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As Patriots Improve, Uneven Play Around the NFL Has Kept Them In Contention

Ian Logue
Ian Logue on Twitter
2 months ago at 12:39 pm ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

As Patriots Improve, Uneven Play Around the NFL Has Kept Them In ContentionBob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

While the New England Patriots haven’t exactly gotten off to the best of starts, the fact that seemingly very few other clubs across the NFL have been able to go on much of a tear finds Bill Belichick’s team still very much in the mix.

Usually, in most seasons, you’ll see teams who get off to a fast start while other teams are slower out of the gate.  That usually sees a sharp contrast across the standings with top-tier clubs sitting either undefeated or with one loss at this point in the season.  From there, there are usually maybe a few teams at or around .500 while many others have single-digit wins.

For those clubs who are trailing badly at the bottom, it’s usually hard to gain much ground and the results by the end of the year typically end up reflecting that.

Last year was a good example.  At this time last season, there were seven teams who had one or fewer wins, with two of those clubs sitting at 0-5.  Five of those seven were in the AFC:

2021 AFC (Through Week 5)

Dolphins 1-4
Jets 1-4
Colts 1-4
Texans 1-4
Jaguars 0-5

2021 NFC (Through Week 5)
Giants 1-4
Lions 0-5

Obviously, none of those teams made the postseason.

The year before that during what was a crazy 2020 COVID season, there were 12 teams that fell into that category, with six in the AFC:

2020 AFC (Through Week 5)
Jets 0-5
Bengals 1-3-1
Texans 1-4
Jaguars 1-4
Broncos 1-3
Chargers 1-4

2020 NFC (Through Week 5)
Eagles 1-3-1
Washington 1-4
Giants 0-5
Lions 1-3
Vikings 1-4
Falcons 0-5

Clearly, in just one season from 2020 to 2021, there was a dramatic change in terms of parity, and the improvement as a whole has already been even a little better this season.

So far through five weeks in 2022, there have been six teams who fall into that category, but all of them are at least in the win column.

2022 AFC (Through Week 5)

Steelers 1-4
Texans 1-3-1
Raiders 1-4

2022 NFC (Through Week 5)
Commanders 1-4
Lions 1-4
Panthers 1-4

Even more surprising is how much more competitive the Divisions are from top to bottom, especially in the AFC, which is where we’ll stay for the remainder of this exercise since it’s the Conference that matters the most for those of us following New England’s progress.

Last season at this time, the AFC East had the Bills sitting at 4-1 while the Patriots were 2-3 and both the Jets and Miami were just 1-4.  This season, the Bills are again 4-1, but the Jets and Dolphins are right behind them at 3-2, while New England is 2-3.  While Buffalo has a decent edge, all three of those teams are essentially separated by one game, and New England is just one win behind each of the two clubs ahead of them.

The AFC North is also tight among the top three teams, with one game separating the division-leading Ravens, who are 3-2, with Cleveland (2-3) and Cincinnati (2-3) each right behind them (Pittsburgh is 1-4).

There’s also more parity in the AFC South.  Last year Tennessee was leading at 3-2, with the Colts (1-4), Texans (1-4), and Jaguars (0-5) all in bad shape.  This year Tennessee is again 3-2, but the Colts (2-2-1), Jacksonville (2-3) and Houston (1-3-1) are a little more competitive.

The AFC West also remains competitive.  While the Chiefs are 4-1, Los Angeles (3-2) and Denver (2-3) are still hanging around, while the Raiders currently sit at 1-4.

That adds up to 9 teams in the Conference who are all one game either above or just below .500 record-wise behind the leaders of their respective divisions.  Last year, there were just seven.

While it’s only a change of two teams, that’s pretty significant, especially when you factor in that there are only three teams in the AFC with one win.  That’s a stark contrast from last year and 2020 for that matter when you had divisions within the Conference with multiple one-win teams.

With the Patriots currently at 2-3 and steadily improving, the improved parity within the conference has certainly worked in their favor.  Considering the number of upsets we continue to see on a weekly basis, things have already played out in such a way that anything can happen in a given week.

At the same time, with other teams continuing to improve, the Patriots themselves will have to continue their own upward trend.  We’ve already seen an improvement and growth offensively even prior to Mac Jones’ injury, with Bailey Zappe, fortunately, playing a key role in the team splitting the club’s last two games with Jones out.

As a result, New England is fortunate that teams within the AFC are better this year and beating up on each other.  Now it’s up to Belichick’s team to make sure they also play a part in that if they hope to get back into the fray and potentially play in January.

Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 2022 NFL Season AFC Conference AFC East New England Patriots

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