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Bonus: 2020 NFC South
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Extra of a legacy choose than one based mostly on top-tier manufacturing, this division featured two all-time greats and a former MVP simply previous his prime. Nobody on Drew Brees or Matt Ryan’s ranges had come by the AFC East throughout Tom Brady’s reign in over a decade, and the Saints held off the brand new Buccaneers starter for a 12 months with a regular-season sweep. Brees was in decline at 41 however nonetheless boasted a 24-6 TD-INT ratio with out a lot Michael Thomas assist, whereas Brady’s late-season surge ended with 40 TD throws — up from 24 in a down 2019 — and Tremendous Bowl win No. 7. Teddy Bridgewater’s Carolina cameo additionally went a lot better than Sam Darnold’s.
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20. Mid-Nineteen Seventies NFC East
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This era crests on St. Louis’ Don Coryell-Jim Hart partnership, which ran from 1973-77. The longtime Cardinals QB made 4 straight Professional Bowls throughout this era, elevating a division that noticed the Eagles deploy the NFL’s landing cross chief (Roman Gabriel) in 1973 after an offseason commerce. The Cowboys additionally stored Roger Staubach within the lineup full-time starting in 1973. His backup — two-time Tremendous Bowl starter Craig Morton — resurfaced on dangerous Giants groups after an in-season commerce. Tremendous Bowl VII Washington starter Billy Kilmer additionally ranked within the high 10 in passer score in three of those years, regardless of shifting into his late 30s.
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19. 1997 AFC Central
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For a season, this five-Professional Bowler division boasted historic QB depth. The Steelers’ first Kordell Stewart starter 12 months coincided with Vinny Testaverde’s final Ravens slate and Steve McNair’s first full-fledged starter marketing campaign. These three synced up with Mark Brunell (Jaguars) and Jeff Blake (Bengals). No team misplaced double-digit video games, and the Steelers and Jaguars punched playoff tickets. “Slash” led the Steelers to a home AFC championship game, whereas Brunell made the Professional Bowl. Testaverde had the Jets within the ’98 AFC title game, and McNair later began in a Tremendous Bowl and received an MVP. A uncommon expertise intersection right here.
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18. Late-Eighties NFC West
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This division’s aerial capabilities have been enhanced as Jim Everett rose to the Professional Bowl stage by 1988 when the younger QB teamed with Henry Ellard and Flipper Anderson to redefine what was a run-oriented Rams offense. Ex-USFLer Bobby Hebert got here alongside at this level, too, rating within the high quartile in passer score by 1989 and lifting a moribund franchise. Falcons QB Chris Miller ensured all 4 NFC West passers have been top-12 in score in ’89. 5 QBs on this division (counting Steve Younger) finally led groups to the playoffs. After all, Joe Montana towered over his friends, each with and with out Invoice Walsh, crafting a second peak that included two extra Tremendous Bowl wins. The second of which got here after a 49ers-Rams NFC championship tilt.
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17. Late-Nineteen Nineties AFC East
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The timing didn’t align right here, however for 2 seasons, this division housed two all-century-teamers at quarterback. Dan Marino was declining by the point Peyton Manning arrived, although the 2 did placed on a present in a 1999 Colts-Dolphins matchup. However this division despatched 4 groups to the playoffs in 1998, with Vinny Testaverde lifting the Jets with a 29-touchdown cross 12 months and Doug Flutie’s comeback remodeling the Payments. This all got here as Drew Bledsoe remained an upper-echelon QB. Manning’s speedy 1999 development modified the division’s complexion, as Marino’s descent and Testaverde’s ACL tear lowered its ceiling.
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16. 1969 AFL West
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The Bengals started in a division that includes a Corridor of Famer, a two-time MVP, and a perennial Professional Bowler. Separating this season’s Len Dawson-Daryle Lamonica-John Hadl division: Cincinnati rookie Greg Cook dinner, a top-five choose and budding star. Paul Brown’s QB led the AFL in yards per try (9.4) and confirmed flashes of greatness throughout his lone wholesome season. Dawson and Lamonica, who mixed to play in three of the primary 4 Tremendous Bowls, had the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry at its peak. The groups vied for the final AFL crown, a Chiefs highway win. Hadl performed 16 seasons, principally with the Chargers, and was a six-time AFL All-Star or Professional Bowler.
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15. 2021 NFC West
The Wilson-Matthew Stafford-Kyler Murray-Jimmy Garoppolo quartet lasted one 12 months, capping its historic standing, however this division offered a excessive flooring. Stafford elevated the Rams, proving his expertise with a 50-TD, 6,000-yard (in 21 video games) season that ended with the ex-Lion and Garoppolo deciding NFC supremacy. Simply off the franchise-QB stage, Garoppolo helped the 49ers to 2 NFC title video games and led a do-or-die Week 18 drive in L.A. to maneuver the 49ers into the playoffs. Wilson’s hand damage ended his Seattle run meekly, and Murray was brutal in his playoff debut. However one is a future Corridor of Famer and the opposite 2-for-3 in legit Professional Bowl invitations. Fairly the QB one-off in 2021.
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14. Early-2010s NFC West
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Floor Zero for a brand new wave of offense, this era’s NFC West featured the Russell Wilson-Colin Kaepernick battles to determine the Tremendous Bowl entrant in back-to-back years. Each cell QBs operated zone-read-based assaults capitalizing on their athleticism; defenses didn’t catch on from 2012-13. Although Wilson was not but an ideal passer, he and Marshawn Lynch stored the Seahawks’ dual-threat assault on high by 2014. Including to this division’s enchantment: the Cardinals’ 2013 commerce for Carson Palmer. The rejuvenated 30-something rotated a struggling team post-Kurt Warner. Sam Bradford spent this era because the division’s different QB. Missing receiving assist, the injury-prone Ram had moments.
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13. 2022 AFC North
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The AFC West has acquired extra consideration, however this division packs appreciable upward mobility. With the Browns successful the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, three-star passers play right here. Watson’s contract ensures he shall be difficult Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow long-term, assuming the Ravens and Jackson work out a deal. Watson matches Jackson’s three Professional Bowls, although he has not reached the run-oriented Raven’s output simply but. This is applicable important strain to the Steelers. After having this division’s high QB for over a decade, their Mitchell Trubisky-centered plan is nicely off the tempo.
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12. Late-2000s NFC East
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Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Donovan McNabb mixed for 14 Professional Bowls; the Eagles passer earned his sixth on this span. This tri-rivalry started when Romo usurped Drew Bledsoe in 2006. The Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys mixed for six playoff berths from 2006-09; every of those groups beat a division rival in a kind of brackets. Although McNabb was injured for Philly’s 2006 wild-card walk-off, he stored the team on a playoff aircraft post-Terrell Owens and led a run to the Tremendous Bowl XLIII precipice. Romo’s 20s concerned three Professional Bowls and a 2007 No. 1 seed. Manning spoiled that, piecing collectively a career-defining Tremendous Bowl cost. Washington and first-rounder Jason Campbell couldn’t sustain.
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11. Early-Eighties NFC East
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The 1980 and ’82 NFC title video games have been all-NFC East affairs, every involving Roger Staubach’s successor. Danny White didn’t method Staubachian heights, however he stored the Cowboys on the championship tier within the early ’80s. Joe Theismann headlined this division, main Washington to the Tremendous Bowl XVII title and successful MVP acclaim as conductor of a record-setting offense a 12 months later. Fellow early-30s passer and future ESPN colleague Ron Jaworski did his finest work within the early ’80s, piloting the Eagles to Tremendous Bowl XV in his lone Professional Bowl season. Additional bolstering this group: the Cardinals’ transition to Neil Lomax, who dropped a 4,600-yard season in 1984, and Phil Simms’ belated rise.
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10. Late-Eighties AFC Central
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Every AFC Central team certified for the divisional playoffs from 1987-89 — a aggressive span when a Corridor of Famer (Warren Moon), an MVP (Boomer Esiason), and a hometown star (Bernie Kosar) tussled. Moon began to click on in 1987, when the Oilers’ run of seven straight playoff berths started, and the longer term passing champion led Houston to 2 shut playoff wins. Kosar had the Browns in back-to-back AFC title video games — “The”-game losses, however nonetheless — the primary after a high-octane comeback over the Jets. Esiason’s 1988 represented the perfect work when the southpaw powered Cincinnati’s no-huddle offense to Tremendous Bowl XXIII. A flawed Bubby Brister-led Steelers team additionally pushed the AFC champion Broncos within the 1989 playoffs.
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9. Late-Nineteen Seventies AFC West
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Encompassing the 1977-79 interval, when the Broncos acquired Craig Morton to finish a near-two-decade playoff drought, the AFC West carried two Canton-bound passers and two different succesful cogs. Ken Stabler dominated this division for a lot of the Nineteen Seventies and remained elite into his early 30s, making the 1977 Professional Bowl and throwing 26 TD passes in 1979. Fouts’ profession took off when Don Coryell arrived in the course of the 1978 season; the Chargers star’s four-year run because the NFL passing chief started in 1979. Posting a top-five passer score in 1977, Morton piloted Denver to wins over ’70s powers Pittsburgh and Oakland en path to Tremendous Bowl XII. Seattle’s Jim Zorn-Steve Largent connection was must-see as nicely.
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8. 2009-10 NFC North
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Three NFC North franchises booked NFC title game berths throughout this era. Whereas the Jay Cutler-led Bears’ 2010 work helps this division’s trigger, the Brett Favre-v.-Aaron Rodgers duels are why it resides right here. The Jets launched Favre’s rights after retirement No. 2, resulting in his 2009 Minnesota arrival. At 40, Favre submitted a throwback season: a 33-7 TD-INT ratio, a Packers sweep, and the Vikings reaching the Tremendous Bowl XLIV cusp. Rodgers grew into his A-plus model a 12 months later, sweeping Favre and lighting up opposition en path to Tremendous Bowl XLV MVP honors. Matthew Stafford displayed his expertise early however battled accidents in his first two seasons. The long run Tremendous Bowl winner nonetheless provides to this division’s mystique.
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7. Late-Nineteen Seventies AFC Central
Three MVPs — Terry Bradshaw, Brian Sipe, and Ken Anderson — populated this division for practically a decade, however its placement right here stems from the Oilers additionally having a succesful QB in Dan Pastorini. Profiting from guidelines the Metal Curtain’s dominance induced, Bradshaw trended upward within the late ’70s, successful the 1978 MVP and handing over two extra sturdy Tremendous Bowl showings. Sipe and Anderson confirmed their capabilities with MVPs in 1980 and ’81, respectively, however have been of their primes at this level and led intermittently aggressive Browns and Bengals groups. The Oilers stood because the Steelers’ high challenger, nevertheless. That interval ended when Houston traded Pastorini to Oakland in 1980.
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6. NFL Coastal Division
Concluding the NFL’s pre-merger period, the geographically uncommon Coastal Division existed from 1967-69. The league moved from its long-running East-West setup and created a division housing the Colts, 49ers, Rams, and Falcons. Of their infancy, the Falcons have been a non-factor. However Johnny Unitas, Roman Gabriel, and John Brodie have been right here. Unitas and Gabriel received MVPs throughout this stretch, Unitas in 1967 and Gabriel in ’69. Brodie received MVP acclaim in 1970. Gabriel guided the Rams to a 32-7-3 report from 1967-69, serving to maintain an 11-1-2 Unitas-led Baltimore team out of the playoffs in 1967. The Colts have been higher in ’68, and emergency commerce get Earl Morrall made the Coastal Division 3-for-3 in MVPs en path to Tremendous Bowl III.
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5. 2010s NFC South, earlier than Cam’s accidents
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This division included back-to-back MVP winners, neither being the coalition’s finest quarterback. Drew Brees’ prolific New Orleans profession remained in excessive gear as Cam Newton (2015) and Matt Ryan (2016) quarterbacked stratospheric Tremendous Bowl-bound offenses. Kyle Shanahan’s 2016 Atlanta offense’s 33.8 factors per game stays eighth all-time, whereas Newton accounted for 45 TDs in a historic dual-threat season a 12 months prior. Tremendous Bowl 50 represented Newton’s cliff, with an injury-accelerated decline following. The Buccaneers struggled throughout these years however did land a high-variance maestro (Jameis Winston) in 2015.
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4. AFC West feat. Joe Montana
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The soccer gods provided a present in 1993, when the Chiefs traded for Montana. The 49ers legend joined one other all-century-teamer in John Elway, who had by no means misplaced to the Chiefs in Denver at that time. The Raiders additionally upgraded at QB in ’93, signing ex-Tremendous Bowl winner Jeff Hostetler and voyaging previous Elway’s Broncos within the playoffs. In 1994, Stan Humphries’ Chargers bested the Chiefs in Montana’s finale to safe the AFC crown. Montana’s accidents piled up, however he led Chiefs comebacks over the Steelers and Oilers within the ’93 playoffs. This era’s unquestioned zenith got here when Elway and Montana dueled on an October 1994 Monday night time — Kansas Metropolis’s elusive win in Denver.
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3. Mid-Nineteen Nineties AFC East
The longstanding Dan Marino-Jim Kelly rivalry noticed attention-grabbing competitors be part of the Corridor of Famers in 1993. The Patriots drafted Drew Bledsoe No. 1 general, and the Jets traded for Boomer Esiason. The ex-Bengals MVP confirmed he nonetheless had gasoline within the tank by making the 1993 Professional Bowl; Bledsoe notched his first Hawaii journey a 12 months later. The Colts superior to the 1995 AFC title spherical behind free company addition Jim Harbaugh, whose environment friendly season produced his solely Professional Bowl. Kelly capped the Payments’ fourth straight Tremendous Bowl berth in 1993, whereas Marino bounced again from an Achilles tear in ’94 to renew his prime, resulting in a Week 1 duel with Bledsoe and the “Pretend Spike” game in opposition to Esiason.
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2. 2022 AFC West
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This could possibly be the runaway No. 1 quickly. Russell Wilson’s Denver match, after an injury-induced step-back final season, is the one roadblock. Two future Corridor of Famers play right here, in Wilson and Patrick Mahomes, and Justin Herbert is shifting towards that highway. The Chargers phenom turned the primary QB since 1989 to be a Professional Bowl starter with out having made the playoffs. It could shock me if Herbert didn’t in the future snare an MVP. Derek Carr’s scenario could also be considerably higher, due to Josh McDaniels and Davante Adams’ arrivals. Wilson’s relocation shall be profitable for the NFL, which may slot all 12 intra-AFC West video games in primetime or late-afternoon home windows.
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1. Early-Nineteen Nineties NFC East
4 straight Tremendous Bowl champs got here from this division, which included three Tremendous Bowl MVP QBs, 5 Tremendous Bowl starters, and 6 Professional Bowlers. Taking again the baton from Bo Jackson because the NFL’s most electrical participant, Randall Cunningham delivered an MVP-worthy 1990 season and bounced again from damage in ’92. Troy Aikman’s Corridor of Fame ascent started in earnest in 1991, a 12 months by which Mark Rypien’s Tremendous Bowl XXVI MVP surge lacks the credit score it deserves. Rypien led Washington to 3 straight playoff fields. The Giants toggled between Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler throughout a lot of this time; Simms re-emerged with a robust 1993 finale. Even the doormat Cardinals employed future Tremendous Bowl XXXIII starter Chris Chandler for 3 seasons. Depth-wise, this group reigns.
Sam Robinson is a Kansas Metropolis, Mo.-based author who principally writes in regards to the NFL. He has coated sports activities for practically 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations that includes feminine rock protagonists are a few of his go-tos. Often attention-grabbing tweets @SRobinson25.