Is It Time For Divisional Realignment In The NFL?
This season there are three divisions that are contenders for the title of "Worst Division of All Time". They are the NFC North, NFC West, and the AFC West. These three divisions are a combined 45-90, with most of their wins coming against divisional opponents (all divisions are .500 against themselves).
NFC North (17-28)
Minnesota Vikings (6-5), Chicago Bears (6-5), Green Bay Packers (5-6), Detroit Lions (0-12)
You may want to blame the winless Lions for this division's inclusion in these rankings, but this is the only division in football without a team over .500. The division has no clear leader, with two of the teams tied for first.
The Lions are on track to go 0-16, which would without a doubt help this division achieve worst division status. The Lions are last in scoring defense, 31st in total defense, and they have allowed 18 passing touchdowns compared with just 2 interceptions.
The quarterbacks in this division tell half the story: Gus Frerotte, Aaron Rodgers, Kyle Orton, and Daunte Culpepper. This division is probably the best of the three listed, but still terrible.
NFC West (14-32)
Arizona Cardinals (7-5), San Francisco 49ers (3-8), St. Louis Rams (2-9), Seattle Seahawks (2-10)
The Cardinals are probably the best team in any of the three divisions, but even they were destroyed on Thanksgiving by the NFC East cellar dweller Eagles. The Cardinals have pretty much already clinched the division.
Both the 49ers and the Rams have already fired their coaches this season. Once again, quarterbacks tell the tale in the division: Kurt Warner, J.T. O'Sullivan/ Shaun Hill, Marc Bulger/ Trent Green, Matt Hasselbeck/ Seneca Wallace. Injuries have hurt the division as well, with Matt Hasselbeck and Steven Jackson both missing significant time.
This division is only going down as the schedule gets harder. The Cowboys and the Jets each get to play both the 49ers and the Seahawks.
AFC West (14-30)
Denver Broncos (6-5), San Diego Chargers (4-7), Oakland Raiders (3-8), Kansas City Chiefs (1-10)
You know that your division is awful when the Oakland Raiders are still very much alive for a playoff spot, sitting only three games back from the Broncos after beating them this past week. The Raiders get the Chiefs this week which will likely get them a game closer. The Chiefs are one of the main contributors to the AFC West's terrible state, sporting the league's worst run defense.
As far as quarterbacks are concerned, Jay Cutler and Phillip Rivers are both solid options, but Jamarcus Russell and Tyler Thigpen/ Brodie Croyle/ Damon Huard are not.
Both the Broncos and the Chargers were expected to be contenders this year, but neither have lived up to expectations. Injuries to LaDainian Tomlinson and Shawn Merriman have held back the Chargers on both sides of the ball. Injuries to basically all of the Broncos' running backs and their horrible defense have led the Broncos to underachieve.
Let's say that the NFL Playoffs took the best six records regardless of division. If the season ended today, in the NFC, the six teams would be the Giants, Bucs, Panthers, Cowboys, Washington, and Atlanta. None of the teams in the NFC North or NFC West would get in. The NFC East and the NFC South would both get three teams.
In the AFC, the top six are the Titans, Jets, Steelers, Pats, Ravens, Colts, and Miami (in a tiebreaker due to better conference record than Bills and Broncos). Once again, no teams from the AFC West would make the playoffs.
NFC East (31-14-1)
New York Giants (10-1), Dallas Cowboys (8-4), Washington Redskins (7-4), Philadelphia Eagles (6-5-1)
Sometimes called the NFC Beast, the NFC East has long been called the best division in football. Many seasons they capture both wild cards, and if they do not it is usually because the division beats up on each other too much.
The Eagles, currently in last in the division, are 6-2-1 outside of the division. Yet they are 0-3 in the divisional play. The Eagles would make the playoffs if they were in the NFC North, and the Cowboys and Redskins would sit on top in the NFC West.
The Giants by many are considered to be the best team in football and if they win this Sunday they will share the best record in the NFL. Dallas has the second best record in the NFC.
AFC East (27-17)
New York Jets (8-3), New England Patriots (7-4), Miami Dolphins (6-5), Buffalo Bills (6-5)
Every single one of these teams is above .500 and all but Miami have outscored their opponents. Even the Dolphins and the Bills would currently be the division leaders in the AFC West.
There are several reasons for the AFC East's success this year. Brett Favre's arrival in New York is one, as well as how well Matt Cassel has played replacing Tom Brady in New England. Miami's Wildcat Formation has moved them from the worst team in the NFL last year at 1-15 to a wild card hopeful.
Brett Favre and Tom Brady/ Matt Cassel are the notable starting quarterbacks. Chad Pennington and Trent Edwards have also played surprisingly well this season. Although the Patriots have usually made this division very top heavy with the other three teams falling behind; the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills have turned that around this season.
The need for the NFL to realign the divisions has come to the forefront this season. All three of the divisions listed in "The Worst" section are on pace to have a worse out of division record than any other division of all-time.
All three have a winning percentage under .300, which has never happened before. Realigning the divisions would allow only the best teams to make the playoffs, and not a worse team making it because their division is horrible.
The issue is similar to how the Big East is guaranteed a BCS Bowl bid but no team from the Big East deserves one. A better team from the Big 12 or a team such as Utah or Boise State is going to be left out of the BCS Bowls because Cincinnati won the Big East. Cincinnati is ranked 16 in the BCS Standings with a 10-2 record.
Back to the NFL—teams such as Washington and Atlanta should not be left out of the playoffs in the NFC and Miami and Buffalo should not be left out in the AFC in favor of worse teams with worse records.
Move the Cowboys to the NFC West and move the Rams to the NFC East. Switch the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins. In the AFC, switch the Dolphins and the Bills for the Raiders and the Chiefs.
NFC East - Giants, Eagles, Bears, Rams
NFC West - Cowboys, Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle
NFC North - Washington, Minnesota, Green Bay, Detroit
AFC West - Miami, Buffalo, Denver, San Diego
AFC East - New York Jets, New England, Oakland, Kansas City
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