Ranking the NFL Divisions by Their 2011 Win Totals
Many teams think that their division is the toughest, but only one division can hold that crown. I have come up with what I think is a good way to figure out who the best toughest division to beat.
I have taken all the teams in the respective division's wins and added them up. The team with the highest number of wins should be the best division and the lowest should be the weakest. I have looked at the numbers and after tallying everything up I have ranked the divisions from eight to one from easiest to the toughest.
8. The AFC South: 26 Wins
What happened AFC South? You used to be so dominant. Remember when you sent the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, AND Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs? Ah, good times. Now, you have a top-heavy battle between the Houston Texans and Titans for top spot, while the Colts and Jaguars are bottom feeders. Injuries to major players kept this division down last year. Players like Peyton Manning, Andre Johnson, Kenny Britt, Matt Schaub and Mario Williams. Next year opponents won't be so lucky.
This division could see a boom in the next two years with young QBs like Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and Andrew Luck coming of age. It should be noted that the defenses in this division are very tough with three teams in the top 11 in points allowed in 2011. And that statistic was with the Titans having the youngest defense in the league. So there is hope.
6. Tie for 6th Pt. 1- NFC East: 30 Wins
No one in the NFC East had double digit wins, but that didn't keep the New York Giants from winning from winning the Super Bowl. However, people forget that they were one loss to the Dallas Cowboys away from not even making it to the playoffs. Defensively youngsters like Kerrigan, Sean Lee, and JPP are becoming household names. Next year these guys will need to start becoming truly dominant if the NFC East want to go to its old moniker the NFC "Beast." With three picks in the first 16 on draft day, the division can expect a heavy infusion of young talent.
While the NY Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins have an elite player or two on each side of the ball, they obviously don't play well with others. If Robert Griffin III, Michael Vick, Eli Manning and Tony Romo are going to pull this group out of the basement, they will need to start beating up other teams, not just each other.
6. Tie for 6th Pt. 2- NFC West: 30 Wins
While the other 30 win division was a model of consistency (all teams had between 5-9 wins) the NFC West is the opposite of that. San Fransisco was dominant going 13-3 using that defense to make a statement around the league. The Arizona Cardinal had a perfectly mediocre season finishing 8-8 while the Seattle Seahawks were just a little worse finishing 7-9. Finally, the let-down St. Louis Rams finished the season with only two wins. Two!
Having a huge difference between the top and bottom may actually propel the Rams to the top since they already have a franchise QB and now they have a boatload of picks from the RG3 trade. I expect this division to level out, but depending on how well they draft the 49ers may stay on top for the next 2-3 years at least.
4. AFC West... Wait, What!- 31 Wins
The popular opinion was that the Denver Broncos went to the playoffs because they played in a weak division. Obviously it wasn't that bad. The San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders all ended up at .500. The Kansas City Chiefs finished just below that mark at 7-9. With such a close race who could win next year?
I could see Rivers leading his team back to the top. I could also see the unforgiving Raiders defense putting them in a position to win the title. Speaking of defenses, the Broncos and Chiefs both have some top notch players on that side of the ball.
An interesting group to watch next season. Manning coming in should add more wins, while the Raiders not having picks in the first two rounds of the draft will take some away. How will star safety Eric Berry play after coming back from knee surgery. What about Jamaal Charles? Who knows who is going to win with so many questions, but one thing is certain. This will be a fun division to watch.
3. Tie for 3rd Pt. 1- NFC South: 33 Wins
One of the most consistently winning divisions in the league ends up in a tie for third. The New Orleans Saints are obviously one of the powerhouses of the NFL. With Drew Brees at the helm the Saints went 13-3. The upstart Carolina Panthers and the 2010 NFC top seed Atlanta Falcons had inverted records. The Panthers improved to 6-10, while the Falcons had an impressive 10-6 record. The disappointing Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended up last in the division with 12 loses and even more question marks for next year.
The future looks good for this division to stay on top. The Saints are caught in "Bountygate," but much like the Patriots and the "Spygate" incident, I don't think the Saints will be remarkably different. Cam Newton was spectacular in his rookie season and has Panthers fans believing again. The Falcons and "Matty Ice" will have to win a playoff game next year to shake off this image of "regular season wonders, post season blunders" or else it may start to define this organization.
As for the Bucs, well they have a new coach and probably won't improve until they can get Freeman going all the time.
3. Tie for 3rd Pt. 2- AFC East: 33 Wins
I am a little surprised at this one. The division with the New England Patriots, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills only managed 33 wins? The Patriots did their part collecting 13 wins, and then the records start to dip. The Jets only got to .500 after appearing in back-to-back AFC Championship games. The Bills' early season win streak tapered off in to a 6-10 season, which was disappointing. The Dolphins however got to 6-10 another way by winning six of their last nine games in 2011.
This division is poised to fall in my opinion. I like what the Bills have done in FA, and the Patriots have a tone of draft picks to play with. The other two are the ones I worry about. The Dolphin's are having trouble convincing players to come to the Dolphins and they lost their star (headcase) WR Brandon Marshall. The Jets meanwhile have a circus going on that you can check out here and here.
2. The Silver Medal Goes To.....the NFC North: 36 Wins.
Dominating performances by the Green Bay Packers (15 wins) and Detroit Lions (10 wins) are the headlines here. The Chicago Bears also showed some talent by going 8-8 despite QB Jay Cutler missing time. The Minnesota Vikings unfortunately were not so lucky mustering only 3 wins.
This division is on the knives edge right now. The Packers were one and done in the playoffs, but have responded well to being knocked down before. I don't expect them to be perfect but a 12-4 record is easy to imagine.
The Vikings are in a rebuilding mode and will likely fail to reach the .500 mark again this year. Speaking of .500 mark, expect the Bears to reach the double digits this year. I expect 10-6 or 9-7. That goes for the Lions too, either 10-6 or 9-7 depending on a how they do vs. Chicago.
1. First Place in the "I Guess Defense Does Win Championships" Category the AFC
As always the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens ended up neck-and-neck, both with 12 wins. Falling not to far behind were the AFC wildcard Cincinnati Bengals with an impressive 9-7 year. Even the Cleveland Browns did better than four other teams with a 4-12 record.
All in all, this division remains a constant threat year after year. The defenses are all impressive and the offenses get better every year. The Bengals have a real shot to improve their roster with two first-round picks. And the same can be said about the Browns. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are likely to stay at the top considering neither one lost any big name free agents. It will be interesting to see after the draft but right now I sense a repeat in their future at the top of this list.