Does your division hold all the appeal of a colonoscopy?
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 30, 2008
Your division says a lot about your team and, well, your worth as a human being.
O.K., that was unnecessary. Your worth as a human being is measured the old-fashioned way, by your income.
Still, there is a pretty vast chasm in the NFL fan experience, depending upon what division your team calls home.
At one end of the spectrum, you're locked in a death-grapple week after week in a desperate fight to reach the playoffs, while the whole nation tunes into the carnage.
At the other end of the spectrum, your team and its division rivals provide all the joy and entertainment value of watching your colonoscopy on TiVo. Your division could be sucked into a galactic black hole and lost to eternity, and the world would barely bat an eye.
So where does your division fall? With the halfway mark of the season here, we size up the NFL power structure from top to bottom.
No. 1 – NFC East
Overall record: 21-9 (.700)
Out-of-division record: 17-5 (.773)
Quality Record: 10-6 (.625)
Winning teams: 4
Inter-division battles: NFC West, AFC North
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: We dubbed the NFC East the Glamour Division back in August: four old-school, big-market NFL teams with, for the most part, fairly impressive alumni and histories of success. The division has not disappointed now that the bullets have started flying. It pretty much says it all here in 2008 when the Eagles are No. 1 in our Big Play Index, No. 3 in our Relativity Index, and No. 4 in the NFC East. The division will in all likelihood produce three of the NFC's six playoff teams, with the last-place team still posting a winning record. Curious fact: Two of the group's five out-of-division losses have come against a Rams team that's otherwise 0-5.
No. 2 –NFC South
Overall record: 19-12 (.613)
Out-of-division record: 14-7 (.667)
Quality Record: 10-9 (.526)
Wining teams: 3
Inter-division battles: NFC North, AFC West
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The NFC South was poised to grab the title of the NFL's top division last week – but then the Falcons lost to the NFC East's Eagles and the Bucs lost to the NFC East's Cowboys. The Saints, at 4-4, are the only team in the division without a winning record. But they might be crowned the group champ at the end of December. Overall, it's been a fairly impressive season for a division that boasts one of the league's best defenses (Tampa), perhaps the league's best rookie (Matt Ryan) and the league's premier QB (Drew Brees), who's on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season passing record. Expect more buzz around his quest, and the NFC South, as the season progresses.
No. 3 – AFC East
Overall record: 17-11 (.607)
Out-of-division record: 13-7 (.650)
Quality Record: 5-5 (.500)
Winning teams: 3
Inter-division battles: AFC West, NFC West
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The league's most boring group this decade – the Patriots have captured the division crown every year since 2001, except for 2002, when they lost out on a three-way tiebreaker. But this year it's pretty good race, with all four teams still in the hunt. New England's loss of Tom Brady to injury in Week 1 opened up the battle, yet the Patriots are still in a tie for first. The Bills, meanwhile, are one of the surprises of the league, the Dolphins have improved more than any team in football this year, and the Jets have the NFL's all-time and 2008 INT leader in Brett Favre.
No. 4 – AFC South
Overall record: 16-12 (.571)
Out-of-division record: 10-6 (.625)
Quality Record: 3-8 (.273)
Winning teams: 1
Inter-division battles: AFC North, NFC North
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The AFC South has fallen since 2007, when it built the best divisional record in history. The Titans remain the only undefeated team in the NFL, and must be considered the favorite to represent the AFC at its likely slaughter at the hands of the NFC champ in the Super Bowl. But nobody in the division other than the Titans has a winning record, as the Colts, Jaguars and Texans have all disappointed their fans after promising 2007 seasons. The Colts are getting healthier, however, and could find themselves in a familiar spot this year – playing in January.
No. 5 – AFC North
Overall record: 12-17 (.414)
Out-of-division record: 6-11 (.353)
Quality Record: 2-14 (.125)
Winning teams: 2
Inter-division battles: AFC South, NFC East
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The AFC North (and it's predecessor, the AFC Central) is consistently one of the weakest divisions in football, one dominated by Pittsburgh year after year. Plus, there should be a law that any division that claims the Bungles as a member should be relegated to bottom-of-the-barrel status. But fortunately for this Gridiron Breadbasket representative, teams like the Lions, Chiefs, Rams and 49ers keep other divisions in the running for worst-in-the-league status. If we remove Cincy from the equation, the AFC North is 9-9 overall and 6-6 in out-of-division play. But even the Steelers, the likely division winner, is 1-2 against Quality Teams and suffered a key loss at home last week to the NFC power Giants.
No. 6 – NFC North
Overall record: 11-17 (.393)
Out-of-division record: 6-12 (.333)
Quality Record: 2-13 (.133)
Winning teams: 2
Inter-division battles: NFC South, AFC South
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Ahh, the good ol' Black & Blow Division – once so mighty and powerful, now so weak and pathetic. It pretty much says it all when the division has produced just two Super Bowl champions since 1968 (1985 Bears, 1996 Packers); the Vikings proudly lost four Super Bowls from 1970 to 1977; and the Lions remain one of the only old-school NFL teams that's never even reached a Super Bowl. Fast forward to 2008: The NFC North is largely uncompetitive outside its own little corner of the Midwest (note the 6-12 out-of-division record), while Kyle Orton might be the best QB in the division. 'Nuf ced.
No. 7 – AFC West
Overall record: 10-19 (.345)
Out-of-division record: 5-14 (.263)
Quality Record: 5-12 (.294)
Winning teams: 1
Inter-division battles: AFC East, NFC South
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: No division screams old-school AFL like the AFC West. Of course, no AFC division screams "we suck gonads" like the AFC West, either. The Chiefs are an embarrassment to teams that "play to win the game" everywhere; the Raiders are in the midst of the worst period in franchise history; the Chargers continue to fail to live up to the hype; and the Broncos, the only team in the division with a winning record, have so many holes in their defense that small planets could pass through it.
No. 8 (with a suckage bullet) – NFC West
Overall record: 10-19 (.345)
Out-of-division record: 6-15 (.286)
Quality Record: 4-15 (.211)
Winning teams: 1
Inter-division battles: NFC East, AFC East
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: This was something of a foregone conclusion. The NFC West has easily been the worst division in the NFL since it took on its current format in 2002. With the exception of the Seahawks, the division has consistently produced the worst teams in football – and Seattle only seemed competitive because it had so many opportunities to beat up this weak, docile division as if it were a band geek.
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