Monday, September 15, 2014

How Good/Bad Are These Divisions?

Football is back, and so am I!

Crappy football is better than no football, but Thursday night's game between the Ravens and Steelers was crappy. Personally, I was excited for it because I had Pittsburgh +3 in a pool (in which I am slowly drowning), but I thought to myself "the AFC North is just kinda...bleh". I don't know what it is. Could be the traditionally defensive-minded teams. Could be weird jerseys. Could be the Browns. But I thought: what are the best and worst divisions to watch?

Here are the completely subjective Exciting + Interesting Conference Rankings. Let me know where you disagree. Listed from worst to best so you at least scroll down a little before exiting.

[One quick note: these rankings were done over the weekend of Week 2. So while some players and teams are already more or less interesting than this post might suggest, consider this the outlook as the season gets going. Then I'll re-rank at season's end.]

8. AFC North

I think I just really hate all their jerseys. And somehow all the skill guys in this division don't excite me. To me it's as grey as a cloudy Cleveland afternoon.

How could the conference jump in the rankings? If Johnny Football Starts playing. If the Bengals can turn the corner on a playoff round and feel like a legitimate AFC contender.

Reminds me of:  How I Met Your Mother. I want to see how it ends, but I think "I just don't like this as much as society tells me I should"

7. AFC South

Jacksonville = black hole. This would feel better if Houston didn't have an abomination in 2013, and this was the two team race we thought it would be in 2012.

How do they jump up? If we get more shots of the Jacksonville pool. If Blake Bortle Service becomes a stud and a foil to Andrew Luck. If J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney torment Luck enough to contend for the division.

Reminds me of: Ocean's 12. Like a bunch of the characters. Wish the final product got somewhere.

6. AFC East

It's been New England & The Other Guys for a few years now. As much fun as it is to root against the Pats, it can feel defeating. Especially when you Butt Fumble.

How do they jump? If someone else wins the division. When Tom Brady retires.

Reminds me of: Game of Thrones. A bleak environment where tragedy is commonplace, and the victories for the good guys are to be cherished, because they're rare and ultimately meaningless.

5. NFC East

There were interesting personalities and games in this division even before Chip Kelly arrived. The ongoing sagas of Tony Romo and RGIII make for good television whether you like them or hate them. You just wonder if this is like the NFC Light compared to what you encounter further West or in New Orleans.

How do they jump? If the Giants don't leave Megatron wide open. If somehow the Cowboys can be good, not merely interesting. If RGIII is ever his 2012 self again.

Reminds me of: Reality TV. The best way to enjoy it is to be kind of removed and aware of the circumstances. Or, just be an awful person and revel in the characters' misfortunes.

4. NFC South

Plenty of exciting skill players and weapons. Brees and Graham will always be exciting. I probably like Matt Ryan and Cam Newton more than the average fan. Also, "Riverboat Ron" was cool for about 3 games, now it's just cool to make fun of the idea of "Riverboat Ron". Oh, and Tampa Bay is actually supposed to be decent this year.

How do they jump? If Cam Newton gets a little better as a passer. If Atlanta can make another deep playoff run.

Reminds me of: Entourage. Generally 3 compelling characters and 1 dud. Also, you never know if they're under-achieving or over-achieving relative to their talent.

3. AFC West

Manning and the Broncos are almost entirely responsible for this ranking. Somehow, their Super Bowl loss, and the way in which it happened, makes them more interesting to me this year.They have a tragic flaw that you need to see week in and week out if they will correct. Elsewhere in this world, San Diego looks decent and Jamaal Charles is running around somewhere, and Oakland has a rookie QB.

How do they jump? If the Chargers and Broncos split in two classics and then face off again in the playoffs. The plot should thicken a little bit based on San Diego beating Denver's Super Bowl antagonist Seattle on Sunday,

Reminds me of: Forrest Gump. Solid elsewhere, but really carried by one dude with a southern accent.

2. NFC West

This should really be number one, but I have an irrational hatred of the Seahawks. There isn't a truly bad matchup in this division, and the Cardinals and Rams both tend to give the 49ers and Seahawks fits, even if Seattle and San Fran usually prevail at year's end.

How do they jump? If Kaepernick makes the Leap. If Arizona or St. Louis can get a young franchise quarterback that can stay healthy.

Reminds me of: Breaking Bad. Out west. Of the highest quality, and not a bad episode to be had. No half-measures. You like some of the more minor characters, all the while fearing that they are doomed.

1. NFC North

Around 5:30 Sunday afternoon this pick was looking awfully shaky. The Vikings and Lions lost, the Packers were down 21-3 to the Jets, and the Bears awaited the 49ers. But somehow the conference ended up 2-2 on the day.

I just love this conference because there are some classic teams that all have great skill players. Calvin Johnson is the best WR. Aaron Rodgers is either the best or second-best QB. And while we don't know how much of the best RB Adrian Peterson we'll be seeing moving forward, Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy, and Reggie Bush aren't exactly slouches. Also, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford are pretty compelling in their failures and dangerous when they're successful. Call them Romo Lights.

Reminds me of: Old School. An all-time classic. Stafford, Rodgers, and Cutler are probably the most bro-tastic trio of QBs from any division, and as a group they somehow remind me of Frank the Tank, Beanie, and Mitch. Matt Cassel can be Cheee-eeese. I'm watching whenever it's on and loving every minute.

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Follow FranT on Twitter at @frantweet and follow Brian Kavanaugh at @btkav

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