What Were the NFL's Best and Worst Divisions in 2019?

To figure it out, we analyzed strength of schedule compared to winning percentage

What Were the NFL's Best and Worst Divisions in 2019?
Russell Wilson is tackled by Nick Bosa of the 49ers. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
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By Evan Bleier / January 2, 2020 1:15 pm

At 14-2 on the season, the Baltimore Ravens finished atop the AFC North with the best overall record in the NFL and are the top overall seed in the playoffs. To attain that record, the Ravens knocked off five playoff teams (the Patriots, Texans, Seahawks, 49ers and Bills) and were within a touchdown of defeating a sixth (the Chiefs).

Given that, it seems reasonable to conclude that Baltimore had one of the toughest schedules in the league, right? Not exactly.

As measured by the NFL’s strength of schedule (SOS) metric, Baltimore actually played just the eighth-hardest schedule in the AFC; the Chiefs, Texans, Steelers, Broncos, Browns, Chargers and Bengals were all ahead of them.

Probably the biggest reason Baltimore’s SOS mark (.494) is so low is that the Ravens played six divisional games against the Steelers, Browns and Bengals (which subsequently increased those teams’ respective SOS figures) in the AFC North.

So, is the AFC North actually the worst division in football? Nope. But it’s close. At least that’s what we determined when we took the winning percentage for each division as a whole and then multiplied it by the division’s average SOS to get a number representing a division’s overall strength for the 2019 season.

Our findings, including the AFC North’s overall spot in the divisional hierarchy for this season, are below.

No. 1: NFC West

Overall Record: 38-25-1
Winning Percentage: .593
Out-of-Conference Record: 10-6
Average SOS: .524
Overall Division Strength (WP x SOS): .311

No. 2: NFC South

Overall Record: 32-32
Winning Percentage: .500
Out-of-Conference Record: 10-6
Average SOS: .520
Overall Division Strength (WP x SOS): .260

No. 3: NFC North

Overall Record: 34-29-1
Winning Percentage: .531
Out-of-Conference Record: 8-8
Average SOS: .486
Overall Division Strength (WP x SOS): .258

No. 4: AFC East

Overall Record: 34-30
Winning Percentage: .531
Out-of-Conference Record: 11-5
Average SOS: .471
Overall Division Strength (WP x SOS): .250

No. 5: AFC South

Overall Record: 32-32
Winning Percentage: .500
Out-of-Conference Record: 6-10
Average SOS: .496
Overall Division Strength (WP x SOS): .248

No. 6: AFC West

Overall Record: 31-33
Winning Percentage: .484
Out-of-Conference Record: 8-8
Average SOS: .504
Overall Division Strength (WP x SOS): .244

No. 7: AFC North

Overall Record: 30-34
Winning Percentage: .468
Out-of-Conference Record: 6-10
Average SOS: .520
Overall Division Strength (WP x SOS): .243

No. 8: NFC East

Overall Record: 24-40
Winning Percentage: .375
Out-of-Conference Record: 5-11
Average SOS: .477
Overall Division Strength (WP x SOS): .178

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