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Nearing the end of a historic season, it was possible for Pittsburgh to make the playoffs only if they lost a game:

  • by losing, they might be in a 3-team tiebreaker which they would win.

  • otherwise, they would be in a 2-team tiebreaker, which they would lose.

What season was this, and what were the details of the potential tiebreaker situations?

Based on a recollection of late results, the scenario did not come about, and Chuck Noll was asked if he would intentionally lose if that was the only way to make the playoffs. His response: "What do you think?"

closed as unclear what you're asking by Niall, jamauss Dec 30 '16 at 11:20

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    I haven't heard of this before, and I'm having a hard time envisioning how this could be possible. Can you provide any more information about where you heard this? – Ben Miller - Reinstate Monica Dec 20 '16 at 5:53
  • Are you looking for an answer here? The way you have structured the question makes it look like you're trying to use this as a quiz site. Do you have a source for your premise? – Niall Dec 25 '16 at 2:14
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    The question has been significantly edited as to make the subject and aim quite definite, so the person wanting it closed as unclear should probably explain their vote. – Nij Dec 30 '16 at 6:56
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This isn't possible. There is no way to construct a W/L record among 3 opponents such that a win by one would yield a 2 way tie and a loss would yield a 3 way tie.

Consider:
A: 10-6
B: 10-5
C: 10-5

B plays C. A win by B or C yields no tie.

Consider:
A: 10-6
B: 10-5
C: 9-6

B plays C. A win by B is no tie and a win by C is a 2 way tie.

I'm pretty sure that every iteration breaks down to one of those two scenarios.

  • I don't think there's any requirement that A, B and C are playing each other; they could be playing three completely different teams, D, E and F. – Philip Kendall Dec 20 '16 at 20:32
  • Well, it's a three way tie or a two way tie depending on the results of a single game. That means that the "third" team in the three way tie has to have a finalized record. Further, if you have two of three teams with a finalized record, then for a loss to yield a three way tie, a win would yield no tie. – Jacob G Dec 20 '16 at 20:52
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I'm going to say that this scenario isn't possible.

Let's consider a team that is trying to make the playoffs. They have two shots: the division title, and the wildcard spots. Both of these are based on the team's total record for all 16 games in the season. It is only when these 16-game records are tied that the tie breakers are considered.

It is certainly possible that a team can be in a scenario where they know that a win in the last game does not help them, because they know that they will lose a tie breaker. However, losing the game cannot help them. Why? Because if they lose, they have a worse record than if they won. If they are in a three-way tie with a loss, then with a win they would have beaten both of those teams without the tie breaker.

You might think that there could be a scenario where you need a certain team to win, and the team that they are playing happens to be you. I don't think this type of scenario is possible: whenever you need to hope that a certain team wins for your playoff hopes to stay alive, it is really because you need that team's opponent to lose.

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