This is the time of year that college football analysts start to closely examine which teams are most deserving of the coveted College Football Playoff spots. With college basketball tipping off, bracketologists across the country are already at work deciding which teams merit top seeds at which fit in the bubble. Professional sports behave differently in a number of ways, but the most glaring is that playoff teams are determined entirely by objective metrics. Wins and tiebreak procedures give us an NFL playoff instead of a committee of sports minds.
Debating over which teams are worthy is one of the most enjoyable parts of college sports so why not take that to the pros? This article will present each team in the AFC playoff picture by resume. Blind resumes aren’t super useful here because seeding is so dry and overall record would be dead giveaways. However, the stats and ranks are meant to be compared head-to-head so use this as ammunition for future arguments.
In addition to a short blurb for each section, the following metrics will be used to assess each team:
Records: Overall (OVR), Against .500 or Above Teams (TOP), Against below .500 teams (BOT), Offensive Yards Per Game rank (OYPG), Defensive Yards Per Game rank (DYPG), Offensive Points Per Game rank (OPPG), Defensive Points Per Game rank (DPPG), Strength of Schedule of Games Played rank (SoS)
Fighting for a First-Round Bye
Kansas City Chiefs
There is a big gap in perception between these two squads. The Chiefs are odds-on favorites to win the AFC and a good bet to win the Super Bowl. The Steelers are coming off back-to-back losses against Buffalo and Washington. But looking at their stats, the two teams have had similarly rigorous schedules and both boast a league best unit. Recent injuries to Steelers defensive starters probably best explain the separation and postseason expectations.
Somewhere in the Middle
This is a fascinating group. Who among these teams is most likely to dethrone Kansas City? Indy is the most well-rounded team in per game stats but lacks a proven track record against strong opponents. Tennessee has a dynamic offense and gave Mahomes a slight scare in last year’s AFC Championship game. Buffalo and Baltimore both have a handful of quality wins with difficult schedules. Two of these teams will almost assuredly square off in the first round. The range of outcomes is vast for these teams and that should spark exciting actions and unpredictability.
Battle for the Last Spot
Las Vegas Raiders
Sadly, with Kansas City spearheading a strong upper echelon of AFC teams, whoever nabs the seventh playoff spot is in for a bumpy ride. For Miami, the season isn’t a total waste. Tua Tagovailoa has experience and a top-notch scoring defense has seen the rise of Andrew Van Ginkel and continued dominance of Xavien Howard. Las Vegas beat Kansas City but has proven to be unreliable and inconsistent. Cleveland probably nabs the final spot but their success has come from bullying lesser teams. The Browns offense is easily the highlight of these three teams. The remaining games will be interesting but there is little deep playoff prospect here.
Featured Image courtesy of Jill Toyoshiba / Kansas City Star
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