The New England Patriots went into this year as a bit of an unknown considering how they were leaning on a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones. Thanks to both a weak AFC and New England’s dominant defense, this team is positioned to make a very deep run in the postseason.
The Tennessee Titans currently have the No. 1 seed, but they may not have Derrick Henry in the backfield for the rest of the season.
The Ravens and Chiefs haven’t been blowing teams out, the Bills have lost several winnable games against bad teams, and hot starts from the Bengals and Browns appear to be fizzling out.
Jones and the Patriots have seized the day by winning five straight games and leapfrogging Buffalo in the AFC East. While some might be skeptical of their chances to contend with a rookie quarterback, some advanced metrics make it seem like New England has a clear path to the Super Bowl.
Football Outsiders’ DVOA statistic has New England ranked as the best team in the AFC.
With their similar DAVE stat ranking only four AFC teams in the top 13 across all of football, FO postulates that New England could have a much easier road to the championship than some contenders in the NFC.
The New England Patriots are viewed as a Super Bowl contender.
DVOA is a stat that measures success on a given play or series of plays while adjusting for factors like down and distance and quality of opponent. DAVE combines early-season projections and ratings.
In a nutshell, the Patriots are the best team in the AFC when you adjust for the quality of the teams they’ve played.
While a defense led by veterans like Devin McCourty and youngsters like Christian Barmore has been one of the main reasons for such a quick turnaround after going 7-9 last year, Jones’ ability to avoid turnovers has helped improve this offense.
Jones is playing better than any rookie quarterback at the moment, and New England will need him to keep this up in December.
The Patriots have a couple of tough upcoming games in which they can prove their quality. Tennessee may be wounded, but they can hang with anyone in this conference. The Bills can still light up the scoreboard, and they will take on New England twice in a three-game span. The Colts have found their stride lately.
New England has stumbled upon a winning formula that works, and they should be able to keep their contending hopes alive by going back to it in the winter months.