So let the debate begin! Which division in the NFL is the toughest and best in all of football? The determining factor is that all four teams must be of such a quality that no one team is considered an easy win when playing them. That by itself, eliminates a majority of the eight divisions equally split between the AFC and NFC.
With the prior statement in mind, let's narrow down the field real quick. Sorry Baltimore Ravens fans, but as much as we love our team and as tough as we are, along with our arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers, the AFC North has to be eliminated right off the bat. The Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns are marked as expected wins by most other teams on their schedule (other than each other!). The AFC West is out as well, as the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chielfs won't have anyone quaking in their boots. Besides, with the trade of Jay Cutler, the Broncos have also faded, and that only leaves the defending AFC West Champions, the San Diego Chargers and their very average 8-8 record from 2008.
Two down so far, and now let's head on over to the NFC. The NFC West has the defending NFC Champions in the Arizona Cardinals. However, they also have the Seahawks, Rams and 49ers, who won an abysmal total of 13 games between the three of them in 2008. Enough said there. The NFC North is an easy choice for disregarding, by way of the Detroit Lions' record setting 0-16 campaign in 2008.
So now we are down to four divisions, two in each conference. Next, we'll just have to eliminate both remaining AFC divisions. The AFC East boasts three teams with winning records, but the 7-9 Buffalo Bills won't be scaring everyone, even with Terrell Owens now on their roster. The AFC South might have two very good teams in the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts, but so does the AFC North with the Ravens and Steelers. However the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars just won't be making any other team write their games in as a probable loss this season either. So goodbye to those two AFC divisions.
Now we're down to two NFC divisions, the East and the South. the NFC East had a combined record in 2008 of 38-25-1, while the NFC South had a 40-24 record last season. Many so-called "experts" said the Giants, Cowboys, Eagles and Redskins composed the toughest conference in the NFL, but they went a combined 8-7-1 out of conference (all against the AFC North) and the NFC South went a combined 11-5 out of conference (all against the AFC West). Granted the NFC East had to play both the Ravens and Steelers, but they also got to play the Browns and Bengals and could only muster a 5-2-1 record against the two basement dwellers in our division.
To me, that settles it. From top to bottom, the NFC South is the best division in the NFL. Two of their teams won at least 11 games last year, the Carolina Panthers (12) and the Atlanta Falcons (11). The third place team finished 9-7 (Tampa) and even the basement dwelling New Orleans Saints still finished with an 8-8 record. Between the Panthers well rounded team, the Falcons surprising finish, the Buccaneers tough defense and the Saints prolific passing attack, there is not a single team in that division that is an easy win if on your schedule. While the NFC East may have an argument, they appeared vastly over-rated last season, with both the Cowboys and Redskins fading badly down the stretch and the Eagles floundering in the middle of the season, tieing the lowly Bengals and being pounded by the Ravens in consecutive weeks.
So there you have it, and while I said the debate can begin at the beginning of this story, I have ended it with the proclamation that the NFC South is the NFL's toughest division.