The New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills have helped make the AFC East the third-strongest division in the NFL through six weeks.
Longtime detractors and denouncers of the Patriots have consistently pointed their fingers at the AFC East like it’s some sort of smoking gun that proves New England isn’t really as good as everybody thinks they are.
Never mind the fact that the Patriots have a .760 winning percentage (140-44) against the other 28 teams not in the AFC East since the beginning of 2001, per NBC Sports Boston. Or the fact that the Patriots have had to regularly beat the best teams from outside their division and from outside their conference in numerous AFC Championships and Super Bowls over the past two decades.
If none of those stone-cold, rock-solid facts and figures are enough to shut up that annoying bar patron who just won’t let up with the weak division narrative, then here’s all you need to say: the AFC East is actually the third-best division in the entire NFL this season.
That’s not just a personal opinion, and it’s not a hot take, either. It’s another black-and-white truth based entirely on math, which is absolutely impossible to argue against, no matter how smart you might think you are.
As a division, the AFC East is 11-10 through six weeks this season. The AFC South and the AFC West both have 11 cumulative wins between their inhabitants as well, but both those divisions have 12 cumulative losses as well.
Outside the conference, three divisions in the NFC have more cumulative wins than the AFC East: the NFC North, the NFC South, and the NFC West. The NFC South has more losses though than the AFC East, which means their overall winning percentage is actually just a little bit less.
Overall win/loss percentage is key here, because another argument that could potentially be made has to do with bye weeks. Three of the four AFC East teams have already had a bye, so naturally that could be a contributing factor in why the division has fewer losses than some of the other NFL divisions.
The only flaw with this argument is overall winning percentage though. Here’s a look at where all eight NFL divisions rank in terms of that metric, which essentially invalidates the whole “but what about bye weeks?” argument:
- NFC West 15-7-1 (0.682)
- NFC North 13-6-1 (0.673)
- AFC East 11-10 (0.523)
- NFC South 12-12 (0.500)
- AFC South 11-12 (0.478) & AFC West 11-12 (0.478)
- NFC East 9-15 (0.375)
- AFC North 8-16 (0.333)
Surprise, surprise. The AFC East actually has the best winning percentage right now of all four divisions in the conference. It also has the third-best winning percentage among all eight divisions in the NFL.
Now, is this ranking almost entirely a result of the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills being the two best teams in the conference – which they absolutely are if we’re going solely by record?
Of course it is. But such is the case with all the other divisions in the NFL as well. The Ravens are dragged down by the Browns, Steelers, and Bengals. Ditto the Chiefs with the Chargers, Broncos, and Raiders. The AFC South is below mediocre statistically, and the two division leaders in the NFC East (Cowboys and Eagles) are both currently .500.
So let’s not pretend this season that the AFC East is just a flaming dumpster fire of bull manure and terrible football.
The third-best team in this division, the Jets, just dispatched the NFC East-leading Cowboys on Sunday… and looked shockingly capable doing it now that their starting quarterback Sam Darnold is back on the field. The Dolphins are obviously atrocious, but every family has a black sheep, right?
A lot can change over the course of an NFL season, and we still have another 10 weeks remaining before the playoffs. The AFC East could fall in these rankings, it could rise even higher, or it could stay in the same place. Obviously it all depends on how the Patriots, Bills, Jets, and Dolphins do down the stretch.
But for the time being at least, let’s lay to rest this whole “AFC East is garbage” narrative. It’s simply not true through six weeks this season, and now we all have the proof needed to combat this fundamentally-flawed notion and dispatch it… just like the Pats have dispatched every other team this year, we might add.