If The NFL Were Realigned Geographically

July 21, 2011; Atlanta, GA, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at the press conference after the NFL owners

This is one of those topics that gets brought up from time to time among football fans – particularly in the offseason when there is less to discuss – as many of us are baffled by certain teams being in certain divisions. What business does Dallas have being in the East? Indianapolis is a southern city?

Well I thought I’d take a crack at realigning the divisions based solely on geography. In doing so I am ignoring all other factors including history, economics and rivalries with the only exception being that the AFC and NFC remain separate with no teams crossing that boundary. This is just for fun and to promote a bit of discussion.

AFC North - Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals

Big changes here with the Buffalo Bills finally escaping the East and the Indianapolis Colts coming in from the south. Buffalo is actually the northernmost AFC team whilst Indy is 7th on that list. I debated leaving Pittsburgh here and having Cincy move on but there was no other spot that really fit for the Bengals.

The dynamic of this division becomes very interesting. With Baltimore and Pittsburgh gone, there is a bit of a power vacuum in terms of who the top dog is. You could see the Bengals stepping up and dominating this division for a while but I could see the Bills being a serious contender here too thanks to their massive defense.

AFC South – Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans

With the departure of Indianapolis the obvious replacement was Miami. A southern division that included Indianapolis but didn’t include the southernmost team in the NFL is a little odd it has to be said. I debated sending Houston west which would have made sense except that there wasn’t another team to bring in that would have made sense with the closest being Kansas City – almost as bad as Indy.

With the way Indianapolis was transitioning, Houston was almost certain to be the big fish in this pond and now that is assured. Miami comes in as a fairly weak team but they’re actually built to do better against their division opponents here than they were in the East. What makes this most interesting now is the potential for a Florida rivalry between Miami and Jacksonville if the two teams can get better.

AFC West – Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs

No changes here although as I noted above Houston should really be here and if they were the Chiefs would be out. Were that to happen this division suddenly becomes a lot tougher as the Texans would instantly be the favorite in my opinion.

AFC East – New England Patriots, New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers

If you thought the AFC East was tough before then now it’s abominable. Four of the five easternmost teams are represented here – Buffalo is 4th – and when you consider it the fact that Baltimore isn’t in the East is remarkable. Had Pittsburgh remained in the North, this is likely where Cincinnati would have ended up.

In this division you now have three of the fiercest rivalries in football – Patriots vs Jets, Steelers vs Ravens and Patriots vs Steelers. You also have four teams that have routinely been in the playoff scene in recent years. If ever there was an argument for not realigning the divisions strictly by geography then this is it.

NFC North – Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, St Louis Rams

Strictly speaking this division should remain unchanged but St Louis were incredibly difficult to place as they didn’t fit well in any division. In the end Detroit moves out and St Louis moves in. As a random fact, the northernmost team in the NFC is missing from this division but that’s because it’s the Seattle Seahawks.

The dynamic of this division hasn’t changed a lot except to say that the old Detroit rivalries are gone. The inclusion of St Louis does bring down the competition level a bit in the short term as the Lions were coming along as opposed to the Rams who have a lot more rebuilding to do. One thing is certain – the playoff competition of the North is suddenly a lot clearer.

NFC South – New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers

There’s no change here although it came rather close. Both Dallas and Arizona are reasonably far south – being 3rd and 4th respectively on the southernmost list – and I came very close to putting Carolina in the East. In the end, moves elsewhere brought this division back unchanged.

NFC West – Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys

The strangest alignment in the NFL is rectified here with the Dallas Cowboys moving to the West. Let’s face it – a team in the middle of Texas has no business being in the East. St Louis was kinda boxed in here because they don’t fit anywhere else but obviously Dallas belongs here far more and the only reasons they are in the East are political and historical.

With Dallas now in the West, this division instantly becomes more competitive. The 49ers are clearly on the up and the Cowboys bring a certain legitimate competition to the scene. Both the Seahawks and Cardinals have the potential to compete but the Cowboys despite aging are a very good team. While the Cowboys can no longer play the Giants, Eagles and Redskins twice a year, the fans may actually see more consistent playoff appearances which I’m sure would quickly make up for this.

NFC East – Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Detroit Lions

With Dallas finally in the West, a new team for this division must be found. I considered having Carolina here but with St Louis going north I had to find a home for Detroit and the East is the only division that made sense with the Lions being the 4th easternmost team in the NFC.

This division is less about the inclusion of Detroit and more about the departure of Dallas. The Cowboys had active rivalries with all the other East teams and the absence of those leaves a gap. With that said, Detroit bring something to the division that has been missed – a true hard-nosed defense. the Giants have stepped up in that sense lately but Detroit is looking to take that to another level. This changed dynamic alongside the interesting personalities of people like Ndamakong Suh and Jim Schwartz makes the Lions an intriguing team to join the media driven NFC East.

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So what do you think? Which team moves do you like/dislike? Which new rivalries would you look forward to? As always you can tweet me @chrissmithsz or leave a comment below.

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Topics: Divisions, NFL, NFL Divisions, Realignment, Rivalries

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