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8/24/2006 01:47:00 PM

Debating the best division

DeMarcus Ware
Second-year linebacker DeMarcus Ware leads a talented Cowboys defense .
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

SILVER: NFC East is a beast

The NFC East and the AFC West tied for the best winning percentage last season, with the AFC North trailing closely behind. Expect a shift in the balance of power this year, primarily because of free-agent movement, players getting healthy and certain teams getting older.

Let's rank all eight, from strongest to weakest:

1. NFC East: This division hasn't won a Super Bowl since 1995, but all four teams have legitimate postseason hopes. The Skins and the Giants made the playoffs last year, and both improved during the offseason. The T.O. media hype is distracting folks from the Cowboys' real strength, its young, talented defense. And the Eagles have quietly improved their offensive and defensive lines.

2. NFC South: The Panthers have the best coach in the conference in John Fox, the Bucs have the best defensive coordinator in Monte Kiffin, and the Falcons are loaded with high-priced talent -- especially on D. The Saints keep this division from being No. 1.

3. AFC North: If Carson Palmer's health wasn't a concern, this division might be No. 1. The Ravens join Cincy and Pittsburgh as postseason contenders, and the Browns will approach .500.

4. AFC West: This division saw big changes in the offseason and could take a step back. Denver looks like the elite team, with the Chiefs and the Chargers possibly in the wild-card hunt.

5. AFC South: The Colts and the Jags will once again have great regular-season records because they'll beat up on divisional cupcakes, but just like last year, they won't be postseason factors.

6. AFC East: Forget all the buzz about the Dolphins supplanting the Pats. New England is back and strong enough to make this division formidable, but the Jets and the Bills drag it down.

7. NFC North: The Bears' defense could be the highest-scoring unit in this woeful division.

8. NFC West: The Seahawks will be the first Super Bowl loser in years to return to the playoffs, because the other three teams in the division are a mess.

How would you rank them?

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