Who’s a real contender in the AFC?

The Colts appear to be the clear favorite in the AFC South looking back at 2010′s performances in the division, but what about the rest of the conference?

See previous post for an explanation of the importance of Pythag wins and record in 1 score games for predicting future performance. 

Kansas City Chiefs: 10-6 record, 9.1 Pythag wins, 4-2 in 1 score games

The Chiefs out performed their pythag wins a touch and were better in close games than blowouts, but they were still an above average team. Nothing all that special, but worthy of their playoff berth and serious consideration in 2011.

San Diego Chargers: 9-7 record, 10.9 Pythag wins, 3-5 in 1 score games

The Chargers finished 2nd in the NFL scoring offense and 10th in scoring defense, but missed the playoffs in large part because of a poor record in 1 score games compared to 2+ score games. The Chargers are unlikely to sleepwalk through the first third of the season and lose so many close games again in 2011.

Oakland Raiders:  8-8 record, 8.9 Pythag wins, 3-5 in 1 score games

The Raiders seem to have actually clawed their way back to relevance. It’s not crazy to think they could make the playoffs in 2011, but they were the 3rd best team in that division last year.

Denver Broncos: 4-12 record, 5.2 Pythag wins, 2-6 in 1 score games

You don’t win 12+ games without being both lucky and good and you don’t loose 12+ without being unlucky and bad. The Broncos were not a good team, but the difference between awful and merely bad is often just some bad luck.

Pittsburgh Steelers: 12-4 record, 12.1 Pythag wins, 6-2 record in 1 score games

The Steelers outscored opponents by 149 points last year, over a touchdown per game. The Steelers were really really good last year and should be expected to be a very good team again in 2011

Baltimore Ravens: 12-4 record, 10.6 Pythag wins, 8-4 record in 1 score games

The Ravens were a good team, but their identical record to the Steelers hides that they weren’t nearly as dominant a team. The Ravens rarely blew their opponents out, beating only the Panthers by more than 2 scores while the Steelers beat 5 teams by more than 16 points.

Cleveland Browns: 5-11 record, 6.1 Pythag wins, 3-7 record in 1 score games

The Browns couldn’t score and just weren’t good enough defensively to make up for it, which leads to a lot of close games, that are usually lost.

Cincinnati Bengals: 4-12 record, 6.1 Pythag wins, 2-8 record in 1 score games

The Bengals weren’t significantly worse than the Browns (they were outscored by 73 to the Browns 61) but they lost an extra close game.

New England Patriots: 14-2 record, 12.3 Pythag wins, 5-0 record in 1 score games

The Patriots outscored their opponents by nearly 13 points per game, but even doing that 14 wins takes some good luck. The Pats are certainly a prime contender in the AFC again next year.

New York Jets: 11-5 record, 9.8 Pythag wins, 6-4 in 1 score games

The Jets were good enough to win a division last year, they just happened to be in the same division as a better team with better luck.

Miami Dolphins:
7-9 record, 6.2 Pythag wins, 5-5 in 1 score games

The Dolphins scored 2 more points than the Browns and allowed 1 more, but that 7-9 record hides how terrible they were offensively.

Buffalo Bills: 4-12 record, 4.4 Pythag wins, 3-6 in 1 score games

The Bills are the rare team in the bottom 3 of the league who were nearly as bad as they looked. Bottom 5 in the league in scoring O and D as well as dead last in turnover margin the Bills probably were the worst team in the AFC, they were significantly better than the Panthers though, as hard as that may be to believe.

Contenders: New England, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Indianapolis, Baltimore

Challengers: New York Jets, Kansas City, Oakland, Tennessee

Credible: Miami, Houston,

Competant: Jacksonville, Cinninatti, Cleveland

Just Terrible: Broncos, Bills