Why the AFC East is a top 3 division

Year after year, the Patriots detractors ring out the bells of hope and desire, resting largely on the Patriots being a paper lion who rests on the softest division in football. This year has been no different, but the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins sure have been. The AFC east has developed into a top three division in football, and the Patriots are only a piece of the puzzle.

Lets first look at the aggregate win-loss for each division AFTER you take out their divisional games:

NFC West 15-9
AFC North 14-5-1
NFC North 14-11
AFC East 13-11
NFC East 13-11
AFC West 12-13
AFC South 8-17
NFC South 5-17-1

Clearly you can eliminate the South divisions in both the AFC and NFC, but from there it's fairly tight, and you need to look at a few other factors. Namely these are points per game on offense and defense. Some may say strength of schedule should play a role, and it does, but it is misleading because it is factored from the previous year, or based on unbalanced schedules this year. If nothing else, they are a way to break a tie, or compare the elite divisions.

Here is each remaining division's average rank on offense and defense, along with the ranks of each compared to other divisions:

AFC East- 15.25 ranked offense (3rd) & 13 ranked defense (3rd)
AFC North- 11 ranked offense (1st) & 12.25 ranked defense (1st)
AFC West- 16 ranked offense (4th) & 12.75 ranked defense (2nd)
NFC East- 14 ranked offense (2nd) & 17.5 ranked defense (6th)
NFC North-19 ranked offense (T-5th) & 15.5 ranked defense (5th)
NFC West- 19 ranked offense (T-5th) & 14.25 ranked defense (4th)

I eliminate the bottom 3 here because I can't merit the last ranked defense of the NFC east, nor the tied for worst offenses of the NFC North and West, especially with their poor defensive stats as well. That leaves the 3 AFC divisions, and that becomes awfully tough to navigate. Yes, our Patriots have a big win over their division favorite, but the AFC East as a whole is 5-6 against the AFC West this year. The interesting note is that the Jets are done playing the West, so it's only the competitive AFC East teams left. The limited interactions between the AFC North and the other two divisions are a split currently at 1-1 with 6 matchups remaining (Pats beating the Bengals & Browns over Raiders). While there can be debate made for any of these divisions being the NFL's best at this stage, the facts are clear. The AFC East is a top three division, and the days of mocking the "weakest division in football" have ended.

All records and stats used for analysis gathered from ESPN

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