Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

11 Apr 2011

NFC South A "Quarterbacks" Division

In this PFT story on the Panthers requesting additional game footage on Cam Newton from Blinn College, there's a note on the bottom I'd like to share:

Fueling our own belief that the Panthers will be inclined to take Newton is the fact that G.M. Marty Hurney, who joined PFT Live on Friday, realizes that the NFC South contains three very strong quarterbacks in Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Josh Freeman. When Hurney was talking about what he calls a “quarterbacks division,” I got a very strong sense that the Panthers believe that, in order to be competitive, they need a franchise quarterback of their own.

Now, let's ignore the fact that every division in the NFL is actually a "quarterbacks division", since that's the most important position on the field. But let's try and come up with a name for each division based upon the most talented foursome at one spot in their division. I'll start -- the NFC West is a kickers division.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 11 Apr 2011

68 comments, Last at 26 Apr 2011, 10:35pm by xiaoz


by Temo :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 9:56am

A few years ago the NFC East would have been the Coaches division, with Coughlin, Parcells, Gibbs, and Reid.

Now it's maybe a pass rusher division, with Trent Cole, DeMarcus Ware, Brian Orakpo, and Justin Tuck.

The NFC east could also be the fan's division, I suppose, as it probably has the largest cumulative fanbase in the NFL (edging out the NFC North, due to Detroit).

by BlueStarDude :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 10:33am

Good call. Pass rusher division was what came to mind first here as well. Maybe turning into a receivers division though with Jackson/Maclin, Nicks/Smith, Austin/Bryant, and, well, Armstrong looked good at times. Tight ends are pretty good across the board, too, with Witten, Cooley, Celek, and Boss.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 10:44am

Considering the Lions 55 year streak of futility, their fanbase has a die-hard nature rivaled only perhaps by the baseball Cubs. The Lions still sell a majority of their tickets, get decent ratings, and have never been at threat of moving. It's perhaps the most patient fanbase in football, and every fan of a conceivably fair-weather nature was trimmed a decade ago. Other franchises should be so lucky. LA won't even support a winner.

by Temo :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 11:43am

That's why I didn't say best fanbase, just biggest.

Much respect for lions fans.

by djanyreason :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 10:06am

I defy anyone to come up with an apt "XXX Division" title for a division that contains the Steelers and Ravens, and also the Bengals and Browns.

by bengt (not verified) :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 10:38am

Which one else could be the Linebacker Division? Even the Bengals have good ones nowadays, and whomever the Browns do or do not have (I cannot name a single one), the Steelers and Ravens can make up for it.

by Tim Wilson :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 11:12am

Yeah, the Browns hurts you there, because of the atrocity that is their LB corps. Scott Fujita as 3-4 edge rusher and Nick Gocong as ILB are not exactly sterling credentials.

by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 12:14pm

Who are the Bengals good linebackers again? Maualuga, who had a disappointing second year? Rivers who has been a bust. Old ass Dhani Jones and his bow ties?

by bengt (not verified) :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 3:50pm

I was thinking of Maualuga and Rivers.
Players who, in your opinion, 'had a disappointing second year' or 'have been a bust', at least in relation to their high draft position, can nevertheless be good. Everything is relative.

by JonFrum :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 1:34pm

So the Not That Bad Linebacker Division?

by Rocco :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 11:38am

Assuming the Browns draft AJ Green, it could be a WR division.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 12:17pm

Pretty sure that division has had more arrests than any other?

by Theo :: Wed, 04/13/2011 - 10:45am

Is there anything, positive for that matter, that would fit the browies?

by Kibbles :: Wed, 04/13/2011 - 5:03pm

That offensive line is pretty beastly. 4th in power success, lowest percentage of stuffs in the league, helped Peyton Hillis play like an All Pro. Joe Thomas, in particular, is awesome. If there were a great big fantasy draft of every player in the NFL, Thomas would likely be a top 10 pick.

Also, Cribbs had a down year, but you still have to think he's one of the top return guys in the league. It really comes down to him or Hester, imo.

by rk (not verified) :: Wed, 04/13/2011 - 1:51pm

Each team has a decent RB: Mendenhall, Rice, Hillis, Benson.
Or how about centers: Pouncey and Birk have made Pro Bowls. Mack was a 1st rounder, and Cook is at least above average.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 04/16/2011 - 9:38am

The only problem with RBs is that, as discussed below, while they are undoubtedly very good they're not as good as the AFC South's.

by Birdman (not verified) :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 10:08am

NFC North is tough. There's Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, but not much else. There's Adrian Peterson at running back, but not much else. Due to the Bears and the Vikings, offensive line won't be an option. Due to the Lions and the Bears, cornerback won't be an option. The best you can do is have three of the four teams well-represented, although that's the case with NFC South "quarterback division."

For my money, NFC North is the defensive tackle position (MIN K. Williams, DET Suh, GB Raji) although there are arguments to be made for linebacker (GB Matthews, CHI Urlacher/Briggs, MIN Greenway) and returner (CHI Hester, MIN Harvin, DET Logan).

by Marko :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 9:26pm

How about the Black and Blue Division? An oldie, but still a goodie.

by Michael (not verified) :: Wed, 04/13/2011 - 3:24pm

I still like the "Norris Division."

by Kal :: Wed, 04/13/2011 - 8:28pm

Why referencing hockey makes sense for the NFC North, I have no idea. I hate Chris Berman for doing that. No, we don't care about the CFL, and no, we don't want hockey mixed up in our football. Thanks.

Black & Blue feels right; GB, Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit have all been defined by strong defenses with below-average to good offenses at times. Well, okay, Detroit's been defined by futility.

If you want to go with what you need to compete in a given division, for the North you need weather beaters. You need players who can play in the elements, particularly if you're Chicago or GB. That might mean strong RB play, or it might mean strong QB arms, or whatever - but that's what it takes.

by Travis :: Thu, 04/14/2011 - 8:06am

Why referencing hockey makes sense for the NFC North, I have no idea.

A couple reasons:

1. The Norris Division also had teams in Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota (also Toronto and St. Louis).

2. The NFC North teams are all former NFC Central teams, and both the NFC Central and the Norris were considered the weak divisions in the 1980's, when Berman popularized the comparison.

by Dean :: Thu, 04/14/2011 - 9:10am

I always considered that to be one of Bermans more clever nicknames. It's not quite "The Bay of Pigs," but it's close. Besides, I'd MUCH rather have him dropping hockey references than baseball or soccer.

by battlered90 (not verified) :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 10:12am

Running Backs Division

Three of top backs in the league last year. Arian Foster, MJD, Chris Johnson. Texans also have 2010 speed score winner Ben Tate coming back next year.

Ironically, the Colts have dominated this division for years and it has been at least five years by my reckoning since they have had even a decent running attack.

The other name would be the offensive division since the defenses of the Texans and Jags are offensive.

by jbrown (not verified) :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 10:39am

Agreed. While the Texans and Jags are the worst by far, all 4 secondaries seem week to me

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 12:22pm

That's it: AFC South: No Pass Defense Division. Colts best at #13 last year. Jags, Titans, and Texans all in bottom 5.

by graywh :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 2:02pm

aka Peyton Manning Division

by dedkrikit :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 7:20pm

Why not just the RB division? 4 teams, and 3 of the top 4 RBs in the league. What other division is even in the running for "RB division"?

by tuluse :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 8:42pm

AFC East? AFC North?

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 04/13/2011 - 1:34pm

The North's running backs are very good, but definitely not as good as the South's. The East certainly has a lot of running backs, but Ronnie Brown is the only one who could plausibly be called elite, and that requires a great big flashing "when healthy" caveat.

by tuluse :: Wed, 04/13/2011 - 5:23pm

LdT just had a resurgence which is what made me think of them.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 04/16/2011 - 9:35am

He was properly healthy for the first time in a while and had a notable comeback season, but he was still a good committee back (a species with which the AFC East is stuffed to the gills) rather than the dominating feature back of old.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 12:12pm

Joe Addai is very decent. I don't think there is much if anything to argue about about that; he's good at all the basic RB skills (pass pro, finishing play action, receiving), and has so-so burst and tries to fall forward.

He's not a great running back, but he's a perfect role player for the Colts. You can't call this a running division with the pass happy Colts and Texans, though.

by battlered90 (not verified) :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 9:39am

Texans have the league leading rusher last year BTW. This is where you say yeah but still.

by ebongreen (not verified) :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 10:13am

I'd say that the NFC North right now would be the D-Line Division. With lines headed by Kevin Williams, BJ Raji, Ndomukong Suh, and Julius Peppers, those are some large and talented men to be staring across the pigskin at you, Mr. QB.

If Stafford stays healthy and the Vikings ever draft a good one, it could be an even better QB division than the NFC South - four young and talented tossers could make for a very competitive division.

by robbie (not verified) :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 10:54am

Ha ha. You said 'tossers'. Oh, wait, this isn't an English message board. 'My bad'.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 04/13/2011 - 1:35pm

Well, that certainly seems to be the general consensus on Cutler, right? Rodgers, on the other hand (if you know what I mean), always seems like a pretty good guy.

by tuluse :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 4:37pm

This is what I was going to say.

That or pass rushing division to include Mathews.

by jbrown (not verified) :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 10:37am

Running backs in Arian Foster, MJD & Chris Johnson. The Colts make this division tough to peg. Cheap, disposable LB'ers maybe? Bad safeties?

by tonic889 (not verified) :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 11:06am

AFC South should be Single Running Back division
AFC West should be Two-Headed Monster division (Charles/Jones, McFadden/Bush, Tolbert/Mathews)

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 11:06am

AFC East: Shenanigans division? There's the Jets punter, the Wildcat and Belichik's bold decision-making. Also, the Bills are a shenanigan in and of themselves.

by Temo :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 11:45am

I like this.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 12:28pm

I do too. There's also Rex Ryan's peccadilloes and Ricky Williams' wackiness.

by Marko :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 9:24pm

And Mark Sanchez and the stories about Brett Favre's tenure with the Jets . . . .

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 10:28am

I was going to say the AFC East could be the "Chip on my shoulder" Division, as every team seems to feel like the world is against them and has a siege mentality to get them to win. But then I remembered that the Bills don't seem to care about winning.

Here's my very poor attempts:

AFC East - The Dirty/Lying Staff division (Spygate, the Jets Special Team Coach, Stephen Ross, Buddy Nix [who admittedly says that everything he says about the draft is a lie, which makes him seem quite nice])

AFC North - The Dirty Players Division

AFC South - The Blue Division (every team has at least some blue on their uniform. Shut up teal.)

AFC West - The Possibly Insane Owners/Staff Division (AJ Smith, Todd Haley, Al make this. It would work better if McDaniels was still there)

NFC East - The Dull Colour Schemes Division. Green, Blue, Red and White.

NFC North - The Old Fashioned Uniforms Division (all have uniforms which have hardly been updated at all since about the 70s or 80s [I think]).

NFC South - The Sunshine Division (for some reason when I picture these teams playing its always sunny. Even for the Saints, indoors).

NFC West - The Airmiles Division.

by tuluse :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 4:40pm

The Vikings and Lions have both had recent updates to their jerseys.

by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 11:48am

I had the NFC East down as "Cautionary tales of halfback contract extensions".

by Temo :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 2:40pm

Not bad, especially since all of them have at least one if not multiple more talented halfbacks making less money along with their overpaid elders.

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 12:07pm

AFC West would probably have to be a WR1 division. Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, and Brandon Lloyd.

Sadly, there doesn't appear to be another position where three teams have good starters. Quarterback might be the second choice: There's one fantastic QB, two average ones, and a below-average one. (That's if we count Orton as the Broncos' QB.)

Note: Other people would probably want to pick CB1, with Flowers, Bailey, and Routt.

by BlueStarDude :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 1:57pm

AFC West is the Punter Division with Lechler, Scifres, Colquitt and the Denver altitude.

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 3:07pm

Your answer is better than mine. I doff my cap to you.

by Kibbles :: Wed, 04/13/2011 - 1:25am

The fact that the AFC West is now the "Punter Division" makes me wistfully long for a return to 2002, when LaDainian Tomlinson had nearly 2200 yards from scrimmage and 15 TDs... and still had the worst season of any starting RB in the division (Tomlinson averaged "only" 4.5 ypc, while Portis had 1900 YFS, 17 TDs, and an amazing 5.5 ypc average, Garner had 1900 YFS, 11 TDs, 5.3 yards per carry, and ranked in the top 3 in both rushing and receiving DYAR, and Priest Holmes led the league in YFS, scoring, and rushing DYAR, while finishing second in receiving DYAR).

That's probably the most dominant one division has been at one position in NFL history. Ricky Williams had a huge year, too, but 4 of the top 5 players at RB that year were in the AFC West.

by Kibbles :: Wed, 04/13/2011 - 1:43am

Although, if "Punters Division" gets too depressing, we could always fall back on the "Rivalries Division" thing. The AFC West represents the four teams who have been in the same division for the longest time. All four teams were founding members of the AFL's West division in 1960 (although the KC Chiefs were the Dallas Texans at the time, and the Chargers were in LA), and that same foursome has been playing divisional games continuously ever since. The Vikings didn't join the Bears/Lions/Packers/Vikings foursome until one year later, in 1961 (and even then, they were just 4 members of a 7-team division). The Dolphins joined the Bills/Dolphins/Jets/Patriots quartet in 1965, the Giants joined the Cowboys/Eagles/Giants/Redskins foursome in 1970, and all of the other divisions are hodgepodges with very short histories (the current AFC North foursome has been playing each other since 1999, although the whole Ravens/Browns dynamic makes for an interesting history, while the AFC South, NFC West, and NFC South didn't form until the last conference realignment in 2002).

by Joseph :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 2:13pm

As a Saints fan, I HAVE TO defend the name for the division. *If* the Panthers take a QB, *and* have him start, Drew Brees would be the lowest drafted QB in the division. But my worry is this--say Newton or Gabbert ends up playing great--do you realize that in 4 or 5 years, Brees could be the WORST! QB in the division!!! (Admittedly, this is a shaky scenario. But the Panthers have a reasonably good team with a Grand-Canyon-sized hole of suckitude at QB. Average QB play would make them a 6-10 or 7-9 team. Considering that the Falcons won 13, the Saints 11, and the Bucs 10 last year, a rebound by the Panthers would make this the toughest or 2nd toughest in football.)

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 3:39pm

I think you can make a reasonable argument that the NFC South is the best "three out of four" QB division in the league at this point. As for "if you take a QB and he's great", you can also theorize that Cutler plays well, Matthew Stafford stops hurting himself at every step, and the Vikings draft Jake Locker and he turns into the synthesis of Manning and Brady, finally resolving that conflict once and for all.

Assuming Freeman plays vaguely as well as he did late last year (and as an admitted Bucs and/or Freeman fanboy, I think he will), he, Ryan, and Brees are really an impressive run of QBs. That being said, I'm not sure how else you'd name the NFC South after players, as there's no other vaguely impressive position across the division. I guess if you take last year's Roddy White, Colston from a few years ago, Steve Smith from a few before that, and hopefully Mike Williams next year, it's the WR Division.

by tuluse :: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 4:41pm

Arguably it could be the offensive line division. The Saints and the Falcons have pretty good lines, the Panthers line was destroying people in the running game the last time it was healthy. I haven't really seen enough of the Bucs to talk about theirs though.

Also, every team but the Bucs has good (if injury prone) running backs.

The Bucs are just the black sheep of this division ;).

by YoungBuc (not verified) :: Sun, 04/17/2011 - 2:54pm

You havent watched the Bucs play-- but you opine on them anyway?

The Bucs have LaGarrett Blount, who went for 1000 in this, his rookie season.

by JonFrum :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 1:38pm

And no doubt if pigs had wings...

by Edge (not verified) :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 2:10am

The NFC West is hard to do. Lots of divisions have three teams with good players at one position and one team with nothing, but the West is the reverse, they have about one team per position with a good player.

I like RB for the AFC South, although Arians Foster might be a one year wonder.

I like wide receiver better than d-line for the NFC North. I don't like lumping DE's and DT's together, which is what you have to do to argue that. Greg Jennings, Calvin Johnson, and Sydney Rice (or Percy Harvin since Rice wasn't around last year) all had great seasons recently, and the Bears even have a great player who is also coincidentally a wide receiver in Devin Hester.

by rfh1001 :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 6:26am

No, wait, I've got one: 'The Division with Arizona, St Louis, Seattle and San Fransisco In'.

Or: 'The Division Where Most of the Cities Start with an S'? Or, even better, 'The Division with the Most Coherence in initial Letter of City.'

I'm on a roll.

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 10:36am

Oooh, the NFC West could be "The Successful division". 3 of the 4 teams have been in the Superbowl in the last 10 years (only the NFC South can also say that) and the team that hasn't (49ers) have won 5 of them (is it 5?) (whereas the NFC South's other team is the Falcons).

The AFC South could be the Expansion/Relocation Division, as all teams are relatively recently expansion teams or relocations (this might be stretching it - when did the Colts move?)

by MJK :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 2:05pm

Kind of cherry picking. That says more that the division hasn't had one dominant team in the last ten years than that the division is really good, since every division gets a guaranteed playoff birth, and one in you only need one lucky streak to make the SB.

The NFCW has been represented in the SB 3 times in 10 years.

Here are the other division:

AFCE: 4 (New England all four times)
AFCS: 2 (Indy both times)
AFCN: 3 (Pittsburgh all three times)

No AFC division has had multiple teams in a division represent in the SB recently because three teams (Indy, NE, and Pittsburgh) have dominated the decade.

Whereas the NFC hasn't had a single team have multiple SB appearances. That doesn't mean that the NFC is better than the AFC, although to use your logic it would.

by Sean McCormick :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 12:25pm

The AFC East is clearly the "coaches auditioning for the Sopranos" division. And Buffalo.

by MJK :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 1:57pm

Seriously, though, AFCE is a really tough division to do for real.

Coach: One good, one loud, two meh
QB: 1 good, 1 Sanchize, and...chopped liver?
RB: Some good ones, but unfortunately, they both play for Miami
OLine: NE and NYJ both have really good ones, but the other two...
TE: Nope.
WR: Doesn't quite fit
DLine: Buffalo has to go and screw this one up
LB: Not remarkable
CB: Maybe...but again, Buffalo is the problem
S: Miami screws this one up, I think.

by PackersRS (not verified) :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 3:40pm

NFC North is the pass rushing division (not DE).
Matthews + Peppers + Allen + Suh is better than Cole + Umeniora + Ware + Orakpo IMHO.

by Temo :: Fri, 04/15/2011 - 12:37pm

Suh is not a pass rusher like the rest of the guys mentioned.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 6:00pm

When Stafford suffers a dislocated hip in week 2 and they coax #4 out of retirement, the NFC North will become the Brett Favre DIvision.

- Alvaro

by Joe T. :: Wed, 04/20/2011 - 9:17am

NFC East - Tight End Division:
NYG - Boss
PHI - Celek
DAL - Witten
WAS - Cooley

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