Ranking the Divisions
At the beginning of the season, the AFC West was considered the top division in the league. On that same page, divisions like the NFC East were considered one of the worst. Many things have changed since then. I’m going to rank the divisions from worst to best, give the best team, the worst team, and give the division outlook for the playoffs.
My rankings are going to be based on the combined win percentage of each of a team’s out of the division games. There was one tie, in which I’ll break based on the strength of schedule outside of the division. The records are through week 13 and do not include week 14’s Thursday Night Football game.
The worst division in football is the AFC south. This division is terrible and features the worst team in football, the Texans. The best team in the division is pretty mediocre compared to other division leaders in the NFL. The division’s win percentage outside of the division is .289 with an overall record of 10-25.
The playoff outlook isn’t great either. Only the Titans are going to get in the playoffs, and they have very little expectation for success while there. Since the Chiefs have the tiebreaker, it’s doubtful they will compete for the 1st seed.
The 7th best or 2nd worst (depending on how you see it) division is the NFC South. The Buccaneers are the “best” team in the division, but only by default. You know a division is terrible if the division leader is 6-6 and the last-place team is only 2 games behind. The worst team is the Panthers. While the Saints have 1 more loss, overall they are a more talented team. The playoff lookout doesn’t look good. Tom Brady’s experience may help them in the playoffs, but I’m not sure if he can even lead them to the promise land.
The NFC West is a pretty bad division, despite having the defending champions. The best team is without question the 49ers. Their defense is really good. However, what may hurt them coming into January is relying on a former Mr. Irrelevant in Brock Purdy. The worst team is the Arizona Cardinals, who despite having some great players, have failed to get things going. This team came into the season with high hopes have struggled to get going this season. Their -57 net points is the 6th worst in the NFL, on top of allowing the 3rd most points in the NFL.
The Rams can be put in the discussion for the worst team as well. However, they have had many superstars get injured and still have a solid defense. The 49ers should win the division. Purdy might get them to the divisional round, but it will be interesting to see how he plays down the stretch. Jimmy Garoppolo is able to make a return if Purdy can get the job down the stretch. The Seahawks will likely sneak in as a wildcard team.
The NFC North has been dominated by the Vikings. I personally expected the Packers to win the division. The Vikings have been great. However, outside of the Vikings being the best team, the division isn’t very good, which is why I have it ranked as the 5th best/4th worst. The division’s win percentage outside of the division is 16-20 for a .444 win percentage. The worst team in the division is clearly the Bears. They, along with the Texans, were the first team mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The Lions and Packers both have outside shots to snag a wildcard, but crazier things have happened. However, as of now, the Vikings seem to be the only team capable of making a serious playoff push.
Next is the tie I mentioned. The AFC West and AFC North have the same record outside of the division. I’m giving the edge to the North because they have played the AFC East, while the AFC West played the AFC South.
The AFC West has an overall record outside of the division of 15-12 for a .556 win percentage. The Chiefs are clearly the best team as they have a really good chance of clinching the division with 4 games left in the season. The Chiefs may run away with a division some didn’t give them a chance to win this year. The worst team in the AFC West is without a doubt the Broncos. They have a good defense, but their offense has struggled all season. It may be the scheme, it may be Russell Wilson has lost it, or it could be both.
The Chiefs and Chargers should both get into the playoffs, however, I expect only the Chiefs do well. The Chiefs have a solid shot of winning the Lombardi Trophy in Glendale, Arizona come February, but the Chargers will likely be one-and-done if they make the playoffs.
The AFC North is the 3rd best division in the NFL, due primarily to its top 2 teams. The division’s win percentage outside of the division is .556 with a record of 20-16. The worst team in the division is clearly the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is probably the worst Steelers team since 2003 when they went 6-10.
The best team is a little more challenging. The Bengals and Ravens have the same record. The Ravens beat the Bengals earlier this year. However, because the Bengals have the 5th-ranked offense to the Ravens’ 14th and the 12th-ranked defense to the Ravens’ 13th. Having played a tougher schedule, I’m giving the Bengals the nod here. The playoff outlook looks decent for both teams. The Bengals and Ravens both will likely make the playoffs. In the end, I think the Bengals win the division and the Ravens get in as a wildcard. While both teams are contenders, I believe the Bengals have the best shot at a Super Bowl run.
The next division has been more competitive than expected. The AFC East is the 2nd best division. The division’s record is 23-11 for a .676. The best team overall is the Bills, who have been considered a Super Bowl contender for nearly the entire season. The “worst” team in my opinion is the Jets. They started out strong but seem to be struggling as the season progresses.
The Bills and Dolphins both should make the playoffs, with both teams being considerable contenders. Both the Patriots and Jets still also have a shot to snag a wildcard spot.
I see the Bills being the most competitive contender coming out of the division. The Dolphins have been good, with the addition of Tyreek Hill. However, he is the only player on that offense with any sort of playoff experience, thanks to his time in Kansas City. Ultimately, I think Miami’s inexperience will play a huge factor down the stretch.
The best division in football has been the one that has also historically been the best too (a combined 13 Super Bowls), the NFC East. This division has been dominant in games outside of the division with an astounding 28-7 record in games played outside of the division for a .800 win percentage. This year could go down as one of the best single performances from a division as a whole in NFL history.
The division has two coach of the year candidates in Brian Daboll and Nick Siriani. They also have an MVP candidate in Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. The best team overall is debatable, but I believe it is the Eagles. They have the best record and football and have been great on both sides of the ball. One could argue that the Cowboys are the best. However, it is important to roll with the hot hand. The worst team is the Commanders. However, Taylor Heinicke has only lost one game since becoming the starter in week 6.
This division has a legitimate shot at getting all 4 teams in the playoffs, but in the end, I think 3 get in with the Commanders falling short. The Giants I do not expect to do anything in the playoffs, despite having a great season. The Cowboys and Eagles though, both have a shot to win the conference. I wouldn’t rule out an all-NFC East Conference Championship either.
There have been some expected good teams this year which made ranking the divisions more difficult, but it’s going to make for an entertaining last 4 weeks of the season. We will see how these rankings unfold as the playoffs draw closer and closer.