Zwiller: Restructuring the NFL Divisions
Thomas Zwiller | Monday, April 19, 2021
I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of tired of hearing who the 49ers are picking third. So I thought it could be fun to talk about changing the NFL Divisions. Here’s what I came up with:
The AFC North gets to stay almost exactly as is. The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals is an excellent state of Ohio rivalry. The Pittsburgh Steelers stick around, too; they’re relatively close to the other teams. The team that had to go was the Baltimore Ravens; they don’t make sense as a north team. Instead, I’d like to swap them for the Lions. They are physically closer to the Bengals, Steelers and Browns than the Ravens, and of course, are farther north.
The AFC East doesn’t see much of a change either. I love the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets being in-state rivals, but I think the battle for New York can get that much better. I want to add the New York Giants in and swap out the Miami Dolphins. The New England Patriots get to stick around, so Jets fans won’t get a reprieve from Bill Belichick.
The AFC West is the weirdest looking division on a map. It has the San Francisco 49ers and then the Seattle Seahawks, which both make geographical sense. The division stops making sense when the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs are added in. The Chiefs are always going to be a weird addition, because well, they aren’t fit for the South or the North but are too central for the East or West. The Broncos also have a similar problem, so I think it makes sense to add them to the Seahawks and 49ers.
This is personally my favorite division. Having all three Florida teams play each other twice a year would be truly incredible. The Dolphins and Buccaneers are good right now, so those games would be a must-watch. Hopefully, the Jaguars will be good, and having Tua take on Lawrence would be a fun rivalry that could hopefully last for a decade. The last team would be the Falcons, which really could be in either South division.
The NFC North is an excellent division, and I almost kept it the same as it currently is, but the Colts need a home and so the Lions are out. The Colts are closer to the Bears than the Lions are, and it offers a closer rivalry.
The NFC East is going to change dramatically. The Eagles will stay put, as will the Washington Football Team, so that rivalry gets to stay. The Panthers get moved from the South over to the East because I’ve felt for a long time, they don’t make a whole lot of sense in the South when they could easily be in the East.
This division is the most fun for me. I loved the in-state Los Angeles rivalry, but those two teams aren’t all that good right now. The Rams will be dynamite this season, and I think the Chargers have so much potential and can be a sneaky good wildcard team. The battle for LA would indeed be two of the best games of the season. But don’t sleep on the Arizona Cardinals, nor the Las Vegas Raiders, who are two genuinely good teams.
This one will be, I think, the weirdest division as the only original team is going to be the New Orleans Saints. The Cowboys move here because they don’t make any sense at all as an East team. That, and they now get to play the Texans twice a season, which could be a great series. I had briefly considered putting the Falcons here, but it just didn’t make sense with the Tennessee Titans still being on the board. So, the Titans went to the NFC, and the Falcons went to the AFC.
After looking at the map that I had made, I asked myself: if this was how the NFL looked last season, who would’ve won the title? So, using NFLGameSim.com I simulated all the in-division games to see who would win each division. It resulted in a lot of 6-0, 4-2, 2-4, 0-6 records because I picked the team that won the majority of the simulations, not just one trial. In the playoffs, I seeded tiebreakers based on the teams’ in-season success, i.e. record and how far they went in the playoffs.
AFC West: Seattle was the favorite at 6-0 but their games with the 4-2 Chiefs were close ones. The 49ers are 2-4 and the Broncos went 0-6.
AFC North: The Steelers swept the division at 6-0 and the Browns went 4-2. The Lions went 2-4 and the Bengals went 0-6, which was the opposite of what I expected.
AFC East: The Bills went 6-0 (which they did in real life) and the Patriots were in second at 4-2. The Giants finished at third with a 2-4 record and the Jets finished at a predictable 0-6.
AFC South: The Buccaneers went 6-0, which was expected, but the Falcons going 4-2 was not. Nor was Jacksonville going 2-4 and the Dolphins going an odd 0-6.
NFC West: the Rams and Raiders split their series, both going 5-1, so I gave the Rams the tiebreaker based on real-life success. The Chargers went 2-4 and the Cardinals rounded out the bottom at 0-6.
NFC North: The Packers won the division at 6-0, but the Vikings went a surprising 4-2. I had thought the Bears would go 4-2, but they went 0-6, with the Colts going 2-4.
NFC East: The Ravens went 6-0, no surprise there. The surprise was the Panthers going 4-2 and the WFT going 2-4. The Eagles going 0-6 wasn’t all that surprising.
NFC South: The Saints swept the division at 6-0, with the Titans going 4-2, the Cowboys going 2-4, with the Texans going 0-6.
The playoffs were incredibly surprising in the NFC. The Rams beat the Vikings in round 1, the Saints beat the Titans and the Ravens beat the Raiders. The Packers (who had the bye) lost to the Ravens and the Saints upset the Rams. The Saints played the Ravens for the NFC title, which the Ravens won!
The Buccaneers ended their run in the first round, the Bills were second, the Seahawks third and the Steelers fourth. The wildcard teams were the Chiefs, the Browns and the Patriots. The Bills beat the Patriots, the Seahawks beat the Browns and the Chiefs upset the Steelers. In the next round, the Chiefs beat Tampa and Seattle beat the Bills. Seattle advanced to the Superbowl by defeating the Chiefs.
The Seahawks and Ravens played in the Superbowl, with the Ravens taking the crown!
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.