We all know the battle between the North and the South and how significant it was to this great country that we have today. There is another battle between the two in the NFL, as well; The two are battling for the right to be called the best division in football.
While the free-agent frenzy has just begun, we are starting to get an idea as to who the major players are going to be this season. There are still plenty of moves to be made before the season begins, but many of the pieces to the puzzle have been put together.
Though many people have often considered the NFC East as the best division in the NFL, I would have to slate them third on my list.
The NFC North and NFC South have much more in common than just being in the same conference. Both divisions have one of the best quarterbacks in the game, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.
Both of those same teams have experienced players in the secondary, as well as up-and-coming talent. Those same two teams have won the last two Super Bowls.
The NFC South boasts rookie sensation and number one draft pick Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers. The NFC North has a young star in Matt Stafford that can also lay claim to being the number one draft pick after the Detroit Lions took him first in 2009.
Let's not forget about the talented young star that Matt Ryan has become for the Atlanta Falcons, either. Josh Freeman may not be on the same level yet, but many people expect him to get there as he leads a rising team in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While they have their similarities, it is the differences that set them apart. The NFC North has been known more for its ground game and strong defense, while the NFC South teams have more aerial-oriented offenses and average defenses. That's not a knock on any of the teams; that is just how they have been built.
Obviously, it works well, because all eight of these teams have a legitimate shot to not only make the playoffs, but win their division.
Looking first at the NFC North, there really isn't a bad team in this bunch. The Packers are the defending champions and will ride in as the favorites to win the division. The Chicago Bears look to have about the same team they had last year, but everyone is waiting on them to make a big move in free agency.
The Lions will be one of the sexy picks this year, and they will be good if they can keep Stafford healthy. The Minnesota Vikings already have the best running back in the league in Adrian Peterson, and they just added the veteran Donovan McNabb, although he will be without Sidney Rice, who has made the move to Seattle.
Taking a look at the NFC South, it's hard to pick a favorite heading into the season. All four of these teams are evenly matched, but it has to come down to either the Saints or the Falcons. The two teams are very similar, but New Orleans has the experience and a slightly better defense right now.
The Bucs could play spoiler this year after having an incredible season in 2010. They are young, and they have money to burn before the season begins, which should only improve them.
The Panthers were somehow able to keep their team together with Cam Newton's smaller contract. They kept stud running back DeAngelo Williams and defensive presence Charles Johnson, and even Steve Smith has done an about-face, stating that he wants to be a Panther for life.
While it may still be too early to make a confident prediction, I do believe that the North will win this battle. If Cam Newton can somehow avoid having a bad rookie season, then maybe the Panthers have a chance to make the South the better division. I just look at the North's teams as better defensively, and they appear to be a little bit stronger from top to bottom.
I am still waiting for the Bears to make a major move to solidify the North as the best in the league. All of these teams are fun to watch, just based on their styles of play and the traditions that go along with all of the historic rivalries.
It is interesting to note that while some of the best teams over the past decade are all in the AFC (Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Ravens and Chargers), it is the NFC that looks to be the strongest from top to bottom. With the exception of the NFC West, you could easily say they have the three best divisions in all of football.