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Oct. 26, 2005

Posted: Wednesday October 26, 2005 2:16PM; Updated: Wednesday October 26, 2005 2:16PM
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Want to argue about the NFL? Let's go ...

Which is the best division in the NFL?

Peter Read Miller/SI

Entering the season, I said the AFC East was hands down the best division in the NFL. Injuries and the Bills' decision to go with J.P. Losman have made last year's winningest division pretty mediocre in 2005.

Looking at the standings, the NFC East (16-9) and NFC South (16-10) have the highest winning percentages. The AFC West, which SI.com's Jeffri Chadiha claims is the best, is the other division to consider for the top spot

Here's how I'd rank 'em:

1. NFC South: Three dangerous teams in the Bucs, Falcons, Panthers.
2. NFC East: Edges AFC West because of head-to-head play.
3. AFC West: No elite team, but 3 1/2 very dangerous ones.
4. AFC North: Pittsburgh and Cincy are solid. Cleveland and Baltimore are bad, but good enough to give this division a slight edge over the AFC South.
5. AFC South: The Colts are great, Jags are good, but the Texans and Titans pull it down.
6. AFC East: New England's injuries could pull this group down into true mediocrity. But counting out the Pats is always unwise.
7. NFC West: The Seahawks keep this division out of the cellar.
8. NFC North: A four-way disaster (no, that's not a Vikings boat reference).

I actually think the Super Bowl winner will come out of the AFC this season (Pittsburgh, Indy or New England), but the two best divisions from top to bottom are in the NFC.

The NFC East holds a 5-4 edge in games against AFC West teams, but six of those nine games have been at AFC West stadiums. At the end of the season, the NFC East will have a decisive edge here. And I don't believe any AFC West team has a chance to win the conference.

It's a close call between the NFC East and South. The NFC East teams have grabbed a lot of headlines this season. But I think the style of play favored by the NFC South will be more effective as the year goes on and in the playoffs. The traditionally run-heavy NFC East has abandoned that part of the game this year (Philly, Washington and New York are among the most pass-happy teams in the league). The NFC South features fast defenses -- the kind that bother Eagles QB Donovan McNabb -- and good running games.

So I'm going with the NFC South. I have a feeling many of you will disagree. Bring it on.

-- Andrew Perloff (2:40 p.m.)

While I agree with most of your assessment, I think the change in seasons will favor the NFC East (Northeast, really) once those southern teams have to play outdoors in the elements. Tampa and Atlanta both have some history of cold weather failure...
-- Matt , Bergen, N.J. (2:48 p.m.)

Submitted by () Hometown Question The NFC East has to be considered the top division. Every team in the NFC East is a legitimate threat against any team in the NFL any given Sunday. Who's the best in the division? I don't know, but I do know that every team is good. Add that to the Bucs not having a quarterback, Michael Vick constantly injured and the Panthers' play (the only thing consistent about them is their inconsistency), and the East is obviously the stronger division overall.
-- Eric , American Fork, Utah (2:54 p.m.)

Any chance you're from the East Coast? The NFC East is full of mediocre teams beating up on each other. Just because the Giants won with some help from the refs doesn't make them a great team. The AFC West is much better than any NFC division. Actually, a Super Bowl winner won't be coming from the NFC for at least a couple of years.
-- Chris , Denver (3:07 p.m.)

I'd have to say NFC East. It's the only division in the league that has every team over .500. And I'd say that McNabb/Brunell/Manning/Bledsoe is a better pool of talent that Vick/Brooks/Delhomme/Simms (or Rattay).
-- Stev Rubio , Tucson, Ariz. (3:21 p.m.)

I do disagree with you. The AFC West is the toughest division in football. The division is home to the two best backs (and the best player) in Priest Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson. The Broncos and Chargers both play good defense (although you couldn't tell on Sunday) and the Chiefs have the ultimate game breaker in Dante Hall. The Raiders ... well ... they have Randy Moss -- and that's not saying much considering how their season has gone. Plus, you're giving the NFC West too much credit in going head-to-head with the AFC West. The Chargers were a blocked field goal attempt from beating Philly at the Linc, The Raiders lost in Philly by three -- thanks to a one-legged kicker and the patented Raider Meltdown and the Chargers smoked the Giants. Take away K.C.'s mental brain freeze versus the Eagles (up 17-0) and you can take that 5-4 record and turn it into 3-6. The NFC is too soft and will probably disappoint in the Super Bowl again (see: Philly last year, St. Louis vs. the Pats in 2001).
-- Brian Jones , Kansas City, Kan. (3:22 p.m.)

NFC South definitely. The Bucs were very dangerous when they had caddilac, less so without him. The Falcons are dangerous too with their running attack, but until they find a balance, opposing defenses will stuff the box forcing Vick to throw. The Panthers have stumbled but they sill are very balanced and always have a good chance of beating you. The Saints bring this division down tho.
-- Felipe , New Canaan, CT (3:24 p.m.)

I'm just trying to understand how the only division in the NFL with EVERY team above .500, three of the top 10 defenses in the NFL and four of the best coaches in football is NOT in first place.
-- Irvin , Capital Heights, Md. (3:31 p.m.)

I agree with you mostly, but I'm not so sure that I'd lump the Bucs as an elite team, or even a dangerous team as you wrote. Their defense is good, but their offense brings them down to just average. I'd take three quality teams like San Diego, Kansas City and Denver over two quality teams, one average team, and one down-right sorry team. The AFC West wins, the NFC East follows, and the NFC South comes in third place. I'll go with Chadiha at this point, but I might flop in a few weeks.
-- Wayne , Virginia Beach, Va. (3:34 p.m.)

I don't understand the fascination with the Bucs "resurgence" this year or the NFC South's strength...The NFC South is playing all of the NFC North teams this year (your 8th-ranked division, whose poor teams have been the major contributor to the Bucs' record) while the NFC East is playing the AFC West, who they edged-out for #2
-- Jim , New York (3:34 p.m.)

No way! AFC WEST is number one. I think K.C., Denver and San Diego are all playoff contenders. The NFC East is a close second, but Dallas needs to win close games, the Giants are a year away, Philly can't run the ball, and the jury is out on Washington. The NFC South is overrated. The Falcons can only go as far as Vick's arm will take them, and that's usually the other way. Panthers are inconsistent and Jake Delhomme must play better. The Saints can't even beat a crippled Saint Louis team without Martz, Holt, Bulger, and Bruce. The Bucs are good with the Caddy, but average without.
-- Tom Backus , Dallas (3:37 p.m.)

The top three are the NFC East, AFC West, and NFC South. Carolina has played up and down this season, Tampa hasn't played any real competition, and Atlanta will be toast once teams start shutting the down their running game and make Michael Vick beat them with his arm. The NFC East has balanced teams on offense and defense and better coaches.
-- Jerome , El Paso, Texas (3:39 p.m.)

The NFC East is the most complete division in football, top down all have winning records. The NFC South benefits tremendously from having to play the Saints twice a year, which the Panthers, Falcons and Bucs should beat twice. The AFC East is probably the biggest disappointment. The Patriots, Jets and Bills all looked capable of winning the division, if not the conference before the season started. If you think the Charger's are in a rut, look at the Patriots, Jets and Bills. All of those injuries. It's too bad really.
-- Ben , Pleasantville, N.Y. (3:41 p.m.)

I agree the NFC South is the best regular season division. However, these teams have no chance in January. Vick is just as likely to lose a game for you as he is to win it and can't stop the run, Carolina is a run-first offense who can't run and Tampa Bay has Simms and Rattay to count on to lead them to glory ... UGH!!
-- Jay , Charlotte (3:44 p.m.)

Isn't it weird to see Gruden running the ball so much? Carolina is the scariest team in that division cause both the run and passing game can scare you. I don't trust Tampa's QB situation, and until Vick's half as dangerous with his arm as he is his legs, the Falcons will not go past the championship game. I'd rather the 'Skins play those than Philly, Dallas, and New York any day, so I'll take the NFC East.
-- Jim , Charlottesville, Va. (3:48 p.m.)

From top to bottom, the NFC East is the best and by a large margin. Most of the loses by the NFC East teams are by teams within the division and by quality opponents. The NFC East teams have played, by far, the most grueling schedules and are all above .500. You cannot say the same about the NFC South teams. Look at the opponents that they've been playing. So you need to look beyond just the records and look at the quality of the competition.
-- Mark B. , Gaithersburg, Md. (3:52 p.m.)

I am in awe of how you can not put the NFC East at No. 1. The 'Aints are in the NFC South and they beat the Panthers and should have at least gone into OT with the "Mighty Falcons." Wait until all the NFC West teams have to travel across the country to play in cold weather in front on much more loyal fans and we will see whon is the best division.
-- Todd , Richmond, Va. (3:56 p.m.)

The Bucs lost to Vinny and the Jets! NFC East is head of the class in the NFL. Do your homework.
-- Sean , Ridgefield Park, N.J. (4:01 p.m.)

To Chris from Denver: Come on Chris. I am a life-time Denver Bronco fan, but Denver didn't lose to the Giants because of "the refs." Denver lost because they fumbled the ball away when they had a chance to ice the game with a field goal in the last five minutes. Denver left the door open, and credit Eli Manning and the Giants for pushing their way through it. I love the AFC West and agree they are loaded with talent, but you can't argue with head to head competition; and the NFC East won that battle, at least last week. But the Eagles are coming to town, so there's a chance to right the ship.
-- Tom , Huntington Beach, Calif. (4:05 p.m.)

I'm getting real tired of hearing the argument, like Jerome stated, that a team hasn't played any "real teams or real competition" yet. This is the NATIONAL Football League, not high school. All of these guys are in the NFL for a reason and anything can happen on any given Sunday. A win is a win and that is what it all comes down to.
-- Drew , Charleston, S.C. (4:12 p.m.)

Hey Chris, any chance your from Denver? I dont see how you can say the AFC West is much better than any NFC division... The NFC East teams are 5-4 against the AFC West teams so far. I'd say the NFC East teams are doing more than "beating up on each other". NFC South has three good teams, but the NFC East has four.
-- Regan , Kerrville, Texas (4:15 p.m.)

I agree with the NFC south leading barely over the NFC North ... and to the one who claims the NFC South struggles in the playoffs ... two out of the last three NFC champions were from the South. Granted, the Bucs and Falcons aren't the best cold weather teams. But with the competition being so close in the North ... seems to me that other teams will be winning home field. And the "Big One" will also be played in a dome. Yes, the Panthers are playing inconsistant but, to me, that is what makes them more dangerous. When the offense heats up, like it normally does in the second half of the seasons. They will be the elite of the NFC.
-- Bruce Costner , Bessemer City, N.C. (4:27 p.m.)

I cannot believe that you are sating that the Falcons are a top team. They beat up on the Bills, Saints, Jets, and the Vikings. WOW I am impressed. The only real team that they have beaten was the Eagles. I would not consider Tampa dangerous yet and Carolina has shown that they are vulnerable as well. I would say that the NFC East is the toughest and the AFC West is second followed by the AFC north. The North features two of the best teams in the NFL this year, Cincy and Pittsburgh. Then I would rank the NFC South. The rest of your rankings I agree with.
-- Matt , Kingman, Ariz. (4:35 p.m.)

I totally agree with you! The NFC South has exactly what you look for in Super Bowl contenders, above average running games and great defense. The only team that doesn't have that in the division is the Saints. The NFC Champ will come from this division -- no doubt in my mind.
-- Matt , Spartanburg S.C. (4:45 p.m.)

Has anyone else noticed that NFC North has more .500 or better teams than AFC East? No doubt that is the worst division, just wanted to point out.
-- Tom , Minneapolis (4:51 p.m.)

Defense puts the NFC south over the top in my opinion. Tampa Bay's and Carolina's defenses have taken them to the Super Bowl in recent years and no NFC east team has come close. In the end, defense keeps you in games and wins championships. While the Bucs are unpredictable going forward with their quarter back situation, I would not doubt that Gruden can still produce a potent offense that will rival Atlanta and Carolina's as the year progresses.
-- Scott , Los Angeles (4:54 p.m.)

Chris from Denver -- so I guess you forgot about Denver's win over Washington where the infamous tuck rule helped them win by 2 points? Not to mention all the other bad calls? The Redskins lost two AWAY games to AFC West teams, one of which the refs screwed them, the other which they dominated but lost a few too many fumbles. Add that to your 'what if' list.
-- Paul , McLean, Va. (4:56 p.m.)

I don't want to open the age old can of worms about Division alignment, but, did you ever wonder why Dallas is in the NFC East When they should be in the NFC South and where Carolina should be in the NFC East?
-- Rodney , Fairborn, Ohio (5:01 p.m.)

I totally agree that the NFC South is the toughest division. While the Saints have had about ten years' worth of bad luck this season already and don't own an admirable record, they have the talent to beat any team in the league ... if only they'd stop turning the ball over and the officials would get glasses.
-- Chuck Tabb , High Point, N.C. (5:09 p.m.)

I agree with you mostly, except the AFC South below the north. The second place team in the south beat the top two in the north (including in Pittsburgh). The Titans are better than the Browns and possibly the Ravens. The Texans wouldn't be nearly as bad if they could figure out how to operate an o-line.
-- Richard , Des Moines, Iowa (5:21 p.m.)