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AFC Playoff Teams: Resume Comparison

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
OVR: 12-1
TOP: 5-1
BOT: 7-0
OYPG: 1st
DYPG: 17th
OPPG: 2nd
DPPG: 8th
SoS: 18th

Pittsburgh Steelers
OVR: 11-2
TOP: 4-1
BOT: 7-1
OYPG: 23rd
DYPG: 3rd
OPPG: 13th
DPPG: 1st
SoS: 20th

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

Buffalo Bills
OVR: 10-3
TOP: 5-3
BOT: 5-0
OYPG: 10th
DYPG: 20th
OPPG: 10th
DPPG: 15th
SoS: 9th

Tennessee Titans
OVR: 9-4
TOP: 3-3
BOT: 6-1
OYPG: 3rd
DYPG: 26th
OPPG: 4th
DPPG: 21st
SoS: 12th

Indianapolis Colts Defense (Robert Scheer/IndyStar)

Indianapolis Colts
OVR: 9-4
TOP: 3-3
BOT: 6-1
OYPG: 9th
DYPG: 6th
OPPG: 5th
DPPG: 12th
SoS: 26th

Baltimore Ravens
OVR: 8-5
TOP: 3-4
BOT: 5-1
OYPG: 21st
DYPG: 15th
OPPG: 9th
DPPG: 5th
SoS: 1st

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

Cleveland Browns
OVR: 9-4
TOP: 2-4
BOT: 7-0
OYPG: 11th
DYPG: 19th
OPPG: 14th
DPPG: 27th
SoS: 27th

Miami Dolphins
OVR: 8-5
TOP: 2-3
BOT: 6-2
OYPG: 27th
DYPG: 18th
OPPG: 16th
DPPG: 2nd
SoS: 32nd

Las Vegas Raiders
OVR: 7-6
TOP: 3-4
BOT: 4-2
OYPG: 14th
DYPG: 25th
OPPG: 12th
DPPG: 30th
SoS: 2nd

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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