Time for a #ProfessionalGrade assessment on #GMCPlaybook. @SBNation: Which division is the toughest in the league? http://t.co/sLQQEMugLB— Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) December 3, 2014
Let's try to do this all science-y like, since we have whole universities dedicated to "science" winning basketball games now (evidence of the Great Nerdpocalypse, Exhibit G).
|Division||Combined Record||Win %|
Both South divisions have to get cut, and the East has two 3-win teams so let's chop them too.
The AFC West has a solid argument with Denver, San Diego and Kansas City in tow all of whom have winning records. The AFC East matches them with New England, Miami and Buffalo. Marshall is asking for the toughest division top to bottom though, so I just can't keep those two divisions in contention with Oakland and the Jets dragging them down.
That leaves us with the top three in the table. We can keep cutting up the tree eliminating the NFC North with two 5-win teams at the bottom of their division, though Minnesota and Chicago as your bottom two teams is pretty strong comparatively.
That leaves the AFC North v. the NFC West for bragging rights. And that's a tough call.
The North is lead by a 8-3-1 Cincinnati team followed by a 7-5 trio in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. It's certainly not top-heavy. If you took whomever you think is the top pairing there and put them against the best pairing from every other division I'm not sure it would place top 5. As it is, though, their floor is easily the highest in the league as it stands right now.
And that's only because the Rams struggled out to a 1-4 start that has now left them at 5-7 in the basement of the NFC West behind 9-3 Arizona, 8-4 Seattle and 7-5 San Francisco.
You could make an argument either way, or even for any of the three division above a .500 clip, but I'll take the NFC West for two reasons.
1.) I'd contend that the Rams' record doesn't reflect the true quality of the team. I'd argue the same about the Browns, though on the opposite details. The Rams have inarguably the best resume of any 5-7 team in the league. Cleveland is a touchdown away from breaking even in point differential with a loss to the Jaguars on their backs.
2.) I'd also suggest the NFC West, especially Seattle and San Francisco, hasn't played anywhere near their best football yet. So while Arizona maybe be regressing a bit after losing Carson Palmer and coming out to a blazing 9-1 start, Cincinnati escaped with a 1-point win over Tampa last week, Baltimore's defense looks a mess and Pittsburgh last three looks like this: a loss to the Jets, a 3-point win over the 2-win Titans and a loss to the Saints. If you're asking me to project which division does better in December, I'd take the West easy.
I've got the NFC West at the mountaintop. There's too much talent top to bottom. And having represented four of the six slots in the last three NFC Championships (with San Francisco occupying three of the slots making it in each of the last three years), there's history suggesting the strength of the backbone of the division.
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