Mythbusting: Patriots benefit from a weak division?

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slam

In the Starting Line-Up
We hear every year about how the Pats benefit from being in a week division. Let's put it to the test.

Reality: Pats in AFC East, 17 seasons with Brady as QB (Excluding 2008)
Brady's record vs. AFC East (.790), 16 playoffs, 14 first round byes
Buffalo: 30-3 (Regular season record vs. Brady, from Tom Brady Career Splits | Pro-Football-Reference.com
Miami: 22-11
New York: 27-7

Now, what if we replaced the worst team in each of the other AFC divisions with New England over this time period?

AFC North. Patriots replacing the Cleveland Browns
Baltimore Ravens: 6-1
Cincinnati Bengals: 6-1
Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-3
.800 cumulative record, even better than the AFC East! Even though Baltimore has won in the playoffs vs. NE and seems to usually give the Pats a tough game, they have a worse regular season record vs. Brady than the Jets and Phins.

I believe that the only years that one of these teams had a better regular season record than the Pats and would have cost them a first round bye is 2001 and 2004. Those were both years that the Pats went to Pittsburgh and won the AFCC. Also, in 2004, it would remain to be seen how a regular season rematch would have gone.

I think it's safe to say that replacing two games against the Browns with two games against the Patriots would have a cumulative adverse affect in each of these franchises' winning percentage. It may have prompted a shorter trigger in replacing coaches.

AFC South, Patriots replacing the Jags
Houston Texans 7-1
Indianapolis Colts 11-3
Tennessee Titans 5-2
.793 cumulative record. Even better than the AFC East!

Weirdly, I don't think there's a single Super Bowl season in which the Patriots would have lost their first round bye despite the Colts being very good in the Manning years. The Patriots were just better in their Super Bowl years. And in the late Indy Manning years, those were the years that the Pats weren't making the Super Bowl anyway (2005-6)

AFC West, Patriots replacing the Raiders
Denver Broncos 7-6
Kansas City Chiefs 5-3
SD/LA Chargers 6-2
A horrible .621 winning percentage. The horrors! '
The Broncos might have been able to steal a few first round byes in the Manning years. In 2014, the Broncos and Pats had the same 12-4 record. The Chiefs would probably have made us a Wild Card this year, pending on who would win the 2nd regular season game. The Chargers were 12-4 in 2004, and they could have challenged for the division win depending on how the Pats played with the other teams in the division.

Basically, this is the only AFC division in which there's any argument that the division would have made a dent in the Pats' dominance. It would remain to be seen how the Pats would fare if they played each other two times a year.

I won't go into the NFC as much as there's not much of a sample size with only 5 games or less to work with. Only the Seahawks and Panthers have a winning record vs. Brady.

Basically, I would say that instead of Patriots benefiting from a weak division, I'd say that most teams would be psychologically destroyed if they were locked in a division with the Pats over this period of time.
 

varjao

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
The division is weak no doubt, but the Pats still lose games here and there inside the division because those are always tough games, and sweep all other divisions so they are superior no doubt as well.

The question I make is , did the Patriots wrecked the division and created this scenario of no mans land, leaving the other teams with no hope other than wait for BB and Brady to retire or maybe Black Magic (it's not working) ?
 

Hammer of Thor

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The biggest way to discredit this myth:

The Patriots face the best-of-the-best in the playoffs every single year. Well, except when they played the Tim Tebow Broncos..... Anyway, they've gone 30-10 in the postseason, a .750 winning percentage, 12-4 translated over a 16 game season. So they get to beat up on the Dildos, Jete, and LOLphins during the regular season? Doesn't matter much because they destroy the best when the most is on the line.
 

Hyped

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I just point out to four things:

.750 in the play-offs vs. the top 12 teams (30-10).
.866 in the play-offs on divisional weekend vs. the top 8 teams (13-2)
.692 in the Conference title game vs. the top 4 teams (9-4)
.666 in the Superbowl vs. the top 2 teams (6-3).

Basically, it shows that we would have a .666 record if we were in a division with all top 4 teams. And that shows that in a 16 game schedule...we would still have a 10-6/11-5 record. And it gets even better when looking at conference title games, divisional round wins, and overall playoff wins.
 

Hyped

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The biggest way to discredit this myth:

The Patriots face the best-of-the-best in the playoffs every single year. Well, except when they played the Tim Tebow Broncos..... Anyway, they've gone 30-10 in the postseason, a .750 winning percentage, 12-4 translated over a 16 game season. So they get to beat up on the Dildos, Jete, and LOLphins during the regular season? Doesn't matter much because they destroy the best when the most is on the line.
Beat me to it...
 

PatsDeb

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We might benefit by always having better odds to get a bye, as long as we beat other teams along the way too. However, come play off time if it were true that we always benefit from a weak regular season division schedule, then we would never go anywhere in the playoffs, which clearly isn't true. I would say Houston benefits (or has benefited in the last few years) from a weak division schedule. They win lots of games, but not against us, and not in the playoffs when the competition gets tough.

Edit - also we may have 6 "weak division games" but we also usually are playing a first place schedule along the way, having to play the first place finishers in other divisions.
 

Hyped

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We might benefit by always having better odds to get a bye, as long as we beat other teams along the way too. However, come play off time if it were true that we always benefit from a weak regular season schedule, then we would never go anywhere in the playoffs, which clearly isn't true. I would say Houston benefits (or has benefited in the last few years) from a weak division schedule. They win lots of games, but not against us, and not in the playoffs when the competition gets tough.

Edit - also we may have 6 "weak division games" but we also usually are playing a first place schedule along the way, having to play the first place finishers in other divisions.
Still, we NEED to earn that BYE year in and year out.....

I mean it isn't like the Jets/Fins/Bills just LIE DOWN for us. Those teams really do GET UP for games against us....
 

PatsDeb

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Still, we NEED to earn that BYE year in and year out.....

I mean it isn't like the Jets/Fins/Bills just LIE DOWN for us. Those teams really do GET UP for games against us....
Agreed. I disagreed with Andy's original thread on this topic that division games are always easy blowouts for the Pats. The other teams do get up for the games and usually keep it close, at least in the 1st half. They even steal one once in a while.
 

Hyped

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Agreed. I disagreed with Andy's original thread on this topic that division games are always easy blowouts for the Pats. The other teams do get up for the games and usually keep it close, at least in the 1st half. They even steal one once in a while.
And it isn't always the division games....we are everybody's "Superbowl" every week too...

We might have "stolen" games from teams "sleeping on us" back in 2001....but sure as hell not since then....
 

TB_Helmet

In the Starting Line-Up
2019 Weekly Picks Winner
Other points; I’ve posted these before so these are conclusions instead of the data which I don’t have immediately:

Pats have approximately same record within the division vs outside the division (and that’s with playing a first place schedule every year, ie two teams that won their division the year before)

If you rank the 8 divisions by winning percentage of the bottom three teams, AFC East is fourth out of eight IIRC.

The Dolphins and Jets record against non AFC East teams is .500. Bills are worse, but still not bottom 7 in the NFL.

Pats typically lose 1-2 games in the division each year. Thats probably what would happen in any other division.

The only counter argument is that there haven’t been any teams in the AFC East that really went on a run for a period of a few years other than the Jets during the Rex Ryan era. The sin of the AFC East isn’t that it’s a weak division, it’s that it’s been consistently mediocre. That probably has to do with teams building themselves specifically to beat us, which is a bad way to build teams IMO, and also front office and QB turnover due to looking worse by comparison to the Pats (just speculation on my part).
 

BostonWolverine

Practice Squad Player
Phil Simms was trying to support the myth this week on a radio show. He said "no doubt" the Pats dynasty benefits from being in the AFC East. His argument was that it allows the Pats to try unique things through out the year, knowing that if they fail they can still make the playoffs :confused:
 

maust1013

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On the surface outside of the Pats the AFCE does suck but comparatively when talking about the degrees of suck in relation to New England the truth is the NFCN, AFCN, NFCE, AFCS suck even more and that's including the top teams in those divisions. The deeper truth behind it is the Pats are the reason the rest of the AFCE struggles, because of New England's continued excellence they can't breakthrough. First and foremost you build your team to win your division. The Pats stranglehold on the top spot in the division has the owners of the other AFCE teams blowing them up every few years out of desperation. I'm sure they'd appreciate some help from the other divisions in the league with the heavy lifting.
 

jmt57

Moderator
Staff member
For anybody that needs additional information, check this out. It pretty much answers every response somebody may make about the 'easy AFC East' as they attempt to come up with one counterargument after another, particularly in the last few paragraphs.

The Myth of the Easy AFC East, the Definitive Guide | Patriots Dynasty


More excellent statistical evidence in these threads:

The Myth of the Easy AFC East: The Definitive Guide

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


Of course most people parroting the 'easy AFC East' line are unwilling to look at the facts with an open mind - but it is still gratifying to throw the compelling proof in their face.
 

slam

In the Starting Line-Up
On the surface outside of the Pats the AFCE does suck but comparatively when talking about the degrees of suck in relation to New England the truth is the NFCN, AFCN, NFCE, AFCS suck even more and that's including the top teams in those divisions. The deeper truth behind it is the Pats are the reason the rest of the AFCE struggles, because of New England's continued excellence they can't breakthrough. First and foremost you build your team to win your division. The Pats stranglehold on the top spot in the division has the owners of the other AFCE teams blowing them up every few years out of desperation. I'm sure they'd appreciate some help from the other divisions in the league with the heavy lifting.
Imagine what the Steelers or Ravens would do to their teams if they played the Pats twice every year and went through a 1-5 or 0-6 stretch against them? Fire coordinators, fire coaches, make desperate personnel decisions.
 
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