Read the opposing argument from Optimist Prime.
The NFL playoffs begin this Saturday, and that makes Loyal Homer a VERY happy person. I’ll be as happy as Jeff Fisher is that Vince Young is leaving Nashville… and folks, that is happy. There’s just something about the NFL playoffs, and for me it’s been taken to another level since the explosion of fantasy football. You have more invested in each team, and therefore you tend to follow things more closely. That makes the matchups in January much more exciting (except for maybe the New Orleans-Seattle matchup!). Call me a geek, but that’s just me. As I survey the landscape of this year’s field, I feel that New England towers over everyone else. Even Optimist Prime has to see that.
If you look at the record of the six playoff teams in each conference, you will see that the overall record of the teams favors the AFC. The AFC teams have a combined record of 69-27, while the NFC teams have a combined record of 62-34. That’s seven full games better, meaning you could turn the Seahawks into a 13-3 squad (which would be tied for the best record in the NFC) and the AFC would still have a better combined record. Now, suppose you say, “Well, the NFC has the Seahawks so the NFC’s numbers are misleading.” Okay, fine. Let’s do a little elementary math. Let’s take away the best and worst teams from both conferences and see what we get. By taking away the Patriots (14-2), Chiefs or Colts (10-6), Falcons (13-3), and Seahawks (7-9), the record still favors the AFC as they hold a 45-19 record, compared to the 42-22 record of the NFC. So take the “Seahawk Waterdown” theory and let it wash away with a Seattle afternoon rain shower.
The second seed in the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers, quietly coasted to a 12-4 regular season. Think back to week one. Who did they beat? The Atlanta Falcons! And they did it with Dennis Dixon at quarterback. Remember him? There are several inter-conference examples like this. Baltimore defeated New Orleans less than three weeks ago. The Chiefs whipped the Seahawks at Qwest Field in late November.
Even if you think those facts don’t matter come January, look at the teams and see who currently passes “the human eye” test. Who comes in playing well and is healthy? Does anyone in the NFC really scare you? The Falcons are a very good team when playing at home, and lucky for them they have home field advantage. But they have to be one of the most unglamorous 13-3 teams in the history of the league. The Bears get less respect than the Falcons in my opinion, but do you have confidence in Jay Cutler’s ability to have a turnover free game? The Eagles, a sexy pick just a few short weeks ago with the re-emergence of Michael Vick, possibly have peaked too soon. Believe it or not, if the Giants don’t choke against the Eagles in week 15, Philadelphia would be watching the playoffs on television. The Seahawks… Charlie Whitehurst? Next! The Saints literally have to go to the streets to sign a running back after placing two running backs on injured reserve this week. Green Bay comes in arguably as the hottest team in the conference, but is it realistic to expect them to win three straight games on the road with no consistent running game? Haven’t we always been told you have to run the ball to win in January?
Compare all that carnage to the stability of the AFC. The Patriots and Steelers are cruising. The Colts are on fire. The Chiefs quietly won ten games. Baltimore is still Baltimore. And the Jets, who are the biggest question mark with Mark Sanchez’s shoulder, can win anywhere if they get off on the right foot (no pun intended, Rex).
Now, you tell me, Babe Ruthless, who passes the eye test? Look at that, look at the data I presented, and you’ll have your verdict. And if that doesn’t decide it for you, which conference doesn’t have a 7-9 team?