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Analyizing division rivalries between teams very distant from each other


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In the years since the AFL-NFL merger, there have been numerous division rivalries involving teams that are very distant from each other.

The AFC Central was made of three teams in the Rust Belt - Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh - plus the Houston Oilers, from 1970 to 1994.

The NFC East had three East Coast teams - the Giants, Eagles, and Washington - and two teams far away from the East Coast - the Cowboys and Cardinals - from 1970 to 2001. The Cowboys are still in the division, but the Cardinals are not. This meant for over quarter a century, there were two Pennsylvania-Texas division rivalries in the NFL.

The NFC West began as a coast-to-coast division, and with the exception of the 1976 Seahawks, all of its teams were in the Sun Belt from 1970-94. The Rams moved to St. Louis the next year, and the Panthers joined as an expansion team. The 49ers nor Rams never really felt anything with the Southern teams once in the NFC West, given those teams' long stretches of futility over the years, as well as the fact the Panthers were only in the division for 7 seasons. As members of the NFC West, the Falcons and 49ers made the playoffs in the same season only twice (1995 and 1998). The Falcons and Rams only once (1980). In the NFC West, the Saints and 49ers only made the same postseason three teams (1987, 1990, 1992), and the Rams and Saints only once (2000). On the other hand the Rams and 49ers made the same postseason 7 times - which account for almost half of the pre-realignment instances of two NFC West teams making the playoffs in the same season (the Falcons and Saints made the postseason together in 1991, and the Panthers' only playoff appearance in the NFC West was in 1996, the 49ers also made the playoffs that year).

Although losing its geographic lore for over 2 decades, the 49ers-Rams rivalry was still a major one for fans of the teams involved. St. Louisians also considered the Cardinals a huge rival for having abandoned the city in 1988.

Oftentimes, these rivalries between distant teams are fueled by cultural differences between the regions they represent - the 49ers-Rams rivalry once represented cultural differences between California and the Midwest. The Cowboys' division rivalries are fueled in part by cultural differences between Texas and the Northeastern US. Incidentally, the three Northeastern cities in the NFC East are the capital, birthplace, and largest city in the US.

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There's a reason why the best restructure of the divisions would be geographical. Almost even to a point of transferring teams around to completely different conferences. That being said, certain rivalries will never be split. Like the Cowboys and the Northeastern trio or the Falcons and Saints or the Steelers and AFC N teams.

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It's interesting actually, I've never really thought about it but regional divisions in soccer in the UK are essentially recalculated every year depending on the locations of the teams in the league. I know it's not the same in the NFL as there isn't promotion and relegation, but I don't see why it'd be such a big deal to change the divisions around every season based on actual geographic location.

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7 hours ago, britishovertheborder said:

It's interesting actually, I've never really thought about it but regional divisions in soccer in the UK are essentially recalculated every year depending on the locations of the teams in the league. I know it's not the same in the NFL as there isn't promotion and relegation, but I don't see why it'd be such a big deal to change the divisions around every season based on actual geographic location.

Or just a simple re-alignment when/if teams move. 

How I would change the divisions:

AFC

East: Patriots, Jets, Bills, Ravens

North: Colts, Bengals, Steelers, Browns

South: Dolphins, Jaguars, Texans, Titans

West: Chiefs, Raiders, Broncos, Chargers

NFC

East: Giants, Eagles, Washington, Panthers

North: Packers, Lions, Bears, Vikings

South: Falcons, Buccaneers, Saints, Cowboys

West: Rams, 49ers, Seahawks, Cardinals

 

 

 

 

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I know the NFL prefers have a single market split between two conferences, but on paper, swapping Arizona and the LA Chargers looks good. NFC West gets all Pacific Coast Teams (Seattle, San Fran, LA 1 , LA 2) together while Arizona fits with Las Vegas and Denver better regionally. 

Rams moving to LA really ruined everything, The West Conferences could have been perfect had they stayed in STL.

NFC W

Seattle

San Fran

LAC

Las Vegas

 

AFC W

Denver

Arizona

St Louis

Kansas City

 

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Keep in mind that most of Arizona, while in the Mountain Time Zone, does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Thus for the first two months of the NFL season, the Cardinals effectively a Pacific Time team.

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If the league moves to a 17-game schedule they should do a full realignment and just add an annual meeting between historical rivals who are no longer in the same division. 

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On 2/17/2021 at 11:36 AM, britishovertheborder said:

It's interesting actually, I've never really thought about it but regional divisions in soccer in the UK are essentially recalculated every year depending on the locations of the teams in the league. I know it's not the same in the NFL as there isn't promotion and relegation, but I don't see why it'd be such a big deal to change the divisions around every season based on actual geographic location.

I feel like a lot of NFL 'rivalries' are manufactured. Whereas a lot of those UK soccer rivalries go back over a hundred years and usually are to do with being in the same city and having fans from the same neighbourhood etc. Don't even start on the Scottish ones, or the Turkish ones or Serbian ones etc, where there is actual blood shed.

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2 hours ago, Hunter2_1 said:

I feel like a lot of NFL 'rivalries' are manufactured. Whereas a lot of those UK soccer rivalries go back over a hundred years and usually are to do with being in the same city and having fans from the same neighbourhood etc. Don't even start on the Scottish ones, or the Turkish ones or Serbian ones etc, where there is actual blood shed.

IDK, man. Chicago and Green Bay/Milwaukee hate each other in literally every sport played. NY vs. Philly is always a rivalry. Georgia vs Louisiana is always a rivalry except in the NBA. Texas teams always hate non-texas division teams.

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