For you AFC South fans out there, we have some good news: You're not in last anymore!
The Jaguars' eight-year rebuilding job appears to finally be over. Titans coach Mike Mularkey ended 2015 on a roll (although most people don't consider 2-7 a roll, we consider that a roll here because Mularkey, who was Tennessee's interim coach last season, doubled the win total of Ken Whisenhunt, who went 1-6).
What happens when you add all of that up?
It means the AFC South is no longer the worst division.
That honor now belongs to the NFC East.
What's the argument against the NFC East?
That forced us to put the NFC East in last.
Let's get to the rankings and find out where everyone else is ranked.
1. AFC West
When the defending Super Bowl champion is arguably the worst team in your division, then your division is probably pretty good, and that's the case with the AFC West. Although no one expects the Broncos to finish in last place this year, it wouldn't be a complete surprise if they did because they're going to have the worst quarterback in the division and possibly the worst offense. This is the one division in football where it feels like every team could finish .500 or above, and yes, that even means the Chargers.
"I do believe we can win the division, but we've got to go do it," Rivers told Examiner.com in June. "We've got to win division games. That's something we haven't done over the past few years."
Winning division games definitely does help. Rivers is getting wise in his old age.
AFC West out-of-division record in 2015: 23-17 (6-10 vs. NFC North, 10-6 vs. AFC North, 3-1 vs. AFC South, 4-0 vs. AFC East)
2016 out-of-division schedule: vs. AFC South, vs. NFC South
2. AFC North
If the Divisional Power Rankings were based on the top-three teams in each division, the AFC North would probably be in first. Unfortunately, that's not how we do things here. There is a fourth team in the division and we can't very well ignore that.
When we talk about the AFC North, we have to include the Browns in the conversation, which is bad news for the rest of the division because Cleveland really made the AFC North look bad last year: The Browns went a combined 1-7 against the AFC West and NFC West in 2016.
There's a good chance that things aren't going to get much better for Cleveland this year, either: Not only is Robert Griffin III likely going to be their 25th starting quarterback since 1999, but you could make an argument that the best receiver in training camp will be a 38-year-old former NFL player who's not even on the team.
What a blessing Hue Jackson is, see y'all in Cleveland on the 28th, no cleats this time just knowledge— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) July 12, 2016
Basically, the only thing worse than the Browns right now are people who play "Pokemon Go" in national cemeteries.
We do not consider playing "Pokemon Go" to be appropriate decorum on the grounds of ANC. We ask all visitors to refrain from such activity.— Arlington Cemetery (@ArlingtonNatl) July 12, 2016
On the other hand, let's be fair, the Browns aren't the worst at everything in the division: They do have the best Groupon offer in the AFC North.
Cleveland Browns tickets are going for $19 on Groupon......which is also where they get their quarterbacks.— Warren Kluck (@warrenkluck) July 5, 2016
Browns tickets on Groupon, that's embarrassing 😂 pic.twitter.com/oHWl0L5xCM— Amelia Baymer (@AmeliaTheGingey) July 3, 2016
As for the rest of the division, if Joe Flacco makes a healthy comeback, then there's a chance we could see the Bengals, Ravens and Steelers all qualify for the playoffs together for third time in six years. Sending three teams to the playoffs in the same season isn't an easy thing to do. Besides the AFC North (2011, 2014), the AFC West (2013) is the only other division to pull off the feat since 2008.
AFC North out-of-division record in 2015: 17-23 (8-8 vs. NFC West, 6-10 vs. AFC West, 1-3 vs. AFC East, 2-2 vs. AFC South)
2016 out-of-division schedule: vs. AFC East, vs. NFC East
3. NFC North
Ironically, that decision might actually end up working out well for Detroit. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford says his team's offense will be harder to defend without Johnson on the field. Of course, Stafford could be completely wrong and the Lions might go 4-12 in 2016.
If the Bears or Lions improve this season, the NFC North could end the year as the NFL's top division. On a completely unrelated note, if the Packers falter this year, we should clearly blame it on Rodgers' decision to no longer eat cheese.
The fact that Aaron Rodgers doesn't eat cheese anymore is an embarrassment and a slap in the face to anyone who calls Wisconsin home.— Cam (@iAmCamJam) June 9, 2016
NFCN out-of-division record in 2015: 22-18 (10-6 vs. AFC West, 6-10 vs. NFC West, 3-1 vs. NFC South, 3-1 vs. NFC East)
2016 out-of-division schedule: vs. NFC East, vs. AFC South
Note: Over the past three seasons, the NFC division that's facing the AFC South has produced a first-place team that finished with the best record in the NFC. If that holds, the winner of the NFC North will have the best record in the conference at the end of the 2016 season.
4. NFC West
If this power ranking was based on which division made the most headlines this offseason, the NFC West would've won by a mile. The teams in the NFC West have probably been on E! more than they've been on ESPN.
First, the 49ers decided they didn't want Jim Tomsula anymore, so they fired him and hired Chip Kelly. That made a few headlines.
Then, the Rams decided they didn't want to be in St. Louis anymore, so they moved to Los Angeles, which made a few headlines. The team also decided to take part in two reality TV shows because everyone in LA is contractually obligated to have their own television show, preferably two.
The Cardinals made their own news in early July when Amazon released an entire television series about Arizona's 2015 season. If another NFC West team gets a reality show, we can probably just officially start calling it the Kardashian division.
Finally, the Seahawks made plenty of headlines because their punter got married. Just kidding, all those Seahawks headlines came from Russell Wilson, who decided that Liverpool, England was the perfect place to secretly get hitched.
Wilson's wedding slightly overshadowed the one put on by his punter, Jon Ryan, who actually did get married.
This is why you don't hold secret weddings, people. Wilson totally overshadowed his punter, although I have to say, I'd take a beach wedding over a wedding in Liverpool any day of the week. Anyway, these rankings are based on whether or not the teams in your division are actually any good and from what I can tell, the 49ers and Rams probably aren't going to qualify as "good" in 2016. The NFC West is ranked fourth though, because the Seahawks and Cardinals both look like Super Bowl contenders.
NFC West out-of-division record in 2015: 23-17 (8-8 vs. AFC North, 10-6 vs. NFC North, 2-2 vs. NFC East, 3-1 vs. NFC South)
2016 out-of-division schedule: vs. NFC South, vs. AFC East
5. NFC South
If you scroll down to the bottom of these power rankings, you'll notice that the AFC South and NFC East are at the very bottom. Sorry for that spoiler, but I had to mention it so that I could make my point, and my point is that it's impossible to know if the NFC South is any good.
In 2015, the NFC South was matched up against the AFC South and NFC East, and the NFC South teams combined to go 22-10 against the two worst divisions in our rankings.
On the other hand, they combined to go 2-6 in eight total games vs. the NFC North and NFC West, which was more along the lines of the horribleness that everyone expected from the NFC South after the Panthers won the division with a 7-8-1 record in 2014.
The division might not be horrible in 2016, but I'm guessing no one in the NFC South will be going 15-1 this season, or 14-2, or 13-3, and probably not even 12-4.
NFC South out-of-division record in 2015: 24-16 (10-6 vs. AFC South, 12-4 vs. NFC East, 1-3 vs. NFC North, 1-3 vs. NFC West)
2016 out-of-division schedule: vs. NFC West, vs. AFC West
6. AFC East
Roger Goodell should just admit that the only reason he suspended Tom Brady is so that the AFC East will actually be competitive in 2016. And even if that's not true, Goodell should just admit it anyway so we all can stop talking about Deflategate.
If you want an idea of how horribly uncompetitive this division has been lately, let me list all the teams that have won an AFC East title since 2009: The Patriots, the Patriots, the Patriots, the Patriots, the Patriots, the Patriots and the Patriots. The competitive balance in the AFC East has basically turned the division into the Baldwin brothers of the NFL. The Patriots are Alec and I don't know any other Baldwin names, but the Dolphins, Bills and Jets are the other brothers.
The last team to win the division that wasn't the Patriots? That would be the Dolphins, who should probably have an asterisk next to their division title because they won it in a year where Brady missed 15 games. The Jets last division title game in 2002, while the Bills' last title came in 1995. So will Brady's suspension open up the division race in 2016? Oddsmakers say no.
AFC East out-of-division record in 2015: 24-16 (9-7 vs. NFC East, 12-4 vs. AFC South, 3-1 vs. AFC North, 0-4 vs. AFC West)
2016 out-of-division schedule: vs. AFC North, vs. NFC West
7. AFC South
The big problem with the AFC South is that the team with the best quarterback (Indy) has the worst defense and the team with best defense (Houston) has the worst quarterback. And then there's the Titans and Jaguars somewhere in-between.
That's basically the recipe for mediocrity.
It's probably safe to say that the division will be slightly improved in 2016, but that's mostly because it can't get much worse.
If the Jaguars and Titans are going to improve, they're going to have to get better in games against out-of-division teams: In 2015, the Jags and Titans combined to go 5-15 in out-of-division games. Unfortunately, that record might actually get worse in 2016 because the AFC South is matched up against the two of the top three divisions (AFC West, NFC North).
That probably means the Titans and Jaguars will be missing the postseason again.
The good thing about missing the playoffs though, is that it means you get a longer offseason, which gives you more time to read the latest selection from Andrew Luck's book club.
AFC South out-of-division record in 2015: 13-27 (6-10 vs. NFC South, 4-12 vs. AFC East, 1-3 vs. AFC West, 2-2 vs. AFC North)
2016 out-of-division schedule: vs. AFC West, vs. NFC North
8. NFC East
This division was so horrible in 2015 that even NFC East fans were willing to admit it was horrible.
I know I've been saying this all year but it makes me sad how horrible the NFC East has become. 😟— Denise (@Wheelz38) December 27, 2015
As horrible as the division is, one team had to win the NFC East. It's in the rules.— Bob Patrick (@K92BobPatrick) December 27, 2015
That's a horrible record to go to the playoffs - NFC East was trash this season— rozay hartnabrig (@jerseybreed) December 27, 2015
The Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record.
If your best team is 9-7, that's not exactly something to brag about.
Unfortunately for the NFC East, it doesn't look like things are going to get much better in 2016: The Eagles and Giants both have new coaches, half the Cowboys defense is suspended and no one knows if Kirk Cousins is actually any good. Remember, Cousins has never beaten a team with a winning record, which could become an issue in 2016 since the Redskins play the Steelers, Bengals, Cardinals, Vikings, Packers and Panthers.
The other part of this division is that if you ain't first, you're last. The NFC East is the only division in football where finishing in second means zero. In some divisions, finishing in second place might get you a wild-card berth, but not the NFC East. The division hasn't sent two teams to the playoffs since 2009, the longest any current division has gone without sending multiple teams to the postseason.
Maybe we should just lock the entire division in a gas station bathroom until they get things figured out.
Just got locked in a bathroom at a NJ gas station. Praise the Lord for the attendants w/ the garden shears & the other guy w/ the leg kick..— Carson Wentz (@cj_wentz) June 15, 2016
NFC East 2015 out-of-division record:
14-26 (7-9 vs. AFC East, 4-12 vs. NFC South, 2-2 vs. NFC West, 1-3 vs. NFC North)
2016 out-of-division schedule: vs. NFC North, vs. AFC North