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Friday, April 12, 2019

An Idea for NFL Realignment

Recently, college football has undergone conference realignment, and I don't like it. Previously, conferences had been arranged mostly based upon geographical location. Now, with the push toward bigger conferences and the "Power 5", we've got teams from completely different parts of the country matched together in conferences. For example, Maryland moved from the ACC to the Big 10, and Texas A and M has moved from the Big 12 to the SEC. West Virginia in the Big 12 doesn't work for me, either. It makes no sense.

The NFL has a similar problem with teams playing in divisions outside their geographic region. So, it got me to thinking about how I might realign NFL divisions to fix the issue if it were up to me. In doing so, I used the graphic below, which shows the location of the 32 NFL teams, as a guide.

Source: Sport League Maps - NFL

I've been percolating today's article in my head for some time. With the NFL Draft 2 weeks away, now seems like as good a time as any to unveil it. It's a departure from my usual writing. I simply did it for fun out of my love for the game of football. I'm sure some will take issue with it, and that's ok, because it's only my opinion as to how I might do it. I'm sure others have ideas as well.

I had a few goals in mind. In order of priority, they were:
  1. Group teams together in 4s by geographic proximity.
  2. Group teams in the same state into same division when possible.
  3. Keep teams in same conference when possible.
  4. Keep teams in same division within same conference when possible.
Even with these goals in mind, when I finished this project, 10 teams, or 31.3% of the NFL changed divisions. Of those, 8, or 25% of the NFL, also changed conferences. I will confess - the fans of some teams, the Dallas Cowboys come to mind, will not like "The Sheepdog's Proposed NFL Realignment". The only division to emerge unscathed with no changes is the NFC North - Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, and Minnesota stay put.

Now, why do this:
  1. To facilitate local rivalries. 
  2. To make it easier for fans to attend more of their favorite team's games, because they are played closer to their home.
  3. To reduce team travel time. Doing so would enable players to spend more time with their families and allow for more healing, recovery, and physical therapy time regarding injuries between games.
  4. To reduce team travel costs.
Now, with the intro out of the way, here's the proposal. 

AFC East

I grouped the 4 teams from the upper Northeast part of the U.S. here, including all 3 New York teams. So, it becomes New England, Buffalo, N.Y. Jets, and the new edition - the N.Y. Giants. 

AFC North

The division almost emerged unscathed. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Cleveland remain. The one change is moving Indianapolis here from the AFC South, because they just don't belong in the South. Tennessee fans will be happy since Andrew Luck has had their number - beating them like 12 straight times. I thought about moving Philadelphia here in order to have both Pennsylvania teams together, but it worked better to leave them in the NFC East. So, where did Baltimore go? Hang on. I'll get there. 

AFC South

I've got a feeling that here's where some of the screams and eye rolls are gonna happen. Tennessee and Houston stayed here, but there are 2 new members in this division - Dallas and New Orleans. Sorry Cowboys fans, but they do not belong in the NFC East based upon geography. New Orleans belongs in a South division, but I had to move them to the AFC to make the realignment work. Look on the bright side, Saints fans - at least your team won't get punked by my Bucs in the Superdome in the opener anymore.

AFC West

This division is the one spread the farthest apart and will require the longest travel times for divisional games. It was mostly untouched with Denver, Kansas City, and Oakland / Las Vegas staying, but I did go a little old school by returning Seattle to this division where it played from 1977-2001. Where did the LA Chargers go? Let's just say they will be playing in California a lot more. 

NFC East

This division would look significantly different under my realignment proposal. Washington and Philadelphia remain. Dallas and N.Y. Giants are gone with Baltimore and Carolina moving into their spots. Washington and Baltimore fit perfectly here, since both teams are based in the state of Maryland. Carolina was a bit of a plug. I could have left them in the NFC South, but they just fit better here due to being based near the East coast. 

Since I've already addressed the NFC North not changing, I'll move on to the NFC South.

NFC South

I made some significant changes here, too. Tampa and Atlanta stayed, but I've grouped all 3 Florida teams here now. So, joining the division are Jacksonville and Miami. You are welcome, Dolphins fans. No more twice-a-year floggings at the hands of Coach Billicheat and Pretty Boy Brady. Fans of Florida's NFL teams would now be able to see their team play multiple times each year without ever leaving the state.

NFC West

With my proposal, division could be known as the "NFC California Division". With Oakland slated to leave for Las Vegas in 2020, I would move the LA Chargers here. The division would then contain Arizona and also the other 2 California teams - LA Rams and San Francisco. One could even call this group the "NFC Southwest Division", since it would have 4 teams from the most Southwest corner of the U.S. This group would also be great for instate NFL fans of the 3 California teams - they would be within driving distance of at least 6 of their teams' 8 division games every year.

Remember the graphic showing the location of all 32 NFL teams I showed earlier? Here it is again in a finished version showing the groupings.



Summary

So, NFL fans, there you have it. My proposed NFL division realignment based upon one thing and one thing only - geography. Take it with a grain of salt, because as I said - it's just a proposal as to what I would do if I was the one making the decision. Since I'll never be NFL Commissioner, It's basically fiction. However, if anyone would like to forward it on to Roger Goodell, I'd be much obliged. 

Is it football season yet?

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