FanPost

AFCBeast

The best of the best is in the East. - Al Bello

SlotMachinePlayer's classic article In Defense of the AFC East examined win-loss records for each division to show that the AFC East has been the second strongest division since 2002.

Wins and losses are a great way to measure the strength of a division, but what if, through bribes, threats, golden-boy favoritism, and sacrifices to The Hoodie's carnivorous goatlord, the AFC East has drawn easy schedules for the last twelve years?

Most of you are familiar with Football Outsiders' DVOA metric. If you're not, it's a widely-cited way of finding the efficiency of a given team. It's calculated by scoring each snap a team plays, accounting for variables like down, distance, score, and, most importantly, quality of opponent. Running for 130 yards against the 2013 Chicago Bears, for example, is worth a lot less than doing the same against the 2000 Ravens. So how does DVOA compare to SMP's win percentage calculations?

The first number in each table is the division's average DVOA calculated *without* the highest ranked team each year (i.e., the AFC East without the Patriots most years). The second column includes the highest ranked team. If the Patriots really are benefitting from a weak division, the AFC East ought to be at the bottom of this list.

Since 2002

The Patriots' reign of terror began in 2001, but the current divisional structure was implemented in 2002. We'll start there.

Division AVERAGE DVOA WITHOUT DIVISION LEADER AVERAGE DVOA
AFC East -1.24 5.95
NFC East -1.39 4.43
AFC North -1.66 4.44
NFC South -5.09 0.31
AFC West -7.14 0.35
AFC South -8.01 -1.50
NFC North -10.50 -4.03
NFC West -18.33 -10.71

Wow. It's easy to forget just how godawful the NFC West was for most of the last decade.

So according to DVOA, the Patriots have been the league's most successful team for the last twelve years while playing in the league's strongest division. But what about more recent data? After all, Mark Sanchez (2009), Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano (2008), and Chan Gailey (2010).

Since 2009

Division AVERAGE DVOA WITHOUT DIVISION LEADER AVERAGE DVOA
AFC North -2.03 4.03
AFC East -2.82 5.33
NFC East -3.21 2.29
NFC South -3.82 1.89
NFC North -4.29 1.88
NFC West -11.24 -3.57
AFC West -13.15 -4.92
AFC South -13.61 -7.63

The rough and tumble AFC North knocks the AFC East down to second toughest division. We also see the NFC West clawing its way upward.

Between 2002 and 2010

Finally, because someone will ask, let's look at the window while Peyton Manning was kicking ass in the AFC South.

Division AVERAGE DVOA WITHOUT DIVISION LEADER AVERAGE DVOA
NFC East 1.81 6.79
AFC North -1.33 4.92
AFC East -4.55 3.56
NFC South -5.16 0.44
AFC South -8.17 -1.73
NFC North -8.52 -2.12
AFC West -10.96 -2.88
NFC West -17.92 -10.04

The AFC East drops to third, but is still well above average.

Conclusion

Over the last twelve years, the AFC East has been one of the two toughest divisions in football without the Patriots. With them, it's downright unfair.

The views expressed in these FanPosts are not necessarily those of the writers or SB Nation.