It’s a reoccurring problem in all of sports: Conferences and how the division lines are drawn. In the NBA, it’s simply East and West. In the MLB, it’s AL and NL, but at least the divisions make some sense.
But in the NFL, how are some of these divisions even closely resembling a “western” division or an “eastern” division?
Now, when you look at the map of the NFL’s teams, it’s quite clear that the NFL is in dire need of some western expansion, but some of the divisions still make no sense at all.
In the AFC and NFC, there are four divisions each, which represent the North, South, East and West. Simple geographical terms, right?
Wrong. In the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins are all the way down in the south geographically, but play in the north, where the other three teams are in North East. In the NFC East, Dallas is playing with its perennial rivals, Washington, New York and Philadelphia, but how could this be considered “east” when the state is way down south?
Don’t even get me started on the AFC and NFC’s West Divisions, because that’s insane that Kansas City and St. Louis have to travel that far every season to visit their in-conference opponents.
Yes, we have some geography illiteracy in America, but I blame the NFL for a lot of it.
Should the NFL realign the divisions and conferences?
In reality, the NFL needs to just do away with the conferences as they stand today. I understand that the AFC was made with respect to the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, but this is a necessary change.
These past few Super Bowls have shown why it may be important for the NFL to adopt a Eastern and Western type of conferencing. Since 2003 when Tampa Bay and Oakland played in Super Bowl XXXVI, two of these Super Bowls have appealed to people potentially on or near the West Coast (Seattle and Arizona). The rest of them have been games mostly played between mid-western to eastern located teams, where the location has pretty much also been eastern (since 2003, there was only one game in the West).
Why would the NFL continue to cut out a huge portion of the country when it’s a Philadelphia vs. New England Super Bowl… being held in Jacksonville?!
By eliminating the NFC and AFC as it stands today and turning it into a division-less Eastern vs. Western style of conferencing, the NFL can continue to appeal to the west coast markets week in and week out. This will also encourage expansion, because markets like Los Angeles, Portland, Omaha, Sacramento and Salt Lake City could help balance the conferences.
If anything, making new divisions that aren’t so geographically unusual would help as well. Why would fans of St. Louis or Kansas City want to travel all the way out west to play teams in their NFC/AFC West divisional games? Fans may like to travel, but not every week and not for the amount that plane tickets or gas is going for nowadays.
I think the NBA has the right idea (which is saying a lot coming from the NBA) when it comes down to the Eastern vs. Western conferences clashing at the end of the season for the championship. If the NFL were to adopt a playoff and conference system where a western team would face off with an eastern team, we would see a fun and exciting change that the League should make. And, it could continue to appeal to new fans and continue to get the ratings they are looking for.