This article is part of our The Reddit Madden League series.
It’s a pivotal week in the Reddit Madden League.
It’s been a long season, full of high scores, conversations over the meaning of “cheese,” and surprisingly little worries about replacing new owners. But all of that has led up to the beginning of the first season of playoffs. With just two weeks to go until knockout time, there’s only one team with a perfect record, and still six teams outside the top-12 with mathematical odds of earning a spot in the aforementioned tournament.
Let’s take a look at the respective conferences and a handful of interesting statistics with the inaugural season of Madden 18 officially nearing a close.
Dominance Finds a Home in the AFC
Regardless of the questionable methods in which the Titans have achieved their record, which I discuss for a little bit in one of our weekly RML Podcasts, there’s no doubting his skill, having won the championship in a past iteration of Madden, and generally finishing near the top year in and year out. It was one of the main reasons 10 of the 12 users who filled out the yearly poll picked Titans to win his division, with the player who tallies the highest amount of correct winners earning himself a free pizza. Much of that success could be attributed to a stifling defense, which has allowed just 229 yards per game, the best mark in the league.
There’s been some internal arguments as to who is the second best player in the league, but for what it’s worth, my money is on the second best team in the AFC South, the Colts, who have put together a 12-2 record, with both losses coming to the Titans. It’s a team simultaneously built for the future, as well as the present, with the offense led by cover-boy Tom Brady, Leonard Fournette, and Odell Beckham Jr. But it’s the defense that yet again is the reason for success, trailing aforementioned divisional rival, Titans, in total yards allowed, clocking in at 264.
It would be unwise to ignore the surprise performance of the Jets (12-2), however, who exactly two people predicted would come out of the AFC East. In short, leading MVP candidate Thomas Rawls has been the catalyst for the J-E-T-S sudden resurgence. Pick a number, any number: 2,041 rushing yards is easily the best mark in the AFC, and trails the league leader, David Johnson, by just 35 yards. 8.6 yards-per-carry is the highest mark of any running back with 200-plus carries. To top it all off, a whopping 33 rushing touchdowns (blowing the single season record out of the water) by Rawls accounts for 59 percent of the team’s total offensive touchdowns through 15 weeks. That doesn’t take into account the 227 receiving yards Rawls has racked up, a top-20 figure for running backs.
Not to be outdone, DeAndre Hopkins leads the league with 1,445 receiving yards, making Jets the most potent offense in the older brother of the two conferences. But will those gaudy stats lead to playoff glory? The top three teams in the AFC have been boosted by an erroneously easy schedule, with the trio playing only 10 non-division teams with .500 or above records combined. As a result, it’s tough to judge how the three will fair if and when they face each other in the playoffs.
Chiefs (10-4) has matched their real life counterpart, running away with the AFC West thanks in large part to a 5-0 record within the division. A big win over the previously mentioned Jets has shed new light on Kansas City, but just one other win over a "potential" playoff bound team (Giants in Week 11) has to be disconcerting for fans of the imaginary franchise that likely has no societal reach outside of the RML. Still, optimism lies within that pivotal Week 13 matchup against the Jets, in which the Chiefs suddenly oppressive defense reared its ugly head against Rawls, stifling the perhaps "ban-able" stud of a running back to just 26 yards on 10 carries, and another four catches for 11 yards. Versatility at the quarterback position might be key for Chiefs, as Russell Wilson is fourth among quarterbacks in rushing yards, trailing Marcus Mariota by a paltry 49 yards in the category. Perhaps more importantly, Chiefs perilous hold on the third spot sets up a chance to avoid a showdown against the Colts, instead squaring off against a squadron of other teams with noticeable warts vying for the sixth seed.
Finally comes a blood bath in the AFC North, with both Steelers (9-5) and Ravens (7-7) jockeying for a divisional crown, with the former holding a nearly insurmountable advantage. With games against the feisty playoff eligible Texans (7-7) and disappointing Browns (5-9) still left on the docket, it wouldn’t exactly be a surprise to see Steelers succumb to the pressure. But the odds are certainly in his favor, especially given the team’s vaunted passing attack led by Derek Carr (4,142 passing yards, 34 touchdowns to 26 interceptions). Both teams are good bets to qualify for the playoffs next year, with the Ravens owner missing extended time due to a vacation.
Assorted Statistics of Irrelevance
Andy Dalton is fifth in the league in passing yards, throwing for 3,928 yards and 32 touchdowns for the Chargers (7-7 record). Four players - Brandon LaFell, Golden Tate III, Delaine Walker, and Randall Cobb - have caught more than 50-plus passes from the Red Rifle, with LaFell leading the charge (62 catches/1,073 receiving yards/four touchdowns).
Because this is fantasy and not reality, the Bengals’ (5-9 record) Ben Roethlisberger has been thriving, narrowly trailing Andy Dalton for a piece of the top-5 in yards passing (3,866). Perhaps more surprising is the lack of insistence to feature Ezekiel Elliot, who has 728 yards rushing across 153 carries for the orange and black.
Just two of the top 10 rushing leaders reside in the AFC, with aforementioned Thomas Rawls and forever doomed Browns (5-9 record) running back Le’Veon Bell motoring through their opposition (1,203 yards/4.9 yards-per-carry/17 touchdowns).
It’s a bit of a surprise based on the last stat, but just four AFC receivers reside in the top-10 of receiving yards, with DeAndre Hopkins, Bills’ Sammy Watkins (57 catches/1,200 receiving yards/eight touchdowns), Bengals’ Doug Baldwin (64 catches/1,156 receiving yards/10 touchdowns) and Brandon LaFell making waves in their conference.
Both the Jaguars (1-13) and Bills (1-13) are jockeying for the No. 1 overall pick, with Broncos (3-11) currently sitting in the five hole with two games to play.
AFC total record against conference: 81-83
AFC total record against NFC: 28-30