowed.
9. Best net points in common games
Unless something unprecedented happens, the 49ers have this one locked up. They’re outscoring common opponents by a substantial amount more than the Seahawks are. Their net points in common games between the two clubs is 131. Seattle is at 17 with four left. That’s a lot of ground to make up.
10. Best net points in all games
This is another one San Francisco has sewn up. Their point differential going into Week 14 is 166. The Seahawks’ is 36.
11. Best net touchdowns in all games
The 49ers have scored 41 touchdowns and allowed 20. That’s good for 21 net touchdowns. Seattle has scored 40 and allowed 34 – a net of 6. Barring a catastrophe, San Francisco would win this tiebreaker, although the chances of it getting here are essentially none.
12. Coin toss
Help us all if this happens.