Ranking the toughest NFL divisions

The NFL officially returns on Thursday, and Shutdown Corner is rolling out the red carpet, previewing everything to come for the 2013 season.


The NFC West's rise from weakest division in football to strongest gives any division hope that it can turn it around quickly. It wasn't hard for you to guess the NFC West, with the top two teams in football, is the best division in the NFL, but where do the other seven rank?
— Frank Schwab



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08JDENVER, CO - JANUARY 12: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos looks through smoke as he waits in the tunnel during player introductions against the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 12: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos looks through smoke as he waits in the tunnel during player introductions against the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

07JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 08: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts rushes for a touchdown during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 8, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 08: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts rushes for a touchdown during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 8, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

06EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 24: Kellen Winslow #81 of the New York Jets leaps over Terrell Thomas #24 of the New York Giants during their pre season game at MetLife Stadium on August 24, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 24: Kellen Winslow #81 of the New York Jets leaps over Terrell Thomas #24 of the New York Giants during their pre season game at MetLife Stadium on August 24, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

05LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 24: Quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins warms up before playing the Buffalo Bills during a preseason game at FedExField on August 24, 2013 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 24: Quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins warms up before playing the Buffalo Bills during a preseason game at FedExField on August 24, 2013 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

04 From one through four this might be the most interesting division. Carolina was a lot better than last year’s record, Tampa Bay was in the playoff hunt for a while, New Orleans has its coach back and Atlanta almost went to a Super Bowl.

From one through four this might be the most interesting division. Carolina was a lot better than last year’s record, Tampa Bay was in the playoff hunt for a while, New Orleans has its coach back and Atlanta almost went to a Super Bowl.

03WBaltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta is taken down by Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Ryan Clark (25), and Curtis Brown (31) after picking a first down reception during the second half of their game in Baltimore, Maryland, on Sunday, December 2, 2012. The Steelers pull out a 23-20 win over Baltimore. (Doug Kapustin/MCT via Getty Images)

WBaltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta is taken down by Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Ryan Clark (25), and Curtis Brown (31) after picking a first down reception during the second half of their game in Baltimore, Maryland, on Sunday, December 2, 2012. The Steelers pull out a 23-20 win over Baltimore. (Doug Kapustin/MCT via Getty Images)

02CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 16: Lance Briggs #55 of the Chicago Bears pressures Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers on December 16, 2012 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears 21-13. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 16: Lance Briggs #55 of the Chicago Bears pressures Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers on December 16, 2012 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears 21-13. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

01SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 23: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks looks over the defense at the line of scrimmage during the game against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on December 23, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 23: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks looks over the defense at the line of scrimmage during the game against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on December 23, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)