This year in the NFL was a little different than some years in the past. By the beginning of week 16, there were over 20 teams either playoff bound or still in the hunt for a playoff spot. In the NFC 3 teams from the same division, NFC south made it to the playoffs with only a game difference. This division is known for having a different winner every year and hosting teams in the first round of the playoffs with better records than the division winners.
The Saints and Panthers have the same record at 11-5 and the Falcons who snuck into the playoffs have a record of 10-6. Saints took the divisions only because of tie-break rules. The two top teams in both the AFC (Patriots and Steelers) and NFC (Eagles and Vikings) all have a 13-3 record with the same conference record as the team it shares the same wins/losses with. The 3 and 4 spots in the AFC are 10-6 (Jags and Chiefs). The NFC 3 and 4 is slightly better with 11-5 (Rams and Saints).
The wild card in the AFC are both 9-7 (Titans and Bills) with 2 other teams who just missed the playoffs with 9-7 records (Baltimore and San Diego). Both these teams could have made the playoffs during the last week with combinations of wins and losses by the other 9-7 teams.
On the NFC side, one wild card shares the same record with the 3 and 4, The Panthers and the 6 seed is only 1 game off with 10-6, which records are better than the AFC teams who made 3-6.
So, who is better, the NFC or the AFC. By looking at records alone, one would say the NFC is better. In fact, if the 3-6 AFC teams whereas in the NFC and had to fight for a wild card, none of them would make it to the playoffs.
Now if you look at the strength of schedule for 2017, your opinion might change on how good the NFC is. The Rams had the hardest schedule in 2017 making them a legit playoff team. The charges who just missed it had the 3rd hardest schedule, but the bills who got the last wild-card spot had the 5th hardest schedule in 2017. Philia who clinched the 1 seed in the NFC had the 11th hardest schedule and its AFC foe at the 1 seed had the 12th hardest schedule.
Atlanta, New Orleans, and Carolina finish with the 13th, 15th and 16th hardest, basically the middle of the playing field. KC had the 17th hardest schedule as winners of the AFC West and that is compared to their fellow AFC brothers, Denver who had the second hardest schedule in 2017.
The teams who might be nothing but smoke and mirrors are Jacksonville who had the 31st hardest schedule and Tennessee who had the 30th hardest schedule (much because they play in the AFC South). The AFC and NFC 2 seeds (Pittsburgh and Minnesota) both had the 27th (Pitt) and 28th (Minn) hardest schedules which make you think, are these teams really 2 seeds?
These results come from ESPN analysis of the 2017 season seen below. So are the good teams as good as they look, or are they a result of a soft schedule? We will see this weekend.
|2017 Strength Of Schedule By Team|
|Team||Opp W/L||Opp Win %||9+ win opponents||Point Differential|
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