It May Be Time for the NFL to Realign the Divisions
The last time the NFL underwent a Division realignment was in 2002. The only reason behind this realignment was because the Houston Texans entered the NFL as an expansion team. Before 2002, there were three divisions in the AFC and three divisions in the NFC. There was the AFC and NFC East, West, and Central consisting of five teams each, except for the AFC Central, which had six teams.
Once 2002 hit, both the AFC and NFC Central divisions were eliminated and the AFC and NFC North and South came into play. The Colts, Titans, Jaguars were thrown into the brand-new AFC South with the new Houston Texans, while the AFC Central teams of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Cleveland were docked as the new NFC North.
In the NFC, the Panthers, Falcons, Buccaneers, and Saint made up the new NFC South, and the NFC West was reshaped with the Cardinals, 49ers, Rams, and the Seahawks. The Seahawks were the only team to jump from the AFC to the NFC in the reshaping.
Isn't it time that the NFL gets a new look?
How many times a year do we hear about an East Coast team traveling to the West Coast to play a 1:00 game and they aren't used to playing at 10:00 West Coast time and so they don't bring their A game?
Why doesn't the NFL look at rescheduling the league on a more geographic basis? Some divisions are damn near pretty close, and the NFL said they wanted to make it more "geographically friendly" when they did the realignment in 2002, but they really didn't...not for all teams.
Because in reality they only did it to add Houston. So why must the NFL wait to realign when a new team comes into the league. What about the possibility of a team coming to Los Angeles in the next five years?
With a possible LA team and the future of so many bright stars and rivalries, it could be the perfect time to change things up.
The AFC North after a realignment would look like this
New England Patriots
This would be an exciting division for a couple of simple points.
The first one being...the Miami Dolphins would be shipped out of it. Miami hasn't been a strong team in almost a decade, only having a couple of winning seasons.
Replace them with the New York Giants...a team that would have an in-state rival with the Bills and an in-stadium rivalry with the Jets. There is also that exciting rivalry in two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.
The Pats and Jets would still have their rivalry going.
It would add a lot of excitement around the New York area.
However, the Giants would be losing out on chances to play the Cowboys and the Eagles, but those can come during AFC/NFC games once a year. They would be important to each team because they only get one shot at each other.
The AFC East would feature the teams of:
This is a fun division because all of these teams play hard, smash-mouth football and rivalries could continue on and new ones would be built.
The toughest, most hard hitting rivalry in the league, Steelers/Ravens, would continue to get better and the old NFC rivalry of Eagles/Redskins could continue in the AFC East.
None of these teams are "nice guys" and they would instantly hate each other. The defenses of these teams are mean and hit hard. That always makes for a nice game.
This would be one of the tougher divisions in the league.
The AFC West:
This division would be all about up-and-coming teams and players.
This would start a QB rivalry that would have people talking for years to come. Cam Newton vs. Andrew Luck. It would be this generation's version of Brady vs. Manning.
And when you throw in Andrew Dalton from the Bengals and (possibly) Colt McCoy from the Browns, you gets a solid group of young talent.
The games would be fun to watch, but that is because there is no clear-cut dominant team in this group. At this point, it is one of the weaker divisions, but that is only because they are young teams. In five years, this will be one of the tougher divisions.
The AFC South gets a complete makeover:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Just like the AFC West, this wouldn't be the strongest division...but it also wouldn't be the weakest. The Falcons and Bucs are both strong teams with bright futures, and with draft picks and changes in management, the Dolphins and the Jaguars aren't too far behind.
The great thing about these four teams is that on any given year, there could be a new division champion.
The NFC North doesn't change one bit:
We all know the history behind this division. The Packers and Bears continue with one of the longest running rivalries of all time.
This division is the prime reason behind the realignment. Each team is a state away from each other. No long traveling schedule.
The NFC North has it right.
The NFC East is a bit of a landslide:
St. Louis Rams
At this point, the Saints probably wouldn't lose a game in this division, at least maybe not for a couple of years, but some of these teams are headed in the right direction.
The Titans always seem to be hovered around 8-8 and give good team troubles. Chris Johnson would love this division as the defenses (bounties aside) are not that strong. The Chiefs had a great year not too long ago and want to get back to that winning form.
The Rams have terrific young talent that are also on the upswing.
This would be a fun division to watch. While the Saints will take it, could one of these teams fight for a Wild Card?
The NFC South:
This is a fun division thanks to the addition of Peyton Manning. Manning can resume playing against the Houston Texans, a team that he has dominated in his career.
Also, the Texans and Cardinals were both in the hunt for Manning to join their team, but he chose Denver.
A Peyton and Romo clash would be fun to watch.
These four teams are all solid teams when healthy. The Texans are playing their best ball, the Broncos have Manning, the Cowboys are always a sleeper and the Cardinals are expecting great things this year.
The NFC West:
San Francisco 49ers
This division is all about the battle of state dominance. Just like the new AFC North's battle for New York, this is a battle for California.
The Raiders fans are intense and don't care who they play, they are always excited to wear their black and silver, but would love a chance to take out both Cali teams. So would the other two Cali teams.
But the most important thing in this division is that it would cut out a ridiculous amount of travel for the very far West Coast teams. They could play half of their schedule against each other, not having to worry about travel or time differences.
The Chargers and 49ers would have excellent battles and the Raiders and Seahawks aren't too far behind.
There would be a lot of excitement with a realignment of the divisions.
If you think about it, a lot of great rivalries aren't even within the same division. The Pats and Colts played once a year, but formed a great rivalry through the playoffs. The Pats and Giants fought in 2 Super Bowls. The Giants and Jets have a New York rivalry, and we would get to see that twice a year.
This would also give teams new motivation. It would shift the playoff matchups and who makes the playoffs. No longer do the Redskins, Eagles, Giants, and Cowboys have to fight for two spots because it always seems that division is in the hunt for a spot.
This would breathe new life into the NFL.