NFL Division Rankings III

The NFL has finally returned, and with week 1 in the books, it’s time to once again see how the divisions stack up to one another. Before we get to that, here’s the complete history of how the divisions have ranked since realignment:

AFC West…#2 24-16…t4 19-21…#3 22-18…t1 24-16…#1 89-71…(56%)
AFC East…#3 23-17…#1 24-16…#1 25-15…t7 16-24…#2 88-72…(55%)
NFC South…#1 25-14-1…t4 19-21…t5 19-21…#4 21-19…#3 84-75-1 (52.8%)
NFC East…#4 22-18…t4 19-21…t5 19-21…t1 24-16…#4 84-76…(52.5%)
AFC South…#5 19-21…#2 22-18…#4 21-19…#5 20-20…#5 82-78…(51%)
AFC North…#7 16-23-1…#8 17-23…#2 24-16…#3 22-18…#6 79-80-1 (50%)
NFC West…#6 17-23…#3 21-19…#8 13-27…t7 16-24…#7 67-93…(42%)
NFC North…#8 13-27…t4 19-21…#7 17-23…#6 17-23…#8 66-94…(41%)

AFC…#1 34-29-1…#1 34-30…#1 44-20…#1 34-30…#1 146-109-1 (57%)
NFC…#2 29-34-1…#2 30-34…#2 20-44…#2 30-34…#2 109-146-1 (43%)

2006 begins with bizarro week, with the best and worst divisions from last year flip flopping. It will be interesting to see how long that lasts.

NFL Division Rankings through Week 1

#1 NFC West 2-0 (100%)
Dead last since realignment, the West looks to start fresh in 2006, with an impressive undefeated week right out of the gate. Unfortunately, neither the Seahawks nor the Rams managed to get into the endzone, winning their games with a combined nine field goals. As ugly as that sounds, the West can be thankful that the NFL isn’t the NCAA; a win is a win. It doesn’t get any better than perfect, so for now last year’s co-worst division sits alone on top of the heap.

#2 AFC North 3-1 (75%)
The Steelers look good no matter how you slice it, with apologies to Big Ben for using the word “slice.” That’s not the news coming out of the North; the story here is that the Ravens have a bonafide offense with Steve McNair at the helm, and their defense hung an impressive goose-egg on the reeling Bucs. In other news, Carson Palmer showed no lingering injury affects as he led the Bengals to a nice win at Arrowhead. Only the Browns lost, but at least they were competitive against the Saints. 3-1 is a great showing in any week, and it gives the North a stranglehold on the #2 spot.

#3 NFC South 1-1 (50%)
Not sure what to think about this division. The two playoff teams from last year got spanked to the tune of a combined 47-6, including the division winner getting shut out. The Panthers have a habit of losing on opening day to lesser teams, but still. The drubbing that the Bucs endured was offset by the feel-good story of the Saints pulling out a win in Sean Payton’s debut, so the South gets off to a rocky .500 start, which is good enough to tie with three other teams for the #3 spot.

#3 AFC East 1-1 (50%)
Eric Mangini got his first win as a head coach in his first game, which is always a nice way to start. The Magic 8-ball says he shouldn’t get used to it, even though The Chad and his squirtgun arm turned in the best performance of any QB this week. Back on Thursday, the Dolphins weren’t up to the task of beating the World Champs, even without their snake-bit signal-caller in the lineup. Dead even is a strong showing here in week one, so the East finds itself tied for the #3 spot.

#3 AFC South 2-2 (50%)
The South posted a nice 2-1 record against the NFC East this week, but the Titans are in the midst of a multi-year rebuilding effort and it showed against the equally-rebuilding Jets. With the Colts’ conspicuous lack of a running game, look for the Jaguars to carry this division. Dead even is good enough for a piece of the #3 spot.

#3 NFC North 1-1 (50%)
The Vikings held tough against the Redskins, who would have forced overtime if not for the last minute shank by former Jetskin John Hall. And up in dome country, Mike Martz’ genius apparently takes some time to manifest, as the Lions showed no offense whatsoever against the Seahawks. Luckily, dead even is a respectable enough showing to land the North in four-way tie for the #3 spot.

#7 NFC East 1-3 (25%)
Oh how the worm has turned. After tieing for best division in football last year, the East drops all the way down to seventh place. On the bright side, all three losses were competitive. Eli posted better numbers than big brother, the Cowboys had the Jags in hand until Bledsoe had one of his patented meltdowns, and Brunell and Co. took the Vikings down to the wire. The bad news is that the East can’t find a kicker, with Jay Feely, John Hall and Mike Vanderjagt’s understudy all missing important kicks. Meanwhile, claiming a mulligan for 2005, the Eagles sit alone atop the division after beating up on the Texans. One win is better than no wins, so the East avoids the cellar by the slimmest of margins.

#8 AFC West 0-2 (0%)
Herm Edwards can’t get away from serious QB injuries no matter where he goes. Trent Green’s loss of consciousness after his head slammed into the turf looks to keep him out for several weeks, but they are confident enough in his return not to look for a free agent named Volek. They may not be aware that their backup is Damon Huard… Meanwhile, the Broncos continue their recent trend of losing to lesser teams on opening day, and Plummer’s three picks already has the fanbase agitating for Jay Cutler. The first win is the hardest, and it’ll take until at least week 2 for the West to get theirs. From first to worst is apparently a very short trip, as last year’s co-best division sits alone at dead last.

Conference Ranking through Week 1

#1 AFC 3-3 (50%)
#1 NFC 3-3 (50%)

A whole lot of action, signifying nothing. Well, actually just the fact that the NFC is even is notable, since the NFC has yet to stay even with the AFC since realignment. A cynical person would blame the Seahawks for this, but they did their part this week. We’ll see how long this parity lasts.

The rank is determined by games won against non-division teams, right?

Yep. There’s no difference between these rankings and just adding up the total wins and losses. I prefer this method because it highlights the differences. Since every divisional game adds exactly one win and one loss to the totals, they only serve to drag the numbers closer to 50%.

As a quick example, last year’s best and worst divisions by my rankings were 24-16 (60%) and 16-24 (40%), which is a spread of 20 percentage points. Adding in divisional games “dilutes” those same records to 36-28 (56%) and 28-36 (44%), which is a spread of only 12%.

For the record, I incorrectly labeled the NFC West as dead last since realignment. That distinction goes to the horrid NFC Norris division. The West is second to worst, one whole game better than the North.

This was rivalry week in the NFL, with most of the games being divisional affairs. Even worse, every division that saw action split, so not much happened of note. The rankings will therefore be brief.

NFL Division Rankings through Week 2

#1 NFC West 2-0 (100%) 0-0 this week
No action, no change.

#2 AFC North 4-2 (67%) 1-1 this week
It’s too early to jump off the Steeler bandwagon, even though they failed to score a single point. Credit that to the Jaguars, who have a monster defense. Ben’s coming off surgery anyway, so let’s give them a mulligan. The Ravens continue to roll, but it’s hardly impressive to beat up on the Raiders. Splitting their games has no real effect on the North other than to pull them closer to .500.

#3 NFC South 2-2 (50%) 1-1 this week
The crazy just gets crazier in the South. New Orleans holds on to beat the Packers, bringing their undefeated record into next week for their emotional home opener. The Panthers just can’t seem to catch a break, which is unfortunately a recurring theme for them in the early weeks of recent seasons. Splitting maintains the status quo for the South.

#3 AFC East 1-1 (50%) 0-0 this week
No action, no change.

#3 AFC South 3-3 (50%) 1-1 this week
No other division has as much contrast as the South. The two good teams are very very good, as the Jags showed again by shutting out the Steelers. It is interesting that the two good teams are polar opposites, with one great offensive team and one great defensive team. The two bad teams, however, are ridiculously bad, and in much the same way. All their problems can pretty much be attributed to the GMs, with both making one boneheaded personnel decision after another. The Titans never had a prayer against the Chargers, but going 1-1 holds the South in place.

#3 NFC North 2-2 (50%) 1-1 this week
The Vikings hold on for another close win, this time over the Panthers. The Packers showed sparks of life, but in the end couldn’t overcome the Saints. Going even is good enough to keep the North out of the cellar.

#7 NFC East 1-3 (25%) 0-0 this week
No action, but that left the door open for the West to creep into a tie for dead last.

#7 AFC West 1-3 (25%) 1-1 this week
Rivers and the Chargers got to feast on scrubs to start his pro career proper, easily besting the Titans. But their pushover opponent last week, the Raiders, managed to get even worse despite protestations that such a feat was impossible. Getting creamed by the Ravens made the division a split this week, which was good enough to move up from dead last to a tie for last. Always look for the silver lining.

Conference Ranking through Week 2

#1 AFC 3-3 (50%) 0-0 this week
#1 NFC 3-3 (50%) 0-0 this week

No action, no change.

NFL Division Rankings through Week 3

#1 NFC West 3-1 (75%) 1-1 this week
The Seahawks used and abused the Giants, but seem to have cost themselves the league MVP in the process. Why, exactly, was Alexander still on the field when they were up 35-0? Oh yeah, to fulfill the Madden curse, of course. The 49ers suffered their own injury issue losing Vernon Davis for several weeks during a loss to the Eagles. That marks the first time this season the West has dropped a game, but they still hold on to the top spot fairly easily.

#2 AFC North 4-2 (67%) 0-0 this week
No action, no change.

#3 NFC South 2-2 (50%) 0-0 this week
No action, no change.

#3 AFC East 2-2 (50%) 1-1 this week
Tom Brady and the Patriots just seem lost against the Broncos. History will likely grant Peyton Manning a pass for his inability against the Patriots, since it seems nobody is immune to having another team get in your head. Offsetting that loss, the Dolphins managed to hang on and beat the Titans. The fact that they barely won combined with the fact that the Titans are horrendous does not bode well for Culpepper and the 'Phins this year. Splitting their games keeps the East in the pack at .500.

#3 NFC North 2-2 (50%) 0-0 this week
No action, no change.

#6 NFC East 3-4 (43%) 2-1 this week
How long a trip is it from first to worst? If you ask the Giants, they’ll tell it’s 3000 miles, as the Seahawks beat them like a rented mule in Seattle. Shockey shot off his mouth to the press right after the game, calling out the players and coaches. As pundits frothed in outrage, most neglected to hear his actual point, which was spot on. And the ones denigrating his on-field accomplishments showed their ignorant bias, as he truly is one of the best there ever was. In other news, the Eagles beat up on the fiesty 49ers. The real story out of the East this week is that Mark Brunell completed 22 straight passes. The fact that they covered a combined 66 yards in the air is something only a bitter Giants fan would point out. The winning record vaults the East out of a tie for dead last all the way up to #6.

#7 AFC West 2-3 (40%) 1-0 this week
The Broncos continue to roll over the Patriots. Only one game, but wining it jumps the West out of a tie for dead last into sole possession of the #7 spot this week.

#8 AFC South 3-5 (38%) 0-2 this week
The big boys battled each other, leaving the two scrubs to play the rest of the league. As expected, they did not fare well, with the Titans losing to a struggling Dolphins team and the Texans getting smacked around by the Eagles. The winless week drops the South from the lofty tie at #3 to dead last in the league. It takes more than two good teams to make a good division, as the South is finding out.

Conference Ranking through Week 3

#1 NFC 4-3 (57%) 1-0 this week
#2 AFC 3-4 (43%) 0-1 this week

Not much action, but the NFC pulls ahead by the slimmest of margins.

This week saw a lot of action, with no divisions having a bye. One of the preseason favorites finally made a move, despite pundits having written them off since week 1. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly people change their tune…again.

NFL Division Rankings through Week 4

#1 AFC North 6-3 (67%) 2-1 this week
Air McNair is long past his co-MVP days, but he still has plenty of game left, leading the surprise hit Ravens to a win over the hyped up Chargers in Baltimore. The Browns also got on the board by beating everybody’s punching bag in Oakland. The big surprise here is that the Bengals were simply outclassed by the receiver-less Patriots. The league’s winningest division since realignment maintains its stellar average this week, jumping up from the #2 spot last week to take sole possession of first place.

#2 NFC East 6-4 (60%) 3-0 this week
The East made its move this week, in no small part because the Giants had a bye. The Cowboys and Eagles used and abused the woefully overmatched Titans and Packers, while the Redskins earned a quality overtime win over a tough Jacksonville team. Going undefeated springs last year’s co-best division all the way up from #6 to a two-way tie for the #2 spot.

#2 NFC South 3-2 (60%) 1-0 this week
The Falcons got an easy win over a Cardinals team in disarray. On the strength of that showing, the South crept up from a tie at #3 last week to a tie for #2 this week.

#4 NFC West 4-4 (50%) 1-3 this week
The Seahawks must have left all their emotion on the field against the Giants last week, because they had nothing for the Bears. Meanwhile, the 49ers and Cards both got embarassed on the road in Kansas City and Atlanta respectively. The combined score for these three losses was a shocking 110-16. Ouch! At least the Rams managed to hold on and win a shootout against the Lions, saving the division the indignity of falling below .500 after leading the league last week. The slide was still significant, though, dropping them down to a tie at #4.

#4 AFC East 4-4 (50%) 2-2 this week
The Patriots seem to play best when nobody gives them any respect. As six point underdogs in Cincinnatti, they blew the doors off the Bengals, winning by well over three touchdowns. The Billies eeked out a hard-fought win over Minnesota, while the Jets lost a heartbreaker in the final minute to Peyton Manning. The Dolphins loss to the Texans was, sadly, not very surprising, which is all that needs to be said about their season so far. Maintaining their even record has the East dropping a spot from a tie at #3 to a tie at #4, which is a more natural ranking for a .500 division.

#6 AFC South 5-7 (42%) 2-2 this week
The Colts got a scare against the Jets, but in the end Peyton Manning is simply too good to lose to a lesser team. Indy is now 2-0 at East Rutherford, meaning they have more wins in Jersey than both the Jets and Giants combined. The Jags lost a close one in overtime in Washington thanks to some great after-the-catch moves by Santana Moss. Against the crumbling Dolphins, the Texans pulled out their first win. Especially encouraging is that the top pick in the draft Mario Williams made a clutch sack late in the game to get them that win. Last and decidedly least, the Vince Young era got off to a rocky start with the Cowboys coming to town to deliver a drubbing. Splitting their games was just what the doctor ordered, moving the South up two spots from dead last to #6.

#7 NFC North 3-5 (38%) 1-3 this week
The Bears asserted their claim as the best team in the conference by crushing the Seahawks this week. An argument can be made that they are the best team in the entire league right now. Conversely, the Packers are every bit as bad as the Bears are good, getting stomped on by the Eagles in the Monday Nighter. The rest of the division lost close games to middling teams, dropping the North down from the .500 tie at #3 last week all the way down to a tie for dead last.

#7 AFC West 3-5 (38%) 1-2 this week
The Chiefs are still missing Trent Green, but that didn’t stop them from rolling up 41 points while shutting out the injury-plagued 49ers. The rest of the division played the AFC North, the league’s best division. Unsurprisingly they went 0-2, with the Chargers and Raiders losing close games to the Ravens and Browns respectively. This losing week keeps the West in the cellar for another week. Last year’s co-best division just can’t seem to pull it together.

Conference Ranking through Week 4

#1 NFC 6-5 (55%) 2-2 this week
#2 AFC 5-6 (45%) 2-2 this week

The NFC manages to hold on to their meager lead, splitting the four games against the AFC.

The divisions are starting to gravitate closer to how they were predicted to do before the season started. Unfortunately, I missed the ESPN highlights for this week, and HBO’s new format for Inside the NFL makes their highlights all but worthless for my purposes.

NFL Division Rankings through Week 5

#1 NFC South 4-2 (67%) 1-0 this week
The Panthers were the only club in action, and with Steve Smith in the lineup, they won the game they were supposed to win against the Browns. With the AFC North falling off a cliff this week, that left the door open for the South to take over the top spot, up from a tie at #2 last week.

#2 NFC East 6-4 (60%) 0-0 this week
No action, minimal change. Instead of being tied for #2, the East now has sole possession of second place.

#3 NFC West 6-5 (55%) 2-1 this week
The West is up and down so far this season, but have stayed in the top half of the league in every week so far. That’s impressive for a division that was tied for last in 2005.

#4 AFC North 6-6 (50%) 0-3 this week
Going 0-3 this week plummets the North down from best division in the league to middling .500 division tied for #4. With the Bengals on a bye, the rest of the division spent week 5 highlighting their quarterback issues. Roethlisberger is looking more and more like a game-managing system passer, and McNair is starting to look over the hill. Strange that the Browns’ Charlie Frye is looking better than either of them.

#4 AFC West 6-6 (50%) 3-1 this week
Making the most of their prime time spotlights, the West beat two teams from last week’s best division, with the Chargers and Broncos holding serve at home against the Steelers and Ravens respectively. The Chiefs and Raiders split their road games against the NFC South. The West dragged itself out of last place and started living up to its potential, moving up from a tie for last to the middle of the road tie at #4.

#6 AFC South 6-7 (46%) 1-0 this week
The Jaguars carved up the Jets, never letting up for a moment. That dominating performance helped the South creep back up toward .500, but for now they remain at #6.

#7 AFC East 4-6 (40%) 0-2 this week
It is difficult to convey just how badly the East got beat up this week. The Jets and Bills got outscored 81-7 against the Jaguars and Bears respectively, and really, the games weren’t even that close. This dismal showing dropped the East from a tie at #4 last week to a tie for last place this week, which is also how they finished last season. The East needs to regroup in a hurry.

#7 NFC North 4-6 (40%) 1-1 this week
The Bears continue their dominance rolling over the Billies with ease, while the Packers came close but ultimately fell short against the Rams. Splitting the two games helped their percentage slightly, but the North remains in a two-way tie for last.

Conference Ranking through Week 5

#1 NFC 9-6 (60%) 3-1 this week
#2 AFC 6-9 (40%) 1-3 this week

The NFC not only has a nice winning percentage over the AFC, but also boasts the top three divisions, and potentially the best team in the league with the Bears. Things are looking up for the Nationals.

NFL Division Rankings through Week 6

#1 NFC South 7-3 (70%) 3-1 this week
Steve Smith makes a case for MVP, leading the Panthers to their fourth straight win. That makes them undefeated with him, and winless without, which is probably the most clear-cut definition of “valuable” there is. The Bucs capitalized on a questionable roughing the passer call against the Bengals to keep their game winning drive alive, and the Saints held onto the ball for the final eight minutes to kick the game winning field goal over the Eagles. All three of them were underdogs, (two at home,) and all three came up with big wins. Only the Falcons lost to the Giants; once they fell behind, their inability to pass the ball (7 sacks!) sealed their fate. The solid 3-1 showing further solidified the South’s hold on the top spot this week.

#2 NFC East 8-6 (57%) 2-2 this week
The Giants once again started off sluggish, and even fell behind 14-3 to start the second half, but Tiki Barber ensured the win by handing out first downs like candy. The Cowboys also started out slow against the rival Texans, but Owens kicked it into high gear during a second half beat-down. On the flipside, the Eagles couldn’t get the Saints off the field when it counted, and the Redskins inexplicably lost an embarassing game to the formerly winless Titans. Splitting their games was more than enough to maintain second place, though, as the East is one of only two divisions above .500.

#3 AFC West 7-7 (50%) 1-1 this week
The West saw two blowouts this week, with the Chargers pummeling the lowly 49ers and the Chiefs getting used and abused by the resurgent Steelers. Splitting their games keeps the West even, but that’s enough to move them up a spot from the tie at #4 to a tie at #3.

#3 NFC North 6-6 (50%) 2-0 this week
The Bears turned the ball over to the Cardinals six times in a game they should have lost, but even with a floundering offense they found a way to win the game with defense and special teams. Good teams find a way to win even when they play poorly, and that’s exactly what the Bears did. The Lions got on the board, getting their first win over a suspect Bills team. The undefeated week gets the North out of the red, vaulting them all the way up from a tie for last place to a tie for the #3 spot.

#5 AFC North 7-8 (47%) 1-2 this week
The Steelers returned to their style of play, asking Ben to throw fewer than 20 times. That is the role Ben excels at, and he delivered in a big way as the Black and Gold crushed the Chiefs by over five touchdowns. The Ravens and Bengals both lost heartbreakers to the Panthers and Bucs respectively, lending credence to the idea that the NFC is the superior conference this year. The losing week dips the North one game below .500, down from a tie at #4 last week to a tie at #5 this week.

#5 AFC South 7-8 (47%) 1-1 this week
With the Colts and Jaguars on a bye this week, the division was represented by the Titans and Texans, both squaring off against the strong NFC East. Surprisingly, the South managed a split when the Titans pulled off a stunning upset of the Redskins to get their first win of the season. The Texans held their own for a half against the Cowboys, but the flood gates opened in the second half as the Cowboys poured it on. The even week bumps the South up a spot from #6 last week to a tie for #5 this week.

#7 NFC West 6-7 (46%) 0-2 this week
The Cardinals certainly have to be kicking themselves tonight after letting a 23-3 second half lead slip away. Holding the Bears offense to a single field goal, the Cardinals gave up two defensive touchdowns and a punt return for a touchdown to lose the game. Both Leinart and Edge shot their mouths off during the week; Leinart saying he wasn’t afraid of the Bears defense, and James saying he wanted to run out the game in the fourth quarter. Surprisingly, Leinart delivered while Edge folded. The 49ers also saw action, if you can call a 30 point drubbing at the hand of the visiting Chargers “action.” Once leading the league, the fall of the West is almost complete, down from #3 last week to #7 this week.

#8 AFC East 4-7 (36%) 0-1 this week
The Bills couldn’t manage to beat a winless Detroit team for the only action of the week. Tied for last a week ago, their second winless week in a row has solidified the East’s stranglehold on dead last.

Conference Ranking through Week 6

#1 NFC 13-8 (62%) 4-2 this week
#2 AFC 8-13 (38%) 2-4 this week

Another winning week for the NFC increases their lead over the struggling AFC. Now up by 5 games, the NFC is positioning itself to post a winning record against the AFC for the first time since realignment.

NFL Division Rankings through Week 7

#1 NFC South 9-4 (69%) 2-1 this week
An amazing 62 yard FG capped off the Bucs win against the Eagles, while the Falcons won a tight contest on the arm of Michael Vick, throwing for three touchdown passes in a game for the the first time in his career. Jake Delhomme got careless with the ball late in the game, when his redzone interception cost the Panthers an easy game-tieing field goal. The league’s best division continues their roll with another winning week.

#2 AFC West 9-7 (56%) 2-0 this week
After a rough start to the season, the West has reclaimed respectability by rising above .500 on the strength of this undefeated week. The Broncos over the Browns was no surprise; the unexpected first win by the seemingly hopeless Raiders over the Cardinals is what bumped the West up a spot from a tie at #3 to sole possession of #2, though still a fair distance behind the NFC South.

#3 NFC North 8-7 (53%) 2-1 this week
The Vikings have been flying under the radar mostly because of the undefeated Bears, but announced their presence this week by dismantling the Seahawks in Seattle. The Packers had little trouble beating the underachieving Dolphins, while the Lions came up short against the Jets. The winning week bumps the North above .500, but they remain in the #3 spot this week.

#4 NFC East 8-8 (50%) 0-2 this week
Against the Bucs, the Eagles were haunted by old demons in the form of bad clock-management at the end of the half, Donovan McNabb throwing up on the field, and Ronde Barber returning interceptions for touchdowns. The Redskins held tough for a half against the Colts, but almost snapping Peyton Manning in half only served to motivate him to play one of his finest quarters ever, just shy of a perfect passer rating in the third. The winless week drops the East down two spots, from #2 last week to a tie for #4 this week.

#4 AFC South 8-8 (50%) 1-0 this week
The only action this week saw the Colts over the Redskins. Just enough to get back to even, the South moves up a spot from last week’s tie at #5 to this week’s tie at #4.

#6 AFC North 8-10 (44%) 1-2 this week
The Bengals narrowly avoided overtime by picking off Jake Delhomme in the end zone late in the game. The Steelers never touched the ball in overtime, having lost the coin toss to Atlanta and not having enough of a defense to stop Michael Vick’s aerial attack. To add injury to insult, Roethlisberger suffered his second concussion in four months. The Browns, meanwhile, lived up to expectations by losing to the Broncos, which preciptated the firing of their offensive coordinator. Three teams have taken that step so far in this young season, and it does not bode well that two of them are in this division. (The Ravens being the other one.) The losing week drops the North down a spot to #6, where they can legitimately lay claim to being the best of the losing divisions.

#7 NFC West 6-9 (40%) 0-2 this week
The Cardinals just get worse and worse, losing to the lowly Raiders this week. The only bright spot is that it wasn’t in a national spotlight. The class of the division fared even worse, as the Seahawks were not only pounded by the Vikings, but also lost their second franchise player of the season when Matt Hasselback went down with a knee injury. The impact of losing Steve Hutchinson to the Vikings was made painfully clear when his new team gashed them for a 95 yard touchdown run. At least the winless week was good enough to avoid dead last, holding onto the #7 spot this week.

#8 AFC East 5-8 (38%) 1-1 this week
The East doesn’t look terrible on paper, and even on the field the Patriots have only one loss while the Jets surprisingly boast a winning record. The problem for the East is that seven of their twelve wins have come inside the division; the rest of the league is the problem. Facing a winning division in the NFC North, the East was able to manage a split, with the Jets beating the Lions and the Dolphins losing to the Packers. While that helped their percentage slightly, the East remains the worst division in football.

Conference Ranking through Week 7

#1 NFC 15-12 (56%) 2-4 this week
#2 AFC 12-15 (44%) 4-2 this week

Not yet ready to throw in the towel, the AFC posted a strong showing this week to get back to within shouting distance of the sagging NFC.

While it’s true it’s the first time Vick threw 3 TDs, he threw 4 in total.

This week shows a clear line between the haves and the have nots, with no division currently holding a .500 record. Also of note is that last year’s best and worst divisions have finally found their way back to their natural rankings.

NFL Division Rankings through Week 8

#1 AFC West 12-8 (60%) 3-1 this week
The West swept its two games against the Nationals, with the Chargers beating the Rams and the Chiefs beating the Seahawks. The Broncos’ league-leading defense was brought down to earth by being gashed in a loss to the Colts. The surprise upset was the lowly Raiders, who beat the defending champion Steelers with relative ease. It took half a season, but the West has reclaimed last year’s best division title after struggling in last place for several weeks early in the year, up from #2 last week.

#2 NFC South 10-7 (59%) 1-3 this week
Against the Americans, the Saints got pounded by the Ravens while the Falcons pulled off a close win in a shootout with the Bengals. Having never thrown for more than two touchdowns in a single game before last week, Michael Vick has now thrown seven in the past two games. Carolina started off strong, but the mistakes caught up to them in a primetime loss to the Cowboys. It can’t feel good to play so badly that the hardline, old-school head coach of the other team starts handing out kisses like a giddy schoolgirl. The Bucs never saw the enzone against the Giants, though the 40 mph wind didn’t help the cause any. The poor showing dropped the South ten full percentage points, which was enough to unseat them from the top spot, dropping to #2 this week.

#3 NFC North 10-8 (56%) 2-1 this week
Coming off a bye week after which they almost lost to the lowly Cardinals, the Bears made a statement by dismantling the 49ers. Up 41-0 at halftime, Chicago has apparently learned from the mistake of looking past a weaker opponent. Brett Favre played another good game, beating the Cardinals at Lambeau Field. The only down note was the Monday nighter, during which the Vikings got carved up by the Patriots. The winning week helps this division, maintaining its place at #3.

#3 AFC South 10-8 (56%) 2-0 this week
When Peyton Manning was getting ready to take the field in a tie game with 1:49 left on the clock, Tony Dungy reminded him not to take too many chances, since Adam Vinatieri didn’t need to be too close to make a clutch game-winning kick. Unsurprisingly, this scenario resulted in Colts win over the Broncos, completing the mysterious triangle in the AFC. The Colts appear to own the Broncos, who own the Patriots, who in turn seem to own the Colts. That last piece will be tested when the Colts face New England next week. In upset news, the Jaguars took a win from the suddenly suspect Eagles in the Linc, to a chorus of boo-birds from the disgruntled fans. Undefeated weeks almost always move a division up the rankings, and this was no exception with the South moving up from a tie at #4 last week to a tie for #3 this week.

#5 NFC East 10-9 (53%) 2-1 this week
Tony Romo looked good in his first start, leading the Cowboys to a solid win over the Panthers on Sunday night. For those who could stay awake through the boredom, the Giants prevailed against the combined might of the Bucs defense and the screaming winds of the Meadowlands. The Eagles, on the other hand, stank up the joint at home against the Jaguars, never reaching the endzone. The winning week was helpful to get the East back above .500, but they actually dropped a spot from the tie at #4 last week to sole possession of #5 this week.

#6 AFC North 10-12 (45%) 2-2 this week
Big Ben had one of his most productive games as a passer, but unfortunately he also threw four interceptions. This allowed the hapless Raiders to steal the win despite being held to fewer than 100 total yards of offense. The Browns outplayed the Jets in almost every way, and were put over the top by some homefield-advantage officiating at the end of the game. Ocho Cinco and the Bengals came up just short against Deangelo Fall and the Falcons, but the Ravens mounted an impressively decisive win in New Orleans after firing OC Jim Fassel. Still below .500, the North remains at #6.

#7 AFC East 6-9 (40%) 1-1 this week
Chris Baker caught the game tieing touchdown pass on a clear and inarguable force-out with a minute left in the game, but in an inexplicable move the officials nullified the catch, effectively awarding the game to the Browns. The Jets will tell you that you can’t leave the game in the hands of the officials, meaning they shouldn’t have put themselves in that situation to begin with, but that doesn’t mean the fans can’t rightfully cry foul. Meanwhile, the East team with a legitimate winning record convincingly beat a good team as the Patriots completely shut down the Vikings in primetime. The split week bumps the East up a spot from dead last a week ago to #7 this week.

#8 NFC West 6-13 (32%) 0-4 this week
Seneca Wallace performed well in his first start while Matt Hasselback rehabs his leg. One thing he definitely learned is that with the game on the line on 4th and 15, a 5 yard dumpoff to the flats is ill-advised. None of the other three games were nearly that close, with the Cards, Rams and 49ers getting easily handled by the Packers, Chargers and Bears respectively by an average deficit just shy of three touchdowns. After leading the league early in the season, the West completed its freefall with this winless week, dropping down from #7 to dead last.

Conference Ranking through Week 8

#1 AFC 17-16 (52%) 5-1 this week
#2 NFC 16-17 (48%) 1-5 this week

The sleeping giant is now fully awake and looking for payback. The 5-1 showing is doubly impressive because most of it came against the better teams in the NFC, as opposed to the early season NFC victories against the lesser AFC teams. The superior conference every year since realignment, the AFC finally takes the lead and may never look back.

Thanks for the correction. In addition to how he’s raining hot TD death through the air, his completion percentage is astronomical, completing over 70% of his passes against the Bengals this week.

I heard that he said he’s finally being given some freedom in making adjustments. Like every other team with a franchise quarterback, they give him multiple plays to call in the huddle, and he picks which one he likes at the line based on the look the defense gives him.

This was a sore point with him, and he specifically cited it in his Inside the NFL interview a couple weeks back after the Giants crushed the Falcons. That interview apparently woke up the coaching staff in Atlanta, and he’s been playing lights out – and mostly from the pocket – ever since. No more of those stupid college option plays, and good riddance to them.

I have a pet theory on Vick this season for shits and giggles. You know how in comic books, superheros get their powers from severe trauma? Hulk was irradiated, Spiderman was bitten by a superspider, Batman saw his parents murdered, etc… Well, Vick’s trauma was the hardcore beatdown the Giants handed him, after which he got the superpower of pocket-passer vampirism. The following week he used it to suck all the passer rating out of Roethlisberger.


No time this week, but not ready to give up yet. So here’s just the statistical update.

NFL Division Rankings through Week 9

#1 AFC West 15-9 (63%) 3-1 this week
#2 NFC South 10-8 (56%) 0-1 this week
#3 NFC East 11-9 (55%) 1-0 this week +2
#3 AFC South 11-9 (55%) 1-1 this week
#5 NFC North 11-11 (50%) 1-3 this week -2
#6 AFC East 8-10 (44%) 2-1 this week +1
#7 AFC North 10-14 (42%) 0-2 this week -1
#8 NFC West 8-14 (36%) 2-1 this week

Conference Ranking through Week 9

#1 AFC 20-18 (53%) 3-2 this week
#2 NFC 18-20 (47%) 2-3 this week