Take a gander at the NFL playoff picture and the first thing that jumps out is the strength of the NFC comparted to the AFC.
The National Football Conference currently sits with four 5-4 teams out of the playoffs. All American Football Conference teams with winning records are in the playoffs, with the 5-4 Buffalo Bills owning the 6th seed even after back-to-back blowout losses.
Only six teams in the NFC own a losing record. A whopping 10 teams in the AFC are below .500.
The NFL's only one-loss team resides in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the conference has five teams with seven or more victories. The AFC boasts just two, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers.
It's not just in the win column where the discrepancies lie. Seven NFC clubs own a negative point differential, the worst being the woeful New York Giants at -88. Meanwhile, 11 AFC teams have a negative point differential, with the Colts' -101 leading the entire NFL. Odder still is the AFC South division-leading Tennessee Titans with a -8 point differential. Yup, one of the top four teams in win-loss record in the AFC has been outscored for the season. The Jaguars' AFC-leading 92 point differential would be fourth-best in the NFC.
Heading into Week 10, Football Outsider's team efficiency rankings placed 10 AFC cubs in the bottom 16 of the league.
You could point to a slew of factors for why a 10-win team in the NFC is on pace to get left out of the playoffs, while it's possible an 8-8 team could squeak into the AFC's bracket this season. The most notable being the better quarterback play has resided in the NFC, even after Aaron Rodgers' injury. For every Eli Manning struggling in the NFC, there seems to be three Jay Cutlers/Joe Flaccos/Andy Daltons in the AFC.
Perhaps the easiest reason to point to for the surplus of winning records in one conference is that the NFC has pounded the AFC in interconference play, particularly of late.
In the last three weeks, the NFC is 10-1 versus the AFC with a 371 to 206 scoring differential. (The one loss was the Detroit Lions losing at home to the Steelers, in a game in which they had 47,000 chances to score a touchdown in the red zone and came up empty). In Week 10 alone, the NFC went 5-0 in interconference play, with four of the five victories coming by 14 or more points.
For the season, the NFC owns a 24-14 advantage in interconference play, with the Los Angeles Rams and Carolina Panthers leading the way with 3-0 records (including a Panthers victory over the Super Bowl Champion Patriots).
The NFC has been feasting on the weak underbelly of the AFC. The Ravens, Bengals, and Brows have collected an 0-5 record versus the NFC North. The AFC South owns two interconference wins in eight games, one of those being the Colts over the previously winless 49ers.
The disparity in play between the conferences means we could see some good teams on one side left out of the playoffs, while some suspect ones in the other play into January.
The lopsided play, however, do not take away from what should be a fascinating rush towards the playoffs in both conferences. And it doesn't mean the AFC champion won't be hoisting their fourth straight Lombardi Trophy when it's all said and done.