As October comes to a close, the NFC West may not be the division we once thought it was headed into the season. For five of the first six weeks, the NFC West has stood on top as the best division in football. With the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks heading south as the weather cools, can the NFC West really boast a claim as the top division?
The AFC North made a statement with the Cincinnati Bengals, regardless if it had an intra-divisional matchup or not. Cincinnati is the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the best team in a loaded division. The NFC South also had a very good week, regardless of an embarrassing loss by the Carolina Panthers.
The NFC East isn't the worst division in football, even though it made a case with the Dallas Cowboys on the bye week. The divisions have established their ranking as the season nears the halfway point, but there was some shuffling in the ratings after the Week 7 slate of games.
8. AFC East
Last week's ranking: 8
The AFC East didn't do enough to emerge from the bottom of the barrel. Another embarrassing loss by the Miami Dolphins in an interconference matchup to the Atlanta Falcons has set the stage for a potential Deshaun Watson trade as the season continues to slide. Tua Tagovailoa playing well doesn't even help Miami at this stage.
The New England Patriots putting up 50 points over the New York Jets isn't impressive, especially since two of New England's three wins are against the Jets. The Buffalo Bills were on a bye week, so they couldn't improve the division's fortune.
This division could improve its standing this week, as the Jets face the Bengals and the Patriots visit the Chargers. The AFC East is an NFL worst 5-13 in interdivisional matchups and has a combined record of just 9-17.
7. NFC East
Last week's ranking: 6
Who would have guessed the Dallas Cowboys being idle hurt the status of this division? The Philadelphia Eagles looked awful against the Las Vegas Raiders and the Washington Football Team had a poor second half against the Green Bay Packers -- both games were on the road.
The New York Giants (yes the Giants) saved the division from total humiliation by dominating the Carolina Panthers at home. New York's defense even got Sam Darnold benched! An impressive win for a Giants team that has failed to meet expectations and a much-needed victory with the Kansas City Chiefs on deck.
The NFC East is 8-13 in interdivisional matchups, but this was a bad week. There are three 2-5 teams in this division, which has an 11-16 combined record.
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6. AFC South
Last week's ranking: 7
How about the AFC South emerging from the bottom of the NFL over the last two weeks? A dominating win by the Tennessee Titans over the Kansas City Chiefs will do wonders for a division's standing. The Indianapolis Colts certainly helped the South with an impressive road win over the San Francisco 49ers on "Sunday Night Football" -- in the rain no less.
The Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars are still two of the five worst teams in football, but the Colts and Titans emerging from their slow starts have really helped. They square off against each other for the final time in the regular season in Week 8.
The South is still only 6-13 in interdivisional matchups and 10-17 overall, but the division has improved over the last few weeks. They're not the worst division in football.
5. NFC North
Last week's ranking: 5
Let's be fair when judging the NFC North. This division isn't good and the Green Bay Packers are doing their best to wrap up the title by mid-December. The Minnesota Vikings being off didn't help the North either, not with the Chicago Bears getting destroyed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the national window. Chicago isn't a good team, showcasing how poor this division can be outside of Green Bay.
Sooner or later the Detroit Lions are going to get a victory, as they took the Los Angeles Rams to the fourth quarter in what was setting up to be the biggest upset of the year. Detroit has an opportunity to get that win against Philadelphia this week.
The North can make a statement this week with Green Bay facing undefeated Arizona and Minnesota taking on Dallas. Two wins there would really boast the reputation of this division, which is 8-11 in interdivisional matchups and has a combined record of 12-15.
4. AFC West
Last week's ranking: 3
Not exactly the best week for the AFC West, beginning with the Denver Broncos falling to the Cleveland Browns on "Thursday Night Football" -- with Cleveland starting a backup quarterback and third-string running back. The Kansas City Chiefs getting blown out by the Tennessee Titans made matters worse. The Chiefs having the same record as the Broncos was unexpected after seven games, as both teams are tied for last in the division.
The Las Vegas Raiders had a dominating win over the Eagles and are 2-0 under interim head coach Rich Bisaccia -- second place in the AFC. The Chargers were off last week, but can get back on track against the Patriots.
Two interdivisional matchups against the NFC East could help the division with Vegas on its bye. The AFC West is 12-9 in interdivisional matchups and 15-12 overall.
3. NFC South
Last week's ranking: 4
Quite a week for the NFC South with the division going 3-1 in interdivisional matchups, highlighted by the New Orleans Saints' big win over the Seattle Seahawks on "Monday Night Football." The Saints have a showdown with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week, who are coming off a dominating victory over the Chicago Bears -- showcasing another reason why they are the Super Bowl favorites.
The Saints and Buccaneers will be a matchup to watch in Week 8, but this division appears to be a lot better than initially thought. The Atlanta Falcons are even .500 after seven weeks by surviving an upset bid by the Miami Dolphins. Carolina, which started 3-0, had an embarrassing loss to the New York Giants to fall to 3-4. If the Panthers didn't get blown out and took care of business against the Giants, the NFC South would have had a banner week.
The South is an impressive 14-8 in interdivisional matchups and 16-10 overall, certainly a dark horse among the top divisions in football.
2. AFC North
Last week's ranking: 2
The AFC North just keeps edging closer toward the top spot, one that easily could have been seized this week. The Cincinnati Bengals are for real, taking care of the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore to seize the North lead -- in one of the toughest divisions in football.
The Cleveland Browns earned an impressive victory over the Denver Broncos on a short week, without Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, or Kareem Hunt. They're still a player in this division despite the injuries. The Pittsburgh Steelers were idle last week, and are getting a good test with Cleveland in Week 8.
Not much of an opportunity for this division to seize the top ranking this week, but the AFC North is right with the NFC West. The North is 15-8 in interdivisional matchups and 17-10 overall -- with no team under .500.
1. NFC West
Last week's ranking: 1
Even with two losses by the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks at home, the NFC West retains the top spot this week. The Arizona Cardinals still are the NFL's only unbeaten team -- and got even better with the addition of Zach Ertz. The Seahawks don't have Russell Wilson, so it's hard to gauge them as the team has yet to win a game since he's been injured. The Los Angeles Rams were challenged by the Lions, but they are still really good.
The Cardinals and Rams are two of the top five teams in football while the 49ers and Seahawks have been disappointing. If the Cardinals can beat the Packers, the NFC West will have a strong case to stay on top -- especially with the AFC North closing in.
The NFC West is still a league-best 13-6 (.684 win percentage) against interdivisional foes -- even with the two losses this week. Like the AFC North, they're 17-10 overall -- but the interdivisional record gives the West the slight edge for the top spot.
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