How to Realign NFL Divisions the Right Way

J.J. RodriguezContributor IISeptember 12, 2012

How to Realign NFL Divisions the Right Way

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    There is little question that the NFL is at the pinnacle of the sports world in the United States.

    Millions of fans from all corners of the country watched their favorite teams this past weekend. Whether it was in person, at a local sports bar or from the comforts of their living rooms, football fans once again demonstrated an insatiable appetite for the sport that they love.

    But what if I told you that the NFL is missing a golden opportunity to further tighten its vise-like grip on the hearts of America? How you ask?

    By realigning teams to better reflect geographical proximity to other franchises.

    For example, why are the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC "South" or the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC "East"? What if teams were realigned to the geographical divisions they truly belong with? By doing so, natural geographical rivalries could take place.

    Yes, the status quo would be shaken to its core and some NFL purists may cry foul that historical rivalries, a la Cowboys/Redskins, may become a thing of the past—although not in all cases.

    But if aligned more accurately, proximity-based divisions would create a more college football-like atmosphere in NFL stadiums across the league. If you've ever been inside an SEC stadium for a conference game, you know exactly what I'm referring to.

    Mind you, some divisions are bound to be inherently wacky, due in large part to how few western teams there are compared to the majority of franchises located east of the Rockies.

    Nevertheless, if the NFL were to adopt such sweeping changes, they would see their popularity rise to even greater heights.

NFC East

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    The current NFC East consists of the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.

    In my division realignment, Dallas and New York would be dropped, while Carolina and Baltimore would be added. That's sure to be controversial, but keep in mind that this proposal assumes that the rivalries in this division would stay intact through scheduling and work much like the Iron Bowl does for Alabama and Auburn.

    NFC East

    Baltimore

    Carolina

    Philadelphia

    Washington

    For starters, Washington D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia are all connected by I-95.

    In fact, FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia are a mere 140 miles apart, with Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium located in between them.

    Throw in Carolina's Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, and you have four teams along the eastern seaboard separated by less than 550 miles.

    Click here to see the newly formed division on a map.

AFC East

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    The current AFC East consists of the New England Patriots, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.

    In my division realignment, much of the "old" division is left untouched, although in a controversial move, the Dolphins would be dropped and the New York Giants would be added.

    AFC East

    Buffalo

    New England

    New York Giants

    New York Jets

    The realignment would allow for a northeastern battle royale to occur between two of the largest media markets in the country, as well as the two of the most passionate fanbases.

    All told, the three stadiums of the teams listed above are separated by less than 500 miles in any direction, with Ralph Wilson Stadium and Gillette Stadium being the furthest apart at 459 miles.

    Gillette Stadium and MetLife Stadium are separated by just 208 miles, while MetLife Stadium and Ralph Wilson Stadium are 370 miles from one another.

    Click here to see the newly formed division on a map.

NFC North

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    In my opinion, the NFC North is the only division in the entire NFL that is accurately aligned as-is. As such, no changes were made to the division in terms of realignment—which is sure to satisfy purists.

    NFC North
    Chicago
    Detroit
    Green Bay
    Minnesota

    Click here to see the division on a map.

AFC North

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    The current AFC North consists of the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

    In my division realignment, the Ravens would be dropped and the Indianapolis Colts would be added.

     



    AFC North

    Cleveland

    Cincinnati

    Indianapolis

    Pittsburgh

    This realignment not only locates the Colts to its closest geographical brethren, but it also ensures that most of the "old" division is left intact, meaning many of the existing rivalries are as well.

    The new four-team division is located within 550 miles of one another, though unlike its NFC North counterparts that are referred to as the "Black and Blue division", the new AFC North could be referred to as the "Blue Collar division" due to the collection of hard-working, blue collar communities that support them.

    Click here to see the newly formed division on a map.

NFC South

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    The current NFC South consists of the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    In my division realignment, the Panthers and Saints are dropped and are replaced by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins.

     

    NFC South

    Atlanta

    Jacksonville

    Miami

    Tampa Bay

    In general, the south is very passionate about its football—high school, collegiate and professional. With the newly-aligned division heavily entrenched in the football-rich southeast, emotions and allegiances would run high at all times.

    Not only that, but the newly formed division could have a clever nickname ready to go on day one: "The Swimsuit and Sandals division."

    Kidding aside, the three Florida teams would be separated by less than 340 miles in any direction, with the Falcons an additional 330 or so miles from Jacksonville's Everbank Field, 461 miles from Raymond James Stadium and 650 miles from Dolphin Stadium.

    Click here to see the newly formed division on a map.

AFC South

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    The current AFC South consists of the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.

    In my division realignment, the Colts and Jaguars are dropped, and are replaced by the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints.

     

    AFC South

    Dallas

    Houston

    New Orleans

    Tennessee

    As you can see, three of the four teams are natural, regional rivals. The cities of Houston and Dallas are less than 250 miles apart, while Houston and New Orleans are separated by less than 350 miles. New Orleans and Dallas are roughly 500 miles apart.

    Tennessee is the only "oddball" of the group, although since it is a member of the "old" AFC South and indeed in the southern United States, it makes geographical sense to include them in the newly-formed division.

    Click here to see the newly formed division on a map.

NFC West

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    The current NFC West consists of the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams.

    In my division realignment, the 49ers and Seahawks are dropped, and are replaced by the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.

     

    NFC West

    Arizona

    Denver

    Kansas City

    St. Louis

    By replacing two west-coast franchises with two from or near the "heartland", it allows the division to use two sets of natural rivalries: Kansas City-St. Louis and Arizona-Denver. Add to that two former division rivalries from their previous alignments in Kansas City-Denver and St. Louis-Arizona.

    In terms of overall proximity, the division is more spread out than any other division, but again, that was bound to happen given the limited number of "true" western franchises.

    The distance from Glendale to Denver is roughly 800 miles, while the trip from Denver to Kansas City is about 600 miles. K.C. to St. Louis—the closest of the division's teams—is just over 240 miles apart.

    Click here to see the newly formed division on a map.

AFC West

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    The current AFC West consists of the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers.

    In my division realignment, the Broncos and Chiefs are dropped, and are replaced by the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

     

    AFC West

    Oakland

    Seattle

    San Diego

    San Francisco

    Much like the NFC South, the newly formed AFC West would be mainly comprised of teams from one state—in this case, California.

    As a result, the Raiders and 49ers, separated by less than 25 miles, would square off twice a year in what would surely be a hot ticket in the bay area.

    Additionally, like the NFC West, the newly-formed division would have two sets of previous division rivals in San Diego-Oakland and Seattle-San Francisco.

    The distance from San Diego to Seattle is 1,250 miles, albeit nearly a straight shot up the scenic pacific coast. On the other hand, Seattle to the bay area is no more than 800 miles.

    Click here to see the newly formed division on a map.