Friday, November 8, 2013

The Best NFL Divisional Races Since 2002 Realignment

Originally Posted Oct 27 2013

Halfway through the 2013 NFL season, the AFC West race between divisional rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos, is positioned to be the best since divisional realignment in 2002 and potentially can be the best of all-time.  The Chiefs are 8-0 and the Broncos are 7-1.

They play for the first time against each other in week 11 in Denver and two weeks later play again in Kansas City.

If the teams split the two games, it would mean at least three losses among the two teams and a fantastic fight for the divisional title until the end of the regular season.  If one team wins both head to head games, then the divisional battle may not be as close.

Looking back over the seasons since 2002, divisions have been battled over till the last week of the regular season, but no battle has been fought among two teams ending with records better than 12-4.

It's happened in four seasons.  This would mean eight teams are involved.

Interestingly, though, only four teams can lay claim to the feat.  Twice, two teams contested each other with records of 12-4 or better.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, they each won one AFC North division in consecutive seasons, 2010 and 2011.  For the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans, they split AFC South division titles in 2003 and 2008.

Of those great divisional races in 2003, 2008, 2010 and 2011, only the Steelers of 2010 made it to the Super Bowl, losing to the Green Bay Packers.

The Chiefs or Broncos would prefer to be the team who wins the Super Bowl.

The way the Chiefs and Broncos are playing, it's impossible to predict which team finishes first and which finishes as runner-up for the AFC West division title.  It has become an NFL divisional battle to remember for years to come.  One team will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs plus a bye while the other team will have be on the road for the playoffs with one additional Wildcard game.

It is possible for the teams to play a third time this season.  The Steelers and Ravens played a third time in the 2010-11 playoffs as the Steelers made their way to the Super Bowl.

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