25 Nov 2008
by Ned Macey
The linked article focuses on how the Jets matched up well against the Titans and were able to turn their advantages into a blowout win.
The Jets' win on Sunday was obviously mostly about the two teams that played, but it was a rare good showing by an AFC East team against a quality non-division component. The AFC East gets the good fortune of playing eight games against the woeful AFC and NFC West. Only one team in either of those divisions, Arizona, is actually good. Denver lost its ability to claim they were good with their blowout loss to the Raiders.
Anyway, the AFC East is filled with four teams that are all over .500, but only the Jets are in the top 10 in DVOA. The Jets win over the Titans is now their second win against a quality non-division foe, as they dominated the Cardinals in Week 4. The other three teams are devoid of quality out-of-division wins. Miami and New England both beat Denver, but again, Denver is thoroughly mediocre.
The fact that the AFC East has such a good overall record despite sort of an average group of teams is symptomatic of the way that division strength is throwing the Wild Card race into disarray. The NFC South gets the AFC West, against whom they are 9-3. All four of those teams are above .500. Meanwhile, the AFC North features the second and third best teams in the AFC, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. But they play the NFC East, which is stacked, plus the two good teams in the AFC South. Against those six opponents, the Steelers and Ravens are both 1-3. They have not lost to any other team besides each other.
The unbalanced schedule could have a disastrous effect on the Ravens, compared with the Patriots. The Ravens have a much higher DVOA, but they still have to play Washington, Dallas, and Pittsburgh. The only common opponent so far is Miami, who the Patriots split with and the Ravens beat by two touchdowns.
The good news is that the Jets, the best team in the AFC East, appear to have emerged as the favorite to win the division, ensuring at most one unworthy team of reaching the playoffs.
I was originally going to look at how recent teams with great starts to the season have fared. But Clark Judge apparently beat me to it. The review is not extraordinary analysis, but it is a nice reminder about how rare a 10-0 start is, and the Titans should be congratulated.
5 comments, Last at 29 Nov 2008, 3:44pm by parker
With Stanford's upset over Notre Dame and Ohio State's big win over rival Michigan in The Game, the playoff field has narrowed to the existing top four plus Michigan State, Ohio State, Stanford, and potentially North Carolina.