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Debunking the "AFC East Sucks" Fallacy - More Dumb Numbers (stats)

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by Nikolai, Jan 2, 2018.

  1. Nikolai

    Nikolai Football Atheist PatsFans.com Supporter Weekly Picks Winner

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    I worked on this based on a comment I read on reddit (and addressed there in less detail), which apparently came from some utterance during a MNF broadcast about how the Patriots have feasted on the AFC East, paving the way for their success. Like the cheating accusation or the "luck" insinuation, this is another attempt to try and minimize the Pats success. Or at least, that's what I initially thought. But then, unlike trying to analyze luck, or beating on the dead horse of the assorted "gates" thrown our way, I knew I could analyze these numbers.

    Bottom line: The AFC East is the best division in football since 2002. The Patriots "feast on the AFC East" less than other top teams feast on their own divisions.

    For more detail, read on:

    First, does the AFC East suck? This was easy to figure out, even if time consuming. I pulled the records of each team from every season dating back to the 2002 realignment and subtracted their division record to get their record outside the division.

    Winning percentages by division against teams outside the division:
    • AFC East: 0.545
    • NFC East: 0.523
    • NFC South: 0.519
    • AFC North: 0.505
    • AFC West: 0.498
    • NFC North: 0.488
    • AFC South: 0.480
    • NFC West: 0.447
    There is a pretty clear winner here with the AFC East holding a relatively comfortable 0.022 lead over the NFC East. The surprising bit is how strong the NFC South appears. It's not an illusion. More to come.

    To further address the issue, I decided to see which teams had the best records outside the division:
    • New England: 0.769
    • Pittsburgh: 0.616 (not even close)
    • Indianapolis: 0.594
    • Denver: 0.581
    • Green Bay: 0.575
    As I noted, the gap between New England and Pittsburgh in this regard is staggering. The numbers speak for themselves. It certainly seems the Pats don't need to feast on the division to separate themselves. The question then becomes, do they happen to feast on the division anyway?

    I addressed this by seeing what percentage of total wins came from the division among the top 5 teams since 2002:
    • Indianapolis: 42.1%
    • Green Bay: 41.4%
    • Pittsburgh: 41.0%
    • Denver: 38.0%
    • New England: 37.9%
    Indianapolis and Green Bay in particular abuse their divisions. Given that they are two of the weakest divisions in football, it's not too surprising that both the Colts and Packers historically beat up and feasted on their own divisions. Not only do that Pats win a lower percentage of games within the division among top teams since 2002, they are actually also behind the 49ers (42.5%?!?!), Seahawks (40.4%), Ravens (38.2%), Chiefs (38.0%), Eagles (38.0%), and Panthers (38.0%).

    Side note: The Falcons have the highest extra-division winning percentage (0.566) in the NFC South but are 28th since 2002 in winning against their own division. The Saints have the second highest percentage (0.550) and are 19th. That, combined with having the third highest win percentage against the NFL speaks to how tough the NFC South actually is.

    MYTH DEBUNKED
     
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  2. Ice_Ice_Brady

    Ice_Ice_Brady PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Great work. If I'm not mistaken, the Patriots own a higher winning percentage outside the division than inside the division. I think the perception that the AFC East is weak boils down to the lack of star quarterbacks. Of course, that is all negated by winning percentage and overall team strength.
     
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  3. AndyJohnson

    AndyJohnson PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    An additional point that is applicable here is that because the patriots finish first mite than any team they have the hardest non-diction schedule since every team plays a division in each conference which rotates to make everyone even, but the other 2 games are against the team that finished in the same spot as you in the 2 divisions of your conference that are not that years rotation.
    Ie the patriots 32 non standard games have been against 28 division winners and 4 runners up
     
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  4. Nikolai

    Nikolai Football Atheist PatsFans.com Supporter Weekly Picks Winner

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    Thank you!

    I think that was indeed the case that the Pats had the better record, until this season. However, here's how the Pats compare to the other Top 5 teams since 2002 in the difference between Division and Overall Record:

    Colts: 7.8% higher division record (2nd)
    Packers: 6.7% higher division record (3rd)
    Steelers: 5.8% higher division record (4th)
    Broncos: 0.8% higher division record (tie-7th)
    Patriots: 0.8% higher division record (tie-7th)

    Seattle has a whopping 12% higher division record.
     
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  5. Nikolai

    Nikolai Football Atheist PatsFans.com Supporter Weekly Picks Winner

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    That's another side project I've had on the back burner; analyzing true strength of schedule. I remember looking at it briefly last year and the Pats have had some of the toughest schedules in the last 16 years.
     
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  6. sb1

    sb1 Pro Bowl Player

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    An AFC East team has been in the AFC championship game for 10 of the last 11 years, winning 4 of them. I don’t think any other division in football compares to that. If the AFC East winner just fattened themselves up on inferior competition you’d think there would be a lot more one and dones...
     
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  7. Nikolai

    Nikolai Football Atheist PatsFans.com Supporter Weekly Picks Winner

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    Kinda like the Colts?

    The numbers definitely bear this out.
     
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  8. sb1

    sb1 Pro Bowl Player

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    The AFC South was kind of terrible in the Colts hey day...
     
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  9. Ice_Ice_Brady

    Ice_Ice_Brady PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    It's amazing to me how many rock heads use strength of schedule without removing the team's win-loss record from the equation, which I assume is what you mean by "true" strength of schedule.
     
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  10. AndyJohnson

    AndyJohnson PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    And the colts dominant regular seasons and pathetic playoff records bear that out
     
  11. Angelpats

    Angelpats 2nd Team Getting Their First Start

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    The reason they say the afc east sucks is to rationalize their reason fo the pats being good. The same reason they said we deflated ball, they can’t accept we are just a good team without making crap up.
     
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  12. robertweathers

    robertweathers PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Well you had JAX in the playoffs a couple of times in 2005 and 2007 and TN was good early and mid/late in the 2000s.

    For me, it all comes down to playoff performance. If you are a good team, you will advance. If you aren't, you will lose.
     
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  13. Nikolai

    Nikolai Football Atheist PatsFans.com Supporter Weekly Picks Winner

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    That's definitely part of it. The other part is analyzing how each team came into and/or left the game. For example, the Texans game from this year would not be considered a good win because they went 5-11, but when they came in, they were 1-1 and afterward went on an offensive tear until Watson got hurt. How do we account for that? Or the Saints being 0-1 when we faced them, but are now an 11-5 playoff team? The Jest fighting for the AFC East during the first matchup in October?

    I've been working on trying to figure that out and I think I'm getting somewhere. It isn't easy, though.
     
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  14. Nikolai

    Nikolai Football Atheist PatsFans.com Supporter Weekly Picks Winner

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    Yep. Actually, the AFC South was pretty bad then but were bolstered by a couple of those playoff appearances; they are actually slightly worse now.
     
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  15. sb1

    sb1 Pro Bowl Player

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    TEN was very good in the early 00’s. Drew Bennett doesn’t drop the ball and they might have beaten us in the 03 playoffs.
     
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  16. robertweathers

    robertweathers PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Yea that is hard. The Saints are a tough one but if you look at it, early in the year they lost @ MN 29-19. Do you think they would still lose to @MN 29-19 in the playoffs? I think so. Same thing with the Pats. Do we think the Pats (the D playing well, offense getting people back) would beat the Saints in NO 36-20? Maybe a little closer but I think NE is a superior team to NO.

    For example. The two Jets games. First one the Pats weren't playing well and the NYJ had won 3 in a row and were. We win by a TD. 2nd one, I dont think the Pats played "great" but it was 10 degrees outside and won by 20. You'll take that any day of the week.
     
  17. WinstonSmith

    WinstonSmith Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job

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    Solid work. I have used similar but less ambitious stats to help educate a few wayward friends. I must say though that when any myth is debunked without utilizing the Alameda County Sheriff's Bomb Range...I'm kinda disappointed.
     
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  18. tasmlab

    tasmlab Starting QB, won 20 SBs, number is retired PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Does the AFCE's winning percentage include the Patriots? I think you'd have to take them out to make your point, since the Patriots may be the one boosting that metric in spite of the Bills/Dolphins/Jets.
     
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  19. Nikolai

    Nikolai Football Atheist PatsFans.com Supporter Weekly Picks Winner

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    I thought about that, but then to be doing an apples to apples comparison, you'd have to take out the best record from each division, or at least among the teams you're comparing. Of course, this is removing 25% of the data sample, which is too significant, and also sucks even more for divisions like the AFC North and AFC West, which had the Browns (0.344) and Raiders (0.369) stinking up the joint. The AFC South and NFC West are pretty bad consistently and would look worse without the Colts and Seahawks in there (0.440 and 0.425 respectively).

    The AFC East , outside of the Pats averages 0.471. The NFC East and the NFC South are the only divisions that would truly benefit as they both have three over 0.500 teams.
     
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  20. PF_SU

    PF_SU Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job

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    The Patriots since 2001 have a 25-9 record in the playoffs. That's a .735 record.
     

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