*It's Thursday. That means another edition of highly meaningful, random power rankings. *
This week: The best division in football.
The NFC West has a slightly better overall record and out-of-division record. (Very slight.) The NFC North still looks stronger overall. We said before the season that there was a potential here for three playoff teams. That didn't even include the Vikings. The Bears are better than we expected, and the Packers are championship contenders until proven otherwise.
Before the season, we ranked the NFC West seventh. Old habits die hard. The NFC West has the best overall division record (15-9) and out-of-division record (12-6). The Seahawks and Cardinals beat the Patriots. The 49ers are title contenders and won in Green Bay. Four of the top five scoring defenses are in the division. The rise of the Rams as a respectable team -- they battle every week -- symbolizes the division as a whole. There are no easy outs.
Yes, the three best divisions in football are all in the NFC. The NFC East is third in overall win percentage (12-11) and out of division record (10-9), but I made this list before checking the numbers. The division passes the eyeball test: There are no embarrassing teams. There is a legitimate Super Bowl contender in New York. There is an upstart surprise in Washington.
It's pretty sad this is the best AFC division, but it's the truth. (More on that below.) The Patriots are one of the best teams in football despite their record. The Dolphins have played like a 4-2 team. We like them as the No. 6 seed in the AFC. The Jets aren't as bad as you think, and the Bills have shown they can beat bad teams.
The most disappointing AFC division is under .500 overall and out of division. The Ravens lead the way but have a lot more problems than you'd expect from a 5-1 team. The Bengals have taken a step back from last year despite their 3-3 record. The Steelers just don't look like the Steelers yet. The Browns are the one team that actually might look better than their record indicates here.
The most disappointing division in football. We pegged this as the best four-pack before the season, but that looks silly now. The Panthers' offense has collapsed, and their defense hasn't made up for it. The Saints' defense is somehow worse without Gregg Williams. The Bucs aren't an easy matchup in Year 1 under Greg Schiano. The Falcons have overcome slow starts for three consecutive weeks to stay undefeated. This remains a dangerous group, but it probably will send only one team to the playoffs.