With the Steelers and the other AFC North teams sitting above .500, the division is among the best in the NFL, but which one is really the best?
Coming into the 2021 season, the AFC North was considered one of the stronger divisions in the NFL. However, with the Steelers continuing to be a strong team and the Bengals exceeding their expectations, the division looks even more formidable than it did at the start of the season.
However, the AFC North is not the only division with many playoff-caliber teams. Both the AFC West and the NFC West also have several serious playoff candidates. We’ll examine the arguments for each of these three teams as the best division in the NFL.
The argument for the AFC West
Going into this season, this division was not looked down upon, but the Kansas City Chiefs were expected to take off with the division. That has not been the case, however, as the Chiefs have remained a contender for the playoffs, but it has become apparent that the rest of this division is far better than the honors.
That’s not to say the Chiefs have been bad, as they’re still at 5-4, with Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce all healthy. What makes this division most terrifying is that it has been so dominant while the Chiefs played at a subpar level. If they can get back into shape, this breakdown will be even better than it already is.
Currently in first place are the Los Angeles Chargers, who have been touted by many as a dark horse contender in the AFC this season. With Justin Herbert in the middle, the Chargers look set to have a bright future ahead, and the team is poised to succeed now too. Herbert is surrounded by weapons like Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler and Mike Williams, making their attack an extremely difficult unit to stop.
Combine that offense with a defense featuring superstar talents like Joey Bosa and Derwin James and it’s easy to see why the Chargers have played a 5-3 record so far.
The Chargers are currently tied for first place with the Las Vegas Raiders, who have come as the biggest surprise in this division. Despite the turmoil this season, the team has a 5-3 record and looks set to make the playoffs this year. Derek Carr is having one of his best seasons to date and has plenty of firepower in his offense including Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards.
The biggest surprise, however, was the team’s defense, which was one of the worst in the league last season. The unit was led by a rising superstar in Maxx Crosby, and a key addition from Yannick Ngakoue, to give the team formidable unity on both sides of the ball.
What makes this division so strong is its depth as the Denver Broncos are widely regarded as the worst team in the division and they sit at 5-4. With weapons like Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon, as well as talent on the defensive side of the ball, this division has no team to beat on.