The National Football League is completely different than college football when it comes to crowning a champion. Both of America's premier (and most watched) football leagues crown champions via a playoff system, even though they determine playoff teams a significantly different way.
The NFL determines its 14 playoff teams on the field, taking the teams with the seven best records from each conference for its postseason tournament. The College Football Playoff (out of 133 schools), using a selection committee to determine the four teams that will play for the national championship. , undefeated teams from power-five schools (Florida State) aren't subject to playoff consideration.
What if the NFL did the unthinkable and took the top four teams to compete for the Super Bowl? What if the NFL had a "committee" sit in a room and determine the four playoff teams each week, having a selection "reveal" and explaining why these teams are in and these teams are out?
Our entire NFL team at CBS Sports decided to create a committee determining the four NFL playoff teams (we went with four since that's what the playoff currently is for college football). NFL writers and editors, college football writers and editors, CBS Sports HQ talent, and SportsLine talent all contributed to the NFL Playoff Selection Committee from CBS.
This is how our system will work: We tallied up all the votes to determine the four playoff teams. We'll present their case for making the NFL playoff. Of the teams that were left out, we'll present why they were omitted.
Like the CFP Selection Committee, there will be controversy. Remember the NFL season isn't over yet, but teams have resumes for and against making the NFL playoff through 13 weeks (Jacksonville Jaguars have not played yet).
The NFL Playoff Committee
(CBS Sports writers, editors, and HQ talent who participated)
- Pete Prisco (Senior NFL Writer/CBS Sports HQ)
- Jared Dubin (NFL Writer)
- John Breech (NFL Writer/Pick Six Podcast)
- Will Brinson (NFL Writer/Pick Six Podcast)
- Katie Mox (That Other Pregame Show Fantasy Contributor/Pick Six Podcast)
- Tyler Sullivan (NFL Writer/CBS Sports HQ)
- Jordan Dajani (NFL Writer)
- Jeff Kerr (NFL Writer)
- Garrett Podell (NFL Writer)
- Bryan DeArdo (NFL Writer)
- Zach Pereles (Senior Writer)
- Joe Musso (CBS Sports HQ Anchor)
- Chris Hassel (CBS Sports HQ Anchor)
- Leger Douzable (Former NFL player/CBS Sports HQ Analyst)
- Brock Vereen (Former NFL player/CBS Sports HQ Analyst)
- Keiana Martin (CBS Sports HQ Host/Reporter)
- Hailey Sutton (CBS Sports HQ Host/Reporter)
- Hakem Dermish (CBS Sports HQ host)
- CBS Sports HQ Newsroom
- Adam Silverstein (Director of Editorial)
- Kevin Steimle (Assistant Managing Editor-NFL)
- Brett Anderson (Senior NFL Editor)
- Heath Cummings (Senior Fantasy Writer)
- Dave Richard (Senior Fantasy Writer)
- Stephen Oh (SportsLine Data Scientist)
- R.J. White (SportsLine Managing Editor)
- Allan Bell (SportsLine Writer)
- Jimmie Kaylor (SportsLine Writer)
- Kenneth White (SportsLine Writer)
- Jon Berger (College Football/NFL Betting Analyst -- CBS Sports)
- Josh Edwards (NFL Draft Writer)
- John Fisher (Reseacher/CBS Sports HQ)
- Sean Ahearn (Reseacher/CBS Sports HQ)
- Mike Lotito (Assistant Producer/Reseacher/CBS Sports HQ)
- Anthony Bilas (Reseacher/CBS Sports HQ)
NFL Playoff Committee Votes
|Number of Votes
Based on the voting from the committee, the top four teams are the four going to the NFL playoff. How would each be seeded?
1. San Francisco 49ers (9-3)
The 49ers received the most No. 1 votes from the committee and their vote into the playoff was unanimous. San Francisco may not have the best record in the NFL, but its convincing wins against teams that entered multiple games over .500 proves where it stands against the NFL's elite.
It helps San Francisco is 2-0 against two of the teams in the four-team playoff field. The Niners' .537 strength of victory is also the best in the NFL amongst all the teams that have .500 or better records.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)
The Eagles received 33 of 35 votes, including three votes for the No. 1 spot (for those that ranked the top four). They have the best record in football and are currently 3-1 against teams with winning records (loss to 49ers).
Falling to the 49ers put San Francisco ahead of Philadelphia. The Eagles still have a .484 stretch of victory, second best in the NFC amongst teams with winning records (sixth in NFL).
3. Baltimore Ravens (9-3)
Even on a bye week, the Ravens received plenty of support from the committee with the third-most votes for the playoff. Baltimore is tied for the best record in the AFC (with Miami), even though it is 3-3 against teams currently with winning records.
The convincing wins over the Lions and Seahawks have swayed the committee in favor of the Ravens. If it wasn't for late-game collapses, the Ravens might be undefeated. That meant something to the committee.
4. Dallas Cowboys (9-3)
Some significant love for the Cowboys, even though they haven't beaten a team currently with a winning record through 13 weeks. The dominant victories over the past four weeks have helped, as the offense has averaged 42.0 points per game in that stretch.
The most controversial selection, the Cowboys' strength of victory is just .330 -- second worst amongst all the teams .500 or better. The only team worse is the Dolphins.
The convincing wins (seven wins by 20-plus points) and the way Dallas has played of late swayed the voters.
As for the teams that were left out? These were the other ones discussed by the committee -- with two receiving votes to get into the final four.
5. Miami Dolphins (9-3)
Miami was the first team out based on the votes from the committee, even though they currently have the conference's No. 1 seed. Why were the Dolphins omitted from the playoff?
The Dolphins don't have a win against a team currently with a winning record and the third-easiest strength of schedule so far. Most of the committee believed Miami not beating a team with a winning record was why it was out, even with how explosive its offense has been all season. One writer compared the Dolphins to Florida State: A pretty strong claim to a playoff spot but no wins against great teams.
Miami will get an opportunity to prove the committee wrong over the next few weeks, as it will play the Cowboys and Ravens in Weeks 16 and 17.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
The Chiefs were another controversial omission, as their loss to the Packers in Week 13 loomed large. Even though Kansas City is the defending Super Bowl champions and has Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, its star power wasn't enough to convince the committee (although some made a point for Kansas City to be amongst the final four).
The loss to the Lions loomed large for the Chiefs, along with playing in the AFC West. Kansas City is 2-2 against teams currently with winning records, beating Miami and losing to Philadelphia. The .545 strength of schedule (tied for second toughest in the league) and .495 strength of victory wasn't enough to convince the voters.
Some members of the committee treated the Chiefs like the SEC power of the NFL (one even mentioned Alabama, another Georgia, because they're the team no one wants to see in the playoffs). That wasn't enough to get Kansas City in.
Other teams mentioned were the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills. Only the Lions were voted into the top four, but all three were amongst the top six.
NFL Playoff semifinal matchups
Presented are the semifinal matchups by the committee:
- (1) 49ers vs. (4) Cowboys
- (2) Eagles vs. (3) Ravens
The Cowboys and 49ers get a rematch while the Eagles and Ravens play each other for the first time since 2020. Three NFC teams were selected and one from the AFC, clearly proving the powerhouse teams of the NFC held a distinct advantage over the parity at the top of the AFC.
Tom Fornelli's take
In the spirit of the recent controversy, CBS Sports College Football Writer Tom Fornelli picked his four teams based on how the selection committee for the college playoff operates.
"If we're going to do it in a style that truly matches the College Football Playoff, the results of the games that have been played don't matter, so I'm just going to pick the four teams I want to be in it.
"The Bears can beat all three of those teams and win a Super Bowl. That's why I'm choosing them."