The push for college football to operate more like the NFL has yielded a four-team playoff and expanding the field to eight seems inevitable. But what if a push to incorporate more of the college game into the NFL suddenly took hold? What if the postseason was an eight-team playoff seeded by a selection committee using similar guiding principles? After 12 games, we have the same sample size before collegiate conference title games.
The most important stat for the college football committee is the most basic, win-loss record.
1. Dallas Cowboys 11-1
T2. New England Patriots 10-2
T2. Oakland Raiders 10-2
4. Kansas City Chiefs 9-3
5. Seattle Seahawks 8-3-1
T6. Denver Broncos 8-4
T6. Detroit Lions 8-4
T6. New York Giants 8-4
T9. Atlanta Falcons 7-5
T9. Miami Dolphins 7-5
T9. Pittsburgh Steelers 7-5
T9. Baltimore Ravens 7-5
T9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-5
Based on that, the Dallas Cowboys are a clear No. 1. Assessing the rest of the spots, the most useful indicator to determine the quality of the wins is strength of victory.
Oakland leads the NFL at 56, significantly higher than New England (44). The Raiders two losses came against Atlanta and Kansas City, both at home, while the Patriots stumbled at home versus Buffalo and Seattle. One could make the argument that Jacoby Brissett at the helm wasn’t a true reflection of the current Pats team, but based purely on the numbers, Oakland would get the No. 2 spot and New England would fall to No. 3.
Kansas City’s SOV is 50 compared to Seattle’s 43, thanks large in part to a win over Oakland. The Chiefs’ have played a slightly harder schedule and have three losses to .500 or better teams whereas the Seahawks have fallen to two losing clubs. Seattle, on the other hand, is a division leader which has proven to be critical in the selection process. It’s a very tight decision but I believe a committee would put Seattle at No. 4 and Kansas City at No 5. This would prove quite controversial as the seeding would determine homefield advantage.
The committee would be further challenged with the final three spots. Of the teams deadlocked at 8-4, only Detroit sits atop a division. The Lions and Denver each sport a 40.5 SOV with New York close (39.5). The Broncos have played the 11th-hardest schedule while the Giants and Lions are in the bottom five.
Detroit’s case is harder to argue because they have just one victory over a winning team and have failed the eye test by trailing in the fourth quarter in 11 of 12 games. I believe the inability to look impressive would be enough of a factor to drop them to No. 7 with Denver taking the No. 6 spot.
The Giants are left with the best remaining record and can trumpet the best win of the season over Dallas. The Atlanta Falcons have a clear advantage in SOV (45.5), have played the most difficult schedule, and are tied with Tampa Bay atop the NFC South with victories over Denver and Oakland. The Buccaneers SOV is 37.5, have split with the Falcons, and beat both Kansas City and Seattle.
The Falcons seem to have a better resume than Tampa Bay. Would the committee favor them over the Giants despite a worse win-loss record? Based on the schedule, the quality of victories and status as a division leader, I believe yes, Atlanta would get the eighth and final seed.
An eight-team playoff would look like this:
- Dallas Cowboys vs. 8. Atlanta Falcons
- Oakland Raiders vs. 7. Detroit Lions
- New England Patriots vs. 6. Denver Broncos
- Seattle Seahawks vs. 5. Kansas City Chiefs
Obviously, the NFL would never operate like this. But such a world would have some interesting consequences. There is already great incentive for teams to earn first-round byes. In the eight-team system, the eight most “deserving” teams would all receive this perk. Winning the division would still be important but not as important. In theory, the best teams would be rewarded and fewer mediocre 8-8 teams would slip in. It’d be interesting to see if the fight for the final spots would lead to more teams playing meaningful games down the stretch or less.
If nothing else, it’d make for endless sports talk radio takes and aggrieved fan bases.