"Who's In?", the commercials for the College Football Playoff routinely and rhetorically ask. Such a process requires tuning in to a weekly rankings release. But, when it comes to the NFL, determining "who's in?" only requires a quick look at the current standings.
NFL teams have to rely solely on mathematics when it comes to their own playoff fates. But if they were judged by the same guidelines as college football teams, the process becomes much more interesting. For example, the Dallas Cowboys' loss to the New York Jets might've eliminate them from playoff contention entirely, when you consider Ohio State's exclusion last year after getting crushed by a mediocre Purdue team.
With the numerous factors going into the CFP discussion, we at TBL wondered how a similar, NFL-style rankings would look. To complete the full bracket, we'll rank the full dozen. Here's what the NFL playoff seeding would look like if the CFP committee were in charge of ranking the professional teams instead of just the amateur ones.
1. New England Patriots (9-1)
Good Wins: 16-10 @ Buffalo, 17-10 @ Philadelphia
Bad Losses: N/A
An undefeated NFL team is probably never happening again, at least not at the pace we see perfect squads at the college level. Therefore, a CFP look at the NFL would probably be judged by the bad losses a team has had. With New England's sole loss coming against the equally dangerous Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots have no ill defeats to speak of. Plus, their playoff success of the last four years just might come in handy for a little recency bias. How else do you explain Alabama ahead of Oregon and Utah in the new CFP release?
2. San Francisco 49ers (9-1)
Good Wins: W 20-7 @ LA Rams
Bad Losses: N/A
San Francisco has likewise taken care of business, with their only blemish being an overtime loss to a quality Seattle squad. If this really was college football, the Niners would have an impressive opportunity to bolster their playoff case as their holiday season kicks off with a star-studded list of competition. Green Bay awaits on Sunday night, followed by visits to Baltimore and New Orleans.
3. Baltimore Ravens (8-2)
Good Wins: 30-16 @ Seattle, 37-20 vs. New England,. 41-7 vs. Houston
Bad Losses: 40-25 vs. Cleveland
Now, the next step becomes sorting out the two-loss teams. The Ravens just might've dominated the Patriots (via the head-to-head matchup), but that loss to the Browns is certainly damning. It's a game that has looked slightly better in recent weeks with back-to-back Cleveland wins. The Ravens would've nonetheless built an expansive resume with three big wins against foes on this list.
4. New Orleans Saints (8-2)
Good Wins: 30-28 vs. Houston, 33-27 @ Seattle
Bad Losses: 26-9 vs. Atlanta
The Saints' resiliency and strength, surviving several games (including the Seattle visit) without Drew Brees due to injury, has allowed them to separate themselves from the rest of the mighty NFC. Be it with Brees or Teddy Bridgewater, the Saints have looked like a very formidable squad, even with shaky games against subpar divisional competition. The Atlanta game is another type of loss that seems brutal at first, but subsequent appearances from the seemingly doomed competition (crushing Carolina on the road with Tampa Bay up next) could render it somewhat more understandable in hindsight. For now, it puts them behind fellow two-loss competition in Baltimore, but the Seattle victory comes up big.
5. Seattle Seahawks (8-2)
Good Wins: 30-29 vs. LA Rams, 27-24 @ San Francisco (OT)
Bad Losses: N/A
It feels sacrilege to keep the Seahawks out of the top four (which would eliminate them if we were going by the college quartet), but the fact they were unable to beat teams ahead of them like the Ravens and Saints would probably be troubling to potential voters. Look no further than the current CFP standings; Georgia, the current last team win, has lost to a South Carolina squad that's 4-7 and going without the postseason, but good wins against Notre Dame, Florida, and Auburn have thrust them into the current playoff-- leaving the Pac-12 competition on the outside looking in. Seattle would suffer a current fate under these circumstances.
6. Green Bay Packers (8-2)
Good Wins: 21-16 vs. Minnesota, 31-24 @ Kansas City,
Bad Losses: 26-11 @ LA Chargers
At the start of the month, the Packers very well would be able to take one of the top four spots. But a tough, listless defeat at the hands of the hapless Bolts doomed them to the sixth spot. But their big road win at Arrowhead looks good enough to be a few slots ahead of the Chiefs, and they have a huge opportunity to move up ahead with their big, flexed Sunday night trip to San Francisco this weekend.
7. Indianapolis Colts (6-4)
Good Wins: 19-13 @ Kansas City, W 30-23 vs. Houston
Bad Losses: 30-24 @ LA Chargers, 16-12 vs. Miami
No, this was obviously not going to be a mere ranking of teams only by record. The Colts could seem like a controversial choice because they did lose to a mediocre Steelers squad and a completely awful Dolphins team. But their win pedigree saves, and even slots them above the mighty Chiefs. Again, refer to the Georgia method. The Colts could have a better chance to solidify this slot on Thursday night against the Texans.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
Good Wins: 33-28 vs. Baltimore, 26-23 vs. Minnesota
Bad Losses: 35-32 vs. Tennessee
The four-loss Chiefs would not only maintain a high spot based on preseason "rankings" but because their losses are relatively manageable. That defeat at the hands of the Titans would be detrimental mainly because Tennessee is on the outside of the current playoff picture. Again, if we were going my college stands, KC fans could root for some good Nashville luck and wins to help them move up a bit.
9. Minnesota Vikings (8-3)
Good Wins: W 28-24 @ Dallas
Bad Losses: L 16-13 @ Chicago
The Vikings have taken care of business, but voters would need some more quality wins for them to move up in the rankings. An instant opportunity does await them after their bye this week, as December features a prime time game against the Seahawks and a rematch with the Packers in the penultimate week of the season. Eight wins is impressive, but quality of opponent would be considered. And, remember, they needed a 20-point comeback to top lowly Denver on Sunday, and suffered a loss to a Chiefs squad without Patrick Mahomes.
10. Houston Texans (6-4)
Good Wins: 31-24 @ Kansas City
Bad Losses: 16-10 vs. Carolina, 41-7 @ Baltimore
Yes, the Texans have the head-to-head advantages on the Chiefs, and a loss to the Ravens is not bad on paper at all. It's just that the defeat came in blowout fashion, and they've missed several other opportunities to pick up quality wins (i.e. at Indianapolis). Plus, the recent stumbling of the Carolina Panthers somewhat muddles things, as the loss at home isn't as forgivable.
11. Dallas Cowboys (6-4)
Good Wins: N/A
Bad Losses: 24-22 @ NY Jets
It would be very appropriate for a CFP discussion to not include a conference/division winner, but the Cowboys sneak in-- if only because they're taking care of business and leading a weak NFC East, which feels like a Group of Five portion at this point. Dallas has had their opportunities (losses to Green Bay, Minnesota, New Orleans), but have some renewed chances to impress "voters" against New England, Buffalo, and the LA Rams in upcoming weeks, not to mention a crucial rematch with the Eagles.
12. Buffalo Bills (7-3)
Good Wins: N/A
Bad Losses: 19-16 @ Cleveland
The Bills would be the proverbial mid-major that sneaks into the playoff conversation. There's no truly jaw-dropping wins, but they have, for the most part, taken care of business, and have set themselves up very nicely. The math sets the Bills up for a playoff run now, but under college settings, they'd have a chance to boost their case with games against the Cowboys, Ravens, and Patriots on the schedule.