During the live blog of Monday night's AFC South showdown, the subject of the best division in football came up. Arguments were made for three divisions: the AFC East, the AFC South and the AFC North. Everyone else was pretty much ignored.
That seemed reasonable enough to me. It all depends on how you judge it. If you like a division with the best teams at the top, you might point to the Steelers and Ravens in the AFC North. If you like the division with the most good teams, you might point at the AFC East, with the Pats, Jets and Dolphins. If you want depth throughout and no truly bad teams, the AFC South is probably your bag.
If you add up the net points, though -- the total number of points scored by teams in a division minus the number of points they've given up -- none of those divisions crack the top two.
Your best divisions by that measure? The AFC West and, somehow, the NFC North.
It's not a perfect stat, of course. It fails to take into account strength of schedule, and it might punish too harshly the divisions with one spectacularly bad team (for example, the AFC East checks in at +84, until you factor in the Bills). But it also draws the conclusions that the NFC West smells funny, and that four of the five best divisions in football are in the AFC. So it can't be all bad.
The most confounding thing to me is that the NFC North fared so well. I think most would agree that the Bears and Lions aren't very good, yet they both still measure on the plus side of the ledger. We can chalk that up to the Bears' early season success mirage, and Detroit's 44-6 mauling of the Rams.
The AFC West has three teams well on the plus side: The Chiefs at +41, the Raiders at +44 and the Chargers at +36. Denver cripples everyone with their -69, but the biggest factor here is the Raiders, who have been +75 over the past two weeks. Impressive, unquestionably, and I'm starting to adjust to the notion that the Raiders are a decent team, but still, I don't think we can expect the Raiders to keep mudstomping teams, week-in, week-out.
My choice, though, is still the AFC East. I think you've got three teams there who can play with anyone in the league. Yeah, Buffalo drags them down, but I don't think any other division can boast three teams that strong. Even the Bills have been better recently. They've yet to win, but booting Trent Edwards(notes) in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) has at least made them competitive. The Ravens and Chiefs can testify to that.
I'd also consider arguments for the AFC North, if you favor a top-heavy division. Some argued Monday night that the Steelers and Ravens are the two best teams in football, and while I probably don't agree, I can't definitively say that it's not true, either. At the bottom of the division, neither the Bengals nor Browns are close to .500, but neither of them are complete walkovers, either.
I won't consider the AFC South. It's true, it doesn't have anyone worse than .500, but I just don't look at the Texans or Jaguars as really good teams. I don't believe they are. I know what the standings say, but in a game where either of those teams play a truly good team, like the Steelers, Colts or Patriots, I know where I'd put my money.
The AFC East is my choice. Yours?
- AFC East
- AFC South
- AFC North