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December 25, 2011

Ask sports: What is the criteria for determining the NFL draft order if teams are tied?

With all of the talk about the No. 1 pick in next year's NFL Draft, what is the criteria for determining the draft order if teams are tied?

While the NFL has an intricate set of tiebreaking procedures to determine its playoff participants, they aren't the same for the draft.

The 20 non-playoff teams draft in reverse standings order.

To break ties within that group — which is needed annually, since it's very likely to have three or more clubs with the same record — the NFL doesn't worry about head-to-head, conference or divisional records. The only criteria used is strength of schedule.

Teams with a lower SOS draft higher. In this case, even though the Colts are suddenly riding a two-game winning streak, they'll likely keep the No. 1 pick, assuming they lose next week.

Heading into Saturday's games, Minnesota had the best SOS of the two-win teams at .587, followed by St. Louis (.566) and Indy (.547).

The remaining 12 playoff teams are seeded by the round in which they exited the playoffs, with the Super Bowl loser drafting 31st and the winner at No. 32, no matter what their records were.

Has the NFL ever had its full slate of games on Saturday before?

Yes, and it happened the last time Christmas fell on a Sunday, in 2005. That year the NFL played 13 games on Dec. 24 and two on Christmas — as opposed to one this year.

In 1994, the last time the calendar aligned this way before that, the NFL went with 12 games on Dec. 24, and one on Dec. 25.

Without bye weeks, the 1988 season ended a week earlier, meaning playoff games were the only games scheduled for Christmas weekend that year. The NFL chose to play one game on Saturday, Dec. 24 and one on Monday, Dec. 26, skipping Christmas.

That seems to be against the trend, however, as the NFL has scheduled playoff games on Christmas before — including the famous 1971 Chiefs-Dolphins game, when Kansas City lost 27-24 in double overtime, which is the record for the longest game played in NFL history.

Traditionally the NFL has no problem playing regular or postseason games on New Year's Day a week later. All of Week 17's schedule this season is scheduled for next Sunday, Jan. 1.

College bowls have generally gotten out of the way of the NFL on years like this, moving many games to Jan. 2.

—Joshua Wood

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