Wednesday, January 19, 2022

2021 NFL Divisional Power Rankings entering Week 18: NFC West wraps up top spot with perfect week

The NFL has finally reached the final week of the regular season, which brings us to the conclusion of the divisional power rankings for the year. Interdivisional games have come to an end as the league schedules all divisional matchups for Week 18. 

The NFC West was challenged throughout the year, yet the preseason No. 1 ended the year on top. A dominant Week 17 sealed the top spot for the NFC West, which has an opportunity to get three teams from its division into the postseason (the AFC West is the only other division that can accomplish this). The AFC South staked its claim as the worst division in football, even though it may get two teams in the postseason. The NFC East wasn’t as bad as we predicted and the AFC East ended up being much better than the preseason rankings indicated

The final edition of the divisional power rankings is here. Football out west ended up ruling the league in 2021. 

8. AFC South

  • Final interdivisional record: 16-28 (.364)
  • Last week’s ranking: 8

The AFC South is hurt by the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars having two of the worst records in the AFC, yet the division is a win away from having the No. 1 seed in the conference (Tennessee Titans). The Indianapolis Colts are also a win away from a playoff spot, but could have locked up that spot if they beat the Las Vegas Raiders at home.

The Titans were the only team in the division to win last week, as the AFC South is 26-38 (.406 win percentage) with one week to play. The AFC South wasn’t the worst division in NFL history, but it was poor throughout 2021. 

7. NFC North

  • Final interdivisional record: 18-25-1 (.420)
  • Last week’s ranking: 7

The NFC North wasn’t a good division all year either, but the Green Bay Packers having the best record in football hid that from the rest of the league. Three teams are going to finish with a losing record, one of which (Detroit Lions) has the worst record in the conference. The NFC North should be a better division than it demonstrated this season, a year after producing two playoff teams. 

There will be changes in the NFC North after the season, as the division is 28-35-1 (.445) with one week to play. 

6. NFC East

  • Final interdivisional record: 20-24 (.455)
  • Last week’s ranking: 6

The NFC East was the worst division in football last year, yet managed to improve in 2021 and get two playoff teams in the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. The division had one of the worst teams in football in the New York Giants, but improved as a whole thanks to the emergence of Philadelphia. If the Eagles beat the Cowboys on Saturday, the NFC East will have two 10-win teams in 2021.

The NFC East is 30-34 this season, as the .469 win percentage is a massive improvement over last year. 

5. NFC South

  • Final interdivisional record: 22-22 (.500)
  • Last week’s ranking: 5

The NFC South had one of the best teams in the league in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, yet all the injuries to the New Orleans Saints hampered their playoff chances, but the Saints can still sneak in with a win and a 49ers loss. The Carolina Panthers had another poor finish to the year, but the Atlanta Falcons improved in their first season under Arthur Smith. 

This division flirted with .500 all year, and will end up at the .500 mark. The NFC South is 32-32 headed into the final week of the year. 

4. AFC East

  • Final interdivisional record: 22-22 (.500)
  • Last week’s ranking: 4

The AFC East also will end up at the .500 mark, but this division will have two 10-win teams in the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills — both headed to the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins had a seven-game win streak, yet it wasn’t enough to overcome a 1-7 start in the end.

This division can still get three teams over .500 if the Dolphins win this week, which only the NFC West and AFC West can claim. The AFC East is 32-32 headed into Week 18.

3. AFC North

  • Final interdivisional record: 23-20-1 (.534)
  • Last week’s ranking: 3

The AFC North held the title as the best division in football for a bit this year, but the Baltimore Ravens going on a five-game losing streak and the Cleveland Browns having a disappointing finish took them out of the top spot for good. This division may only get one team in the playoffs (Cincinnati Bengals), as the depth of the AFC North showed throughout the year. There was no easy out in the AFC North. 

The AFC North is 33-30-1 heading into the final week, finishing with the third-best win percentage of the divisions (.523). All four teams in the division will have at least seven wins. 

2. AFC West

  • Final interdivisional record: 26-18 (.591)
  • Last week’s ranking: 2

The AFC West was good throughout the year, as the Kansas City Chiefs had their six-year stranglehold on the division tested before they won seven games in a row to seal it. The Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers both have a shot at the playoffs, setting themselves up for what could be a winner-take-all finale. 

Three teams in the AFC West have nine or more wins, one of only two divisions that can stake that claim. The AFC West could get three teams in the playoffs, too, (in a wild way) if the Colts find a way to lose Sunday. 

An entertaining division all year, the AFC West is 36-28 heading into the final week. That .563 win percentage is second-best in the NFL. 

1. NFC West

  • Final interdivisional record: 28-16 (.636)
  • Last week’s ranking: 1

The NFC West was the best division in football throughout the year, and its interdivisional record proved that — winning over 63% of their games against nondivisional foes! A perfect 4-0 week in Week 17 cemented the NFC West’s status as the best division in football, the only division that has two 11-win teams (and could have two 12-win teams after Week 18).

Two teams in the NFC West are going to the playoffs, and a third is on the way if the San Francisco 49ers win Sunday. No division in the NFL will be able to stake that claim if the Colts and 49ers win (Colts win eliminates three AFC West teams getting in the AFC playoffs), showcasing the strength of the division. 

The NFC West could get three teams with 10 wins if San Francisco wins this week. The division is 38-26, as the .594 win percentage is the best in football. 

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