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Weakest AFC field in years?

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by lillloyd, Jan 3, 2012.

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  1. lillloyd

    lillloyd On the Game Day Roster

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    It's been a long while since I can remember a more shallow or vulnerable-looking AFC field. This seems like a two-horse race between NE and Balt, and even those teams have chinks in their armor. I think it sets up nicely for NE, who may feast on lesser opponents at home before getting a favorable matchup (i.e., another dominant "O" / little "D" team) against either NO or GB in the Super Bowl, where the first one to 50 will win;)

    But that said, overall the NFC just feels like a much stronger field, and I wonder if the balance of power isn't shifting that way. The NFC boasts a couple of heavyweights (GB, NO), dangerous up-and-comers (Detroit, Atlanta), and an elite D (SF). And even the runt of the litter (NYG) can tout a SB resume and a good QB.

    The AFC field, by comparison, seems limited and vulnerable:

    • Patriots. Negatives: 25th rated SoS, 0-2 vs playoff teams, 0-2 vs teams with winning records. Have looked frighteningly bad on D at times. Positives: explosive O, Brady/BB, superior coaching staff with 2 weeks to prepare, home field in a year where AFC contenders are awful on the road. Only AFC team that can trade punches with the Packers or Saints.

    • Ravens. Negatives: no proven, elite QB (Flacco's not had his best year). Inconsistent team that put forth shockingly poor performances on the road this year. Positives: battle-tested, balanced team. Good D. Have beaten many quality opponents (Pitt/Cincy twice, Houston at full strength, SF). Have won many road playoff games in years past, this year's regular season notwithstanding.

    • Steelers. Negatives: banged up team that may be running on fumes. Struggles to score at times. Dismal road performances against playoff teams (Balt, SF, Houston). Positives: balanced team with proven playoff QB. Good D. Battle-tested--extensive playoff/SB experience, finished with 9th toughest SoS (although only 3-4 against playoff teams, 4-4 against teams with winning records).

    • Houston. Negatives: injuries to their most important players. Their starting QB is named "TJ Yates". One of the weakest SoS in the league (31st). Positives: brutal, nasty OL and run game, plus a top-flight (if unheralded) D. Yates has actually been decent, so maybe the Texans are the most AFC likely spoiler with their tough D/RBs.

    • Cincy. Negatives: young team + rookie QB + all road playoff games is a not a formula for playoff success. Positives: record may have been artificially deflated by tough division schedule (4 losses to Pitt/Balt). Top 10 D. Dalton kid is good.

    • Denver. Negatives: one-dimensional O that has looked putrid the past few weeks, so it's hard to imagine them scoring enough to get wins in the playoffs. Repeated, blowout losses to playoff teams take the shine off its #1 SoS ranking. Positives: good, unique run game. Pass rushers. Tough stadium to play in. And God Almighty is a Broncos fan (well, until recently anyway ;) )

    Final strength of schedule data from AFC Strength of Schedule
     
  2. PATSYLICIOUS

    PATSYLICIOUS Pro Bowl Player

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    It depends on Ben's health. If he's effective by round 2 and we face potentially going through both them and Baltimore, that's a very tough road to face.

    Either way it's not nearly as bad as 2008 where the Steelers faced the 8-8 Chargers and then 11-5 Ravens to make it to the big dance, where btw they faced a 9-7 team. Or 2009 where the Colts beat 2 9-7 teams.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
  3. RussFrancis

    RussFrancis Third String But Playing on Special Teams

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    In my humble opinion, this is without question the weakest AFC field in years. Beyond a decade, roughly. Not to knock our own team, or the presence of the greatest QB of his era, but a team with the worst statistical D in the league is #1? And a team led by Joe Flacco, 2?? The Steelers are imo hot garbage this year. Ben is hurt, they just lost their RB, Polomalu has been relatively harmless this year, Woodley's a non-factor, and Harrison, well, he's not the same Harrison. Houston? I wont even start with them. No threat. Denver and Cinci both LOSE and get in? Weak, weak field. Weakest in years, easily. It couldnt possibly be setting up any better for the Pats this year....if our D is up to the challenge.
     
  4. lillloyd

    lillloyd On the Game Day Roster

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    I'm not talking about a particular team's road through the AFC playoffs; I'm talking about the field as a whole before the playoffs start, how they're playing, and whether the field itself presents a good number of credible challenges to the NFC.

    In '08 the AFC had *6* 11 win teams (including your patriots which I believe was the only 11 win team ever to miss?), with only the Giants really feeling like legit challengers in the NFC. Your '09 argument feels stronger, but even then you had a veteran SB team (the Colts) at 14-2, plus a seemingly strong 13-3 Chargers team, so personally I didn't think the AFC was vulnerable the way they are this year.

    I think the NFC has been on the ascent for many years now (they've won 3 of the past 4 SBs after all), while the current AFC teams have plenty of issues (although I still think NE is the best bet).
     
  5. lillloyd

    lillloyd On the Game Day Roster

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    I could actually see Houston surprising someone for a game. They have a dominant ground game and an excellent D, sort of a SF-lite with Yates.

    But as legit, SB contenders who could take down the NFC participant? That's NE and maybe Balt only, in my book.
     
  6. patsfaninpittsburgh

    patsfaninpittsburgh Banned

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    Not to mention a Brady recovering from the ACL.

    What's really interesting the the mediot yearly fawning over the Ravens.

    loyd

    You could realistically be arrested by the mediots for being a heretic with your realistic assessment of the Ravens.
     
  7. ivanvamp

    ivanvamp In the Starting Line-Up

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    You mean Green Bay? They have the worst statistical D in the league (by yards allowed, which is what you mean when you refer to the Patriots). The NFC must be a godawful field too then, since, by that same measure, they have the #32 (GB), #27 (NYG), #24 (NO), and #23 (Det) ranked defenses. Four of the six NFC teams are ranked in the bottom 10.
     
  8. Fball

    Fball Third String But Playing on Special Teams

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    Cincy is possibly underestimated. Yes, their record isn't great, but they've been slowly maturing with a young QB, amazing wideout & very solid defense. They have played almost everyone close, and they could make a surprise run in the playoffs.

    Regardless, they're definitely a team in the AFC to look out for in years to come. Oakland made one of their worst trades ever for Palmer - very reminiscent of the Herschel Walker trade that gave Dallas its most recent SB run.
     
  9. Brady_to_Moss

    Brady_to_Moss Revis Island is here PatsFans.com Supporter

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    3 team race IMO

    Balt
    Pitt
    Pats
     
  10. PatriotFan77

    PatriotFan77 Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job

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    Brady
    Fatboy
    Flacco
    Dalton
    Yates
    Tebow

    Um, yes. This is a very weak AFC field. The drop off from Brady to Ben is huge, let alone the other 4.

    No Manning, Rivers, Schaub, Sanchez, Palmer? So weak this year.
























    Relax, you goons I was joking about Sanchez:p
     
  11. patsfaninpittsburgh

    patsfaninpittsburgh Banned

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    It is fascinating how one relatively irrelavent stat gets such a fixation.
     
  12. BelichickFan

    BelichickFan B.O. = Fugazi PatsFans.com Supporter

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    To further this, I am adding the QB ranking and rating for each. I know QB rating is far from perfect but it's the best single number and really points out the point being made here :

    Brady (3) 105.6
    Fatboy (10) 90.1 (and he's not at full strength right now)
    Flacco (18) 80.9
    Dalton (20) 80.4
    Yates (19) 80.7
    Tebow (28) 72.9

    God help our defense if it faces Rodgers or Brees in the SB (although their D's suck too so it wouldn't be a mismatch) but the QB we could face in the AFC playoffs . . . suck.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
  13. lillloyd

    lillloyd On the Game Day Roster

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    I actually don't think the bad defensive stats are that big a deal in today's NFL, provided you have the O to compensate. Once upon a time, a great D could close down a high-flying offense, but nowadays I think the Pats/Packers/Saints have the ability to overwhelm just about any defense.

    But that said, could you seriously see anyone besides the Pats (and *maybe* the Ravens...but this is highly debatable) beating the NFC rep? Just look at the AFC QBs aside of Brady: Tebow, Dalton, Yates, Flacco, and (banged up) Roethlisberger. (This against Rodgers, Brees, Manning, Stafford, and Ryan...hell even Alex Smith might be better than half the AFC guys.)

    Everywhere you look, the AFC teams are banged up and QB-deficient, and no team seems to be peaking. Seems like a pretty flawed group.
     
  14. lillloyd

    lillloyd On the Game Day Roster

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    LOL for a second this appeared to be the most unlikely post ever made on an internet forum.
     
  15. jmt57

    jmt57 Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I don't disagree that overall the balance of power seems to continue be shifting from the AFC to the NFC. There are a couple things I would question though.

    First, the strength of schedule argument in general. As pointed out in multiple other threads the Pats did indeed only beat one other playoff team, and were 0-2 against teams with winning records. But that's like a self-fulfilling prophecy; had they beaten the Giants they still wouldn't get credit for beating a winning team, because then the Giants would then be 8-8! Meanwhile they had six wins against teams that did have a winning record if they hadn't played the Pats; the Patriots essentially knocked five teams out of the playoffs by beating them. No credit for that yet on the other hand the Bengals get a pass with their four losses to the Ravens and Steelers?

    Second, all of the mighty NFC teams have flaws as well. As maligned as the Patriots defense is, the Packers, Lions and Giants all gave up more points and the Saints were only 0.2 points per game better. The Saints, Packers and Giants all rank near the bottom in some pass defense stats. On offense only three teams passed for fewer yards per game than the 49ers did; do they have a chance if they need to come from behind with Alex Smith? Detroit and New York both have below average defenses and two of the worst running games in the league. Atlanta may be the most balanced team yet nobody seems to be giving them a chance against either the 49ers or Packers, assuming they beat the Giants on the road first.

    It should be an interesting post-season. Every single team - even the ones with gaudy records and impressive stats on one side of the ball - all have weaknesses that could come back to haunt them in January.
     
  16. condon84

    condon84 In the Starting Line-Up

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    Agree with your assessments. I think this is by far Brady's best chance to get #4. I don't know if and when the AFC will field such a weak group of playoff teams again in the future. Brady is the clear cut best player in the AFC playoffs and leads the strongest unit in the AFC by far. I think it's going to be all about who's strong unit is going to impose their will in these matchups. Although the Steelers D got us earlier this year, I still like our chances in a rematch, especially if it's in Foxboro. Same thing with the Ravens. Their secondary is weak and if Suggs is contained, then Brady is going to go nuts on them.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
  17. Deus Irae

    Deus Irae PatsFans.com Retired Jersey Club PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Disable Jersey

    The bolded part has been tossed around a lot, as if it's meaningful. It's not, unless the league was suddenly going to adopt 14 and 15 game seasons. The Patriots beat teams that would have faced a different team if they hadn't faced the Patriots. It doesn't mean those teams would have ended up with winning records. Also, if we go down that road, the Steelers suddenly can point to the Titans and Cardinals as being over .500, and everyone starts playing the "what if" game with the records.

    The Patriots didn't beat a team that finished with a winning record, and that the only playoff team the Patriots did beat is the 8-8 Broncos. It doesn't mean that the Patriots can't win in the playoff. That's just the way the overall schedule, combined with the losses to the Giants and Steelers, worked out. It'll be much more meaningful looking back than it is looking forward.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
  18. VrabelJr

    VrabelJr In the Starting Line-Up

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    I've said it once and I'll say it again. Cincinnati and Houston are the biggest threats to us match up wise. They both play great Defense, have solid running games, and have big time WRs that come up with big plays when they need them. Cinci and Houston are both aware of the deficiencies of their QBs, Baltimore is not and they try and get more out of Flacco than he can give.
     
  19. AzPatsFan

    AzPatsFan Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    I would disagree. The Pats have won 8 in a row. This year's edition of the Patriots is actually getting healthy for the Playoffs. Yes they have lost three Probowl type players in Koppens, Carter and presumably Vollmer. But their fill-ins Connelly, Solder/Cannon and Anderson and Ridley are able, and have done a great job.

    All the other injured guys like BJGE, Mayo, Fletcher, Spikes, McCourty and Chung are back.
     
  20. PatriotFan77

    PatriotFan77 Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job

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    Go ahead and poll it here on which teams we would rather see the Pats play in the playoffs. Probably look something like this:

    Broncos----------------------------
    Cincy--------------------------
    Houston-----------------
    Pittsburgh-------
    Baltimore--

    matchups smatchups, give me the BUNGLES, TEBOWS, or TEXANS:D
     
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