Football Division Winners

What are Division Winners in Football?

The term division winner in football is used to describe teams that win their respective divisions by having a better regular season win-loss record than the other three teams in the division. Teams that win their division often have lots of talented players that help the team win consistently throughout the course of the regular season. Division winners generally win at least 9 games, although there have been division champions with less wins in recent years.


There are two conferences in the NFL, the AFC, and the NFC, with each conference having four divisions that generally group teams sharing the same geographic region together. The teams in each division are outlined below.

AFC North

  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Cincinnati Bengals
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC East

  • Buffalo Bills
  • Miami Dolphins
  • New England Patriots
  • New York Jets

AFC South

  • Houston Texans
  • Indianapolis Colts
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Tennessee Titans

AFC West

  • Denver Broncos
  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Las Vegas Raiders
  • Los Angeles Chargers

NFC North

  • Chicago Bears
  • Detroit Lions
  • Green Bay Packers
  • Minnesota Vikings

NFC East

  • Dallas Cowboys
  • New York Giants
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Washington Football Team

NFC South

  • Atlanta Falcons
  • Carolina Panthers
  • New Orleans Saints
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West

  • Arizona Cardinals
  • Los Angeles Rams
  • San Francisco 49ers
  • Seattle Seahawks

Recent Division Winners

Division2020 WinnerRecord
AFC NorthPittsburgh Steelers12-4
AFC EastBuffalo Bills13-3
AFC SouthTennessee Titans11-5
AFC WestKansas City Chiefs14-2
NFC NorthGreen Bay Packers13-3
NFC EastWashington Football Team7-9
NFC SouthNew Orleans Saints12-4
NFC WestSeattle Seahawks12-4

How to Win the Division

In order to win a division in football, a team must have a better win-loss record than the three other teams in the division. If there is a tie between teams, then a series of tie breakers are used.

Division Winner Tiebreakers

With the title of division winner going to the team with the best record in each division, there is occasionally a need for a tiebreaker. A tiebreaker is required when two teams residing in the same division finish the regular season with the same record. The NFL first defers to each teams’ regular-season head-to-head record. This means whichever team won the two regular-season games against the other will be declared the division winner.

If the teams have the same head-to-head record, their record against divisional opponents will be used to determine the tiebreaker. For example, if the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals both post 10 wins and 7 losses during the regular season and each won a single game against the other, their divisional records will break the tie. In this case, if the Ravens went 4-2 against other AFC North teams while the Bengals went 3-3, the Ravens will be declared AFC North Champions. If a further tiebreaker is needed because the two teams in question also have the same record against divisional opponents, the team with a better record against common opponents becomes the division winner.

Two Teams

The first tie breaker used is head to head record, if the teams are still tied, then division win percentage, record against shared opponents, conference win percentage, strength of victory, and strength of schedule are used in that order.

Three or Four Way Tie

If more than two teams have matching records, the same tie breakers are used until one of the teams is eliminated. Once that team is eliminated the remaining teams go back to the beginning of the order of tie breaks.

Impact on the Playoffs

Division winners enjoy a set of advantages once they make the playoffs. Among them are having home field advantage and potentially a first round bye. Division winners make up the majority of the NFL playoffs.

Home Field Advantage

Not only does winning the division guarantee making the playoffs, but it also means that the team will play their first playoff game at their home stadium. The second, third, and fourth ranked division winners in each conference play in the first round against wild card teams, at their home stadium. The first ranked division winners get a first round bye, as well as home field in the second round.

First Round Byes

A total of seven teams make the playoffs in each conference, with the bracket set up to give one team in each conference the opportunity to not play in the first round. Those two spots are filled by the highest ranked division winner in the AFC and NFC. They skip the wild card round and go straight to the divisional round, where they will have home field advantage.


What happens if division leaders tie in the NFL?

If two teams are tied for the best win-loss record in their division, a series of tiebreakers will be used to determine the division champion. First, the teams’ head-to-head record will decide who wins the division. Every team in a division will play each other twice in the regular season, so if a team wins both games against the team they are tied with, they will be declared the division winner. If the teams split their two regular-season games, the next tiebreaker will be their overall divisional record. This means whichever team has won the most games against opponents within their division will win the division's title. If the teams are still tied, the next metrics used as a tiebreaker are, in order, their record against shared opponents, conference win percentage, strength of victory, and strength of schedule.

How does a team clinch a division?

In the NFL, clinching the division means that you have the best record in your division by the end of the season, regardless of how the rest of the regular season plays out. Typically, a team will clinch a division towards the end of the regular season, when there are very few games remaining. For example, if the first place team is 11-5 going into the last week of the season, and the second place team is 9-7, then the first place team has clinched the division. This is due to the fact that the second place team cannot mathematically achieve a better record than the first place team, as there is only one game left and their best possible record will still be short of the first place team.

How many divisions are there in the NFL?

In the NFL, there are eight different divisions that each hold four teams. These eight divisions are split between the two conferences, the AFC and the NFC. These divisions are categorized as the North, South, East, and West in both the AFC and the NFC.