Is the NFC North the NFL’s toughest division? The numbers suggest the answer is yes.
There are many different ways to measure the strength of a division. For the purposes of this discussion, though, let’s take a look at a pair of metrics that seem to be appropriate ways to measure the success achieved by individuals teams and, collectively, individual divisions: Win-Loss Record and Point Differential.
– Teams in the NFC North have combined to win 22 games through nine weeks of action so far this season. No other division has come close, with the NFC West next in line at 18 total wins. No division in the AFC has more than 16 wins and the AFC West has just 13 wins on the year. Furthermore, the NFC North has 0 teams with a record below .500. Every other division has at least 2 teams under .500, and the NFC East has 3 teams under the .500 mark.
– The NFC North’s superiority over other divisions through nine weeks is further – and perhaps better – illustrated when looking at point differential. The cumulative point differential for the 4 NFC North teams is +179, a number that looks impressive but has little meaning without comparison. In comparing it to the 7 other divisions, though, that +179 is a dominant number. No other division is within 100 points of the NFC North, with the NFC South the next best division coming in at +76 and the AFC South the worst in the NFL at a dreadful -160; the Vikings Week 16 opponent – the Houston Texans – is +100, for the record.
Detroit Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz was asked about the NFC North being perhaps the NFL’s best division to this point in the season while meeting with Twin Cities reporters via conference call on Wedensday. While Schwartz did acknowledge the NFC North as being a tough division, he also (wisely) pointed out that it’s best to wait until the entire season concludes before making any steadfast judgments on the division or any other division across the NFL.
“It’s obviously a tough division,” Schwartz said. “There’s no team under .500 in the whole division. We know that every year it’s going to be a fight. There are really, really talented players in this division. Good quarterbacks. That sixteen-game season, it’s a long haul and you have to be consistent over the course of sixteen games.
“Let’s wait until sixteen games are over. We have a lot of respect for the teams in our division. Let’s wait until sixteen games are over before we start making assessments of the division. The NFC North certainly has the makings of a very strong division.”
We’re just over half-way through the season, so we’ll temper the bravado a little bit here. But the numbers don’t lie – the NFC North is the toughest division in the NFL right now.
Total Wins By Division
NFC North: 22
NFC West: 18
NFC South: 17
AFC North: 16
AFC South: 16
AFC East: 5
NFC East: 15
AFC West: 13
Point Differential By Division
NFC North: +179
NFC South: +76
NFC West: +24
AFC East: +13
AFC North: -21
NFC East: -34
AFC West: -77
AFC South: -160
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