The AFC South Is the Worst Division in Football, But By How Much?

Nothing is going well for AFC South squads this year. Just how bad is it?

The AFC South is bad.

That's not meant to be dismissive, but how many people would truly argue against it through Week 7? Maybe just fans of the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Tennessee Titans.

But none of those teams have a winning record, and three of them already have five losses. They're the worst division in football by just about any measure -- subjective or objective -- but just how bad is it?

That's what our nERD metric can help us find out. nERD indicates how by how many points a team would beat (or lose to) an average team on a neutral field.

For example, the Arizona Cardinals pace the league in nERD, with a score of 13.02, so they should beat an average team in a neutral location by roughly two touchdowns. They're the only team in the double-digits (aside from the Chicago Bears at -11.96).

If we add up each team's nERD scores in each division, we can get a good look at just how these divisions as a unit have stacked up. So that's what we did.

On a related note, that's not good news for the AFC South.

Ranking the Divisions

DivisionTotal nERD Through Week 7
AFC East17.50
NFC West12.04
AFC North4.76
NFC South-0.18
NFC East-2.59
AFC West-4.07
NFC North-12.18
AFC South-21.48

Well, the AFC South is a whole heap of bad. The best team in the division based on nERD? Not the 3-4 Colts. Actually, it's the 1-5 Titans, whose nERD of -3.54 ranks them 23rd in the league. That's roughly a full point better (read: less bad) than the Colts' -4.55, which ranks 24th.

Houston (-5.89) ranks 27th in the league, and Jacksonville (-7.50) is 29th.

No team is within a field goal of being an average squad, and none rank inside the top 22. Yeesh.

As for some of the other divisions, the Bears (-11.96 nERD, 32nd in the NFL) and Lions (-5.67, 26th) are buoyed by the Packers (4.93, 6th) and Vikings (0.52, 14th), so the NFC North doesn't truly flirt with the AFC South's woefulness.

The Broncos (3.86, 10th), Chiefs (-0.88, 15th) and Chargers (-0.99, 16th) help mitigate the Raiders' 28th-ranked nERD of -6.06.

And while the NFC East has plenty of problems of its own, all four teams are clustered between 13th and 21st in our power ranks, with nERD scores ranging from 3.13 (the Eagles) to -2.47 (the Cowboys).

On the more positive side, three of the four teams in the NFC West -- the Cardinals (13.02, 1st), Seahawks (4.70, 7th), and Rams (3.14, 12th) -- are all top-12 squads. Even San Francisco's -8.82 nERD (31st) doesn't drag them down too far.

But at the top of the league is the AFC East. Only the Dolphins (-1.23, 17th) own a negative nERD, and the Patriots (9.13, 2nd), Jets (6.39, 4th), and Bills (3.21, 11th) come in as top-11 NFL squads through Week 7.