Monday, January 24, 2022

2021 NFL Divisional Power Rankings entering Week 17: NFC West reluctantly back on top after poor week

The NFL regular season is winding down with 24 teams remaining in contention for the Super Bowl heading into Week 17, the most teams the league has in contention at this point in the season in 15 years. While there’s plenty of parity in the NFL, the eight divisions can’t be included in that conversation.

The NFC West, AFC West, and AFC North have separated themselves from the pack, ranking amongst the elite divisions in the league. The NFC East, AFC East, and NFC South have been stuck inn the middle of the pack while the AFC South and NFC North are trying to avoid becoming the worst division in football. 

The final ranking for the divisions are starting to take shape as each division is starting to make a push to move up from their current spot. This week, none of the contenders for the top spot helped their resume. 

8. AFC South

Last week’s ranking: 8

The AFC South had a surprisingly good week as the division states its case to not be the worst in football. The Houston Texans upset win over the Los Angeles Chargers was a huge boost for the division, especially after the Tennessee Titans beat the San Francisco 49ers and the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Arizona Cardinals. Yes, the AFC South went 2-0 against the NFC West this week!

The AFC South is 15-25 in out-of-division matchups (.375) and 25-35 overall (.417), both are the worst in football. 

7. NFC North

Last week’s ranking: 7

The Green Bay Packers usually spare this division from being the worst in football, yet the Chicago Bears had an upset over the Seattle Seahawks with Nick Foles at quarterback. The Minnesota Vikings continue to lose one score games and the Detroit Lions have the worst record in the conference. A 2-2 week isn’t actually bad for this division.

The NFC North is 17-24-1 in interdivisional games (.417) and 26-33-1 overall (.442). 

6. NFC East

Last week’s ranking: 6

Another week the NFC East just played each other, as the Dallas Cowboys crushed the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles did the same to the New York Giants after a sluggish first half. The NFC East has two out-of-division games this week with an opportunity to finish at the .500 mark in interdivisional play for the season. Dallas faces Arizona and New York travels to Chicago.

The NFC East is 20-22 in out-of-division games (.476) and 29-31 overall (.483).  

5. NFC South

Last week’s ranking: 5

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinched the division this week, likely the only team from this division that will go to the playoffs this year. Injuries ravaged the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons remain alive for a playoff spot, but need a lot of help in order to sneak in. The Carolina Panthers are a mess as their season continues to spiral south. 

The NFC South isn’t a good division, yet they aren’t near being the worst division in football either. The division is 21-21 in interdivisional play and 30-30 overall, right at the .500 mark. 

4. AFC East

Last week’s ranking: 4

The AFC East is also sitting right at the .500 mark with two weeks to play, yet have three teams in position to qualify for the postseason. This division now has three teams over .500 and went 2-0 in interdivisional games this week with the Miami Dolphins beating the New Orleans Saints and the New York Jets taking down the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Buffalo Bills showcased their division supremacy with a win over the New England Patriots, yet the division is set to be determined in the final week. This division can get over .500 in interdivisional play with a 3-1 week. 

The AFC East is 20-20 in out-of-division games and 30-30 overall. 

3. AFC North

Last week’s ranking: 2

The top divisions did not have a good week, starting with the AFC North. The Pittsburgh Steelers were blown out by the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens were blown out by the Cincinnati Bengals — a battle for the top of the division no less. This division went 0-2 in interdivisional games this week, as the Cleveland Browns fell to the Green Bay Packers. 

The AFC North is one of the most exciting divisions in football, yet three teams are proving to be average as Cincinnati is set to seize the title. Hard to put the division above the AFC West and NFC West at this time. 

The AFC North is 22-19-1 in interdivisional games (.536) and 31-28-1 overall (.525). 

2. AFC West

Last week’s ranking: 1

The Kansas City Chiefs blowing out the Pittsburgh Steelers salvaged the AFC West this week, but the division fell out of the top spot thanks to the Los Angeles Chargers getting upset by the Houston Texans. The AFC West only has one team as a lock to make the playoffs through 16 weeks, as the Chargers are on the outside looking in. 

The Las Vegas Raiders still have a shot at the playoffs after beating the Denver Broncos. While this division still has three teams over .500, having one playoff team at the moment is a huge reason why the AFC West is no longer No. 1. 

The AFC West is 25-17 in interdivisional games (.595) and 34-26 overall (.567), tied for the league’s best divisional record. 

1. NFC West

Last week’s ranking: 3 

The NFC East gets the top spot back this week, even with the 49ers falling to the Titans and the Cardinals falling to the Colts in interdivisional play. Going 0-2 against the AFC South is a bad look, same with the Seahawks losing to a NFC North team in the Bears. 

The Rams beating the Vikings keeps the NFC West from having an 0-4 week, so why is this division back at No. 1? The NFC West has two playoff locks and a third coming in the 49ers — while having a NFL best 24-16 record (.600) in out-of-division games. 

Being tied for the best divisional record in football at 34-26 (.567) is another plus for the NFC West, the only division in the league with two 10-win teams. For this week, the NFC West is back on top. 

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