Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Jul 2014

ESPN: Risers and Fallers of the AFC

Taking a look on ESPN Insider at which teams we think are on the rise or falling this season in the AFC. Moving up: Buffalo, Houston, and Pittsburgh. Moving down: Kansas City, Miami, and the New York Jets.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 17 Jul 2014

13 comments, Last at 19 Jul 2014, 9:26pm by Rocco


by drobviousso :: Thu, 07/17/2014 - 2:27pm

Completely off topic, but it looks like the 1 year of ESPN insider that I purchased 5 years ago is finally expired. They still send me the magazine in the mail every month. Gotta keep those ad numbers up.

by mehllageman56 :: Thu, 07/17/2014 - 2:45pm

I don't get ESPN Insider, but I'll assume that most of this is based on point differential and turnover luck from last year. Pretty much agree with putting KC and the Jets in the moving down column, although Barnwell was wiser in just writing up the Jets as a center of chaos, meaning no one will ever know what's going to happen there. If I was going to place an AFC East team in the moving up column, it would be Miami, not Buffalo. The Fins have the 2nd most competent quarterback in the division, and this year they actually decided to protect him, even if they overpaid or overdrafted to do it. The Bills are missing their defensive coordinator, all-pro safety and middle linebacker from last years dominant defense, so that's probably going to slide. They're depending on EJ getting the ball to Watkins and everyone else, and I'm not sure how that's going to work out.

Honestly, I would avoid the AFC east for the risers altogether. All 4 teams get to play a murderer's row of quarterbacks, and only the Patriots tried to improve their pass defense. If I had to pick risers in the AFC, I would go for the Browns and Ravens, as well as the Steelers. They all get to feast on the catastrophe that is the AFC South. Cleveland's defense will probably improve a lot because Mike Pettine is there now, and the Ravens seemed to have drafted well, as they usually do. I can understand placing Houston as a riser (pretty hard to only win two games, even the Jaguars last year won more than that), but as good as their defense looks, their quarterback situation seems terrible for this year.

by theslothook :: Thu, 07/17/2014 - 3:01pm

Pretty much agree with everything you said. The ravens to me are the big risers of that mass. They were actually a team with some pretty good overall quality and a massive gaping chasm at the receiver position. Steve Smith isn't an all pro anymore and owen daniels isn't either, but together with returning pitta should be miles above the old colt receivers. Even going from awful to mediocre should represent a big boost in their dvoa and win totals.

To the Jets. I am probably the biggest Rex Ryan fan outside of NYC, or possibly in it. He's made the defenses look good even when I didn't think they were all that talented. Seriously, last year's defense had a good d line, but had some meh linebackers, up and down corners, mediocre safeties and no real edge pass rusher. That this defense still finished below average at coverage is a testament to Rex imo.

I actually think they will be at least an 8-8 team this year and possibly a wildcard contender.

Agree with your assessment of the bills. Pettine's loss could be huge.

by CaffeineMan :: Thu, 07/17/2014 - 4:16pm

"Jets as a center of chaos".

I like this. It's so true. I'm a Pats fan and every season that the pundits (good or bad) predict doom for the Jets, I just pencil in a split for them against the Pats and pray they don't make the playoffs. No matter how weird their offensive situation is, as long as Rex is running the D, they're always scary to me.

by Jimmy :: Fri, 07/18/2014 - 10:33am

So you are predicting improved records for the Browns, Steelers and Ravens...are the Bengals just going to fall down a sink hole?

by mehllageman56 :: Fri, 07/18/2014 - 1:23pm

Oh, I doubt it. They'll either plateau or improve slightly. Depends on Andy Dalton's play, but other than him they're the most solid roster in the division. Not sure about the replacements for their coordinators though. Just because the rest of the division improves doesn't mean the Bengals fall apart.

by herewegobrownie... :: Sat, 07/19/2014 - 2:25pm

It's possible they all improve or stay the same given that the AFC South will, on paper, be easier than the AFC East (harder to tell switching from the NFC North to the NFC South.)

Their "matching" AFC games were only 3-5 last year (CIN over SD and IND, BAL over HOU) so there is also room for improvement there.

by are-tee :: Thu, 07/17/2014 - 4:34pm

Is a large disparity between Pythagorean and actual wins (in either direction) really an indicator of luck, or just inconsistency? If you win by 40 in week 1, and lose by 10 in week 2, you're a plus 30 over 2 games and your record "should be" better than 1-1; but it doesn't mean you lost in week 2 because of bad luck, does it?

by Perfundle :: Thu, 07/17/2014 - 7:44pm

Well, it could. For example, Atlanta's 10-point loss against San Francisco last year could easily be considered bad luck, considering that they were at the 49ers' 10-yard line before a fluke tip caused a pick-6. The point is that close games involve a lot more luck than blowouts.

by tuluse :: Fri, 07/18/2014 - 3:41pm

Team a does as you said.

Team b wins game 1 by 10 and loses game 2 by 10.

Team a is probably better.

by coboney :: Fri, 07/18/2014 - 12:34pm

On another note, the link there doesn't work.

by Rocco :: Sat, 07/19/2014 - 9:26pm

A team that went 2-14 and finished with the first overall pick last year will rise this year. Way to go out on a limb.