How We Would Realign the NFL Divisions
In the 93-year history of the National Football League, the game, its teams and its players have evolved.
While tradition is certainly cherished, change is only natural.
So when asked how the league would look should there be another realignment, it was time to go for broke.
Hence, what you see ahead of you is the NFL of the future. It’s also a league that could include an 18-game regular-season schedule sooner than later.
So taking into account some geography, a little rivalry and perhaps a bit of insanity, here’s the new-look NFL. While we are aware of certain bylaws that insist certain teams remain together, we’ve opted to bypass those bylaws.
However, we were careful to reference the league’s past. In 1967, the National Football League was first divided into four divisions: Capital, Century, Coastal and Central. Three years later and with the merger on the field, the NFL was divided into two conferences (AFC and NFC) with six divisions, a format that held until the current eight-division alignment that began in 2002.
Hence, with a lot of rhyme and reason, here’s an idea of what a revised NFL could actually look like.
Teams: Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, New York Giants and New York Jets
Obviously, besides the name change from AFC East to AFC Coastal, there’s not a lot of difference in this division from its traditional past.
However, it’s amazing what one change could do. Out are the Miami Dolphins and in are the New York Giants.
So instead of waiting every four years for the Giants and New York Jets to meet in the regular season, Big Apple fans will be treated to a home-and-home every year (in the same home, of course).
Meanwhile, the recent history of Super Bowls (XLII and XLVI) between the Giants and New England Patriots will be revived on an annual basis. And the Buffalo Bills, despite some hard times as of late, will continue their longtime rivalries with both the Patriots and Jets.
And yes, when it comes to the Bills and Giants, we may be treated to the occasional Super Bowl XXV highlight…depending on your perspective.
Teams: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers
Like the AFC Coastal, we’ll borrow from the past and name this the AFC Central. That nom de guerre actually lasted for both conferences until the realignment in 2002.
Keeping the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns together makes sense for obvious reasons. Including the rival Pittsburgh Steelers is another common-sense move, perhaps more so in the case of the Browns.
So why put the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Central with the Baltimore Ravens headed elsewhere? Football history buffs will tell you that with the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the Colts (then in Baltimore), Browns and Steelers all agreed to join the new American Football Conference, which was also made up of the 10 AFL franchises.
Given the intensity of the rivalries between the Bengals, Browns and Steelers, it won’t take the Colts and their fans long to get into the swing of things.
Teams: Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans
Whoa! What happened here?
The Kansas City Chiefs no longer facing the Oakland Raiders twice a year?
The New Orleans Saints won’t be squaring off with the Atlanta Falcons on an annual basis?
The St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers separated from their longtime rivalry?
Yes, these are indeed drastic changes. But think of the “Show Me State” series that will develop between the Chiefs and Rams. And it also wasn’t that long ago that New Orleans and St. Louis were both in the NFC West.
As for any history between the Tennessee Titans and Chiefs, there’s plenty. Let’s remember the Titans were the Houston Oilers prior to their departure from Texas following the 1996 season. And the Chiefs were originally the Dallas Texans before taking up residence in Kansas City and changing their name in 1963.
And who could forget when the Texans defeated the Oilers in overtime in the 1962 AFL title game?
There’s a lot more history here than meets the eye.
Teams: Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks
Here’s a case of two from Column A and two from Column B…kind of.
The Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers remain in the AFC West. The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks come over from the NFC West.
Prior to realignment in 2002, the Raiders, Chargers and Seahawks were all members of the AFC West from 1977-2001. And the rivalry between Raiders and Chargers goes back to the original days of the AFL.
Putting all three teams from the state of California makes obvious, perfect sense. Having the Raiders and 49ers meet twice a season will be fun indeed.
And it appears that the divisional rivalry between the Niners and Seahawks is really just getting warmed up.
Teams: Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins
If this plan holds up, the happiest company in the world could be Greyhound.
While a flight to Carolina will be in order for the Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, those three clubs could take the bus (and leave the driving to us) to their divisional matchups.
The Redskins and Eagles have been going at it for a long time. An annual two-game series between the Ravens and Redskins would have the cities buzzing.
And think of the tailgating alone with the Ravens and Eagles. Crabs and cheesesteaks? Now that’s surf and turf.
As for the Panthers, it may take some time to develop a little rivalry with the other three clubs. But we’re confident that it won’t take too long.
Teams: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings
Simply put, it was hard to break up this group no matter how hard we tried.
It just wouldn’t be the National Football League without the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings all together: be it the NFL Central, NFC Central, NFC North or the “Norris Division.”
The Bears (then the Staleys) and Packers first met in 1921. The Lions (then the Portsmouth Spartans) and Bears have been meeting since 1930. Those Spartans and Packers also first met in 1930.
The Vikings joined the NFL in 1961. And these four teams have all been in the same division since 1967.
Teams: Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Atlanta Falcons, welcome to Florida.
While this new-look NFC South will still include the Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it welcomes both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins.
That puts all three franchises from the Sunshine State together, which should make for some interesting rivalries once they fully develop. And the Falcons and Bucs have already been meeting twice a year since 2002.
But consider this: Atlanta won the NFC South a year ago with a 13-3 record, while the Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers all finished 7-9.
It’s worth noting that the last NFL team from the state of Florida to finish with a winning record was the 2010 Bucs (10-6). And no team from Florida has reached the playoffs since the Dolphins won the AFC East in 2008.
Teams: Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and Houston Texans
Cowboys, Broncos and Texans…it just sounds like "The Wild Wild West."
But first things first and we can hear the moans and groans now.
How can you separate the Dallas Cowboys from the rest of their current NFC East brethren in the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins?
We’re willing to take a bold chance here and see if something can develop with the Houston Texans. And it wasn’t all that long ago that the Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals were members of the NFC East together.
As for the Broncos, they’ll certainly miss their annual battles with the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers. But we’re willing to try something new here as well.
Let’s just hope this plan doesn’t go…south.