To call the AFC East a logjam at the season’s halfway point might be an understatement.
All four teams are within one game of each other with the Bills, Jets and Patriots all sitting at 5-3, with the Dolphins just a game back at 4-4.
At midseason there is no other division in football with all four teams within a game of each other. But with eight games to play which teams have the edge in terms of the remaining schedule that lies before them?
The short answer is the Bills and Dolphins.
The eight remaining opponents for Buffalo and Miami have the lowest winning percentage among the four AFC East clubs.
Miami has the lowest opponent winning percentage (.375) with a combined record of 24-40 thus far this season. The Dolphins will face five teams in their last eight games that have compiled two wins or less this year (Sea., Oak., @Stl., SF, @KC).
The winning percentage of Buffalo’s remaining opponents is .453 with a record of 29-35. The Bills have three games against teams with three wins or less (Cle.,@KC, SF).
In fact the only winning teams the Dolphins and Bills have left on their schedule are their division rivals. Buffalo has New England twice counting this week’s contest in Foxboro.
Also benefiting Buffalo is of the four AFC East teams, the Bills have the least amount of travel remaining with just over 5,700 air miles left on the schedule. Their four road dates include New England Sunday and the Jets in mid-December. Buffalo will also travel to Kansas City and Denver, which will be their longest trip.
But the Bills (5,744 air miles) have less than half the travel the Jets (11,898) are facing with a pair of west coast trips in December to San Francisco and Seattle.
Miami has the second fewest air miles to travel (9,266) while New England (13,524) will log the most time in the air with west coast dates at Seattle and Oakland on back-to-back weekends.
It will be interesting to see if the Patriots choose to remain on the west coast like they did earlier in the season when they had back-to-back road dates at San Francisco and San Diego. It wasn’t very successful the first time as they were trounced by the Chargers in the second west coast game (30-10), but if they choose to stay out west after the Seattle game they’ll hack over 5,300 miles from their travel log.
The Patriots and Jets each face another AFC division leader, which is what largely accounts for their stronger opponent winning percentage.
New England has a home date with Pittsburgh (6-2) in three weeks, while the Jets have the unenviable task of playing the undefeated Titans (8-0) on the road in Tennessee on Nov. 23. The Patriots also have to play NFC West division-leading Arizona.
Miami does not face another division leader the rest of the season with the exception of the three teams ahead of them in the division. Buffalo has just one other division leader on their schedule in the 4-4 Denver Broncos.
Buffalo’s only negative is its 0-2 division record, but they’re one of only two teams in the AFC East with four division games left to play. New England (1-1) is the other.
Miami and New York have the best division marks thus far with 2-1 records with three division games remaining.
So in summation Buffalo looks to have a very advantageous situation. They’re tied for the best overall record in the division (5-3), they have the second easiest remaining schedule and the fewest air miles left to travel.
Miami also looks to be in good position. Despite being a game back of their division rivals, they have the easiest remaining schedule, the second fewest air miles left to travel and are tied for the best division record (2-1).
Ultimately, it could all come down to Week 17 if the second half of the season runs similar to the way the first half has gone in the division with all four teams going head-to-head.
Buffalo hosts New England in the season’s final week and Chad Pennington returns to New York with Miami to face the Jets in what will be an emotionally-charged contest. The 2008 campaign could truly be a fight to the finish.