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Top Five Toughest Divisions in American Sports.

What makes the teams of your favorite sport truly great? Now think of your favorite conference or division within that sport. How does it stand up against the best among major American sports?

If you were to make a list of criteria, chances are it would share many of the same characteristics that you might find in a Hollywood story. Heroes, villains, underdogs and untouchables. The latter component of dominance is one we truly love to hate. Perhaps out of jealousy, but explicitly out of respect and a longing to associate with a champion.

Ultimately, the bottom line in sports is all about winning. If you want to brag or boast you have to back it up with wins, postseason appearances and championships. But sometimes the division you play in can hold you back. What if your favorite team battles in one of the toughest divisions in sports? If they're one of the best, then their success is heightened by the level of competition. But if they struggle, the division may be highlighted as a handicap that indirectly shows that team is truly better than their record might suggest.

But what teams in which sports can make such a claim?

Here is my list of the five toughest divisions in American sports:

5. NFC East (NFL)

Over the last five years, only the AFC North has sent more teams to the playoffs (10) than the NFC East (9). Unlike the members of the AFC North, however, NFC East squads have found a way to win two Super Bowls over that time. Granted both victories were earned by the New York Giants, but each win was over a heavily favored New England squad. The rest of the division may not be able to claim the playoff success of New York, but the Super Bowl success of New York combined with high quality regular season performances by the rest of the teams puts the NFC East at the top in the NFL for now.

4. Southeast (NBA)

Don't look at the teams gracing the bottom of the division (Charlotte and Washington) but instead focus on the rest of the toughest group within professional basketball. Miami, Orlando, and Atlanta have done more than enough -- at least compared to the other divisions as a whole -- to earn a spot as the best division in the NBA. Over the last five years the Southeast has the second most playoff appearances (16) -- only the Southwest has more (17) -- and owns the most trips to the NBA Finals (3). With the departure of Dwight Howard from Orlando and roster restructuring in Atlanta, don't expect this trend to last.

3. Atlantic (NHL)

The Central definitely gives the Atlantic a run for it's money and could argue for a spot here instead. The Central division does hold one more Stanley Cup championship over the past five years (3) than does the Atlantic (2) but that's where the advantages stop. The Rangers, Penguins, Flyers, Devils, and Islanders have played well enough to earn the most playoff appearances (18) of any division over that same time span. To finish the deal, the Beasts of the East have turned their regular season success into four Stanley Cup Finals appearances and one championship over that time.

2. AL East (MLB)

This one is pretty hard to argue with. No other division in baseball over the last five years has had as much control over the landscape of the playoffs like that of the American League East. Every year they have sent two teams -- that's ten for the math challenged among us. The National League Central and West are next closest with seven. During that time the members of the AL East have sent three members to the World Series; twice taking the title of champion. It's tough to argue with that dominance, but one group down south may have an unbeatable resume'.

1. SEC West (NCAA Football)

In the last five years -- six to be more specific -- an SEC team has won the BCS Championship as the nation's best college football team. Of those championships, four have come solely from the West division within the SEC. One division within one conference owns 80% of the national championships from the past five years -- the other coming from their hated brothers in the East. Not only does the SEC West have four titles during that time, but three different squads (Alabama, LSU, and Auburn) share those trophies. Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Arkansas -- have pity? I didn't think so.


September 19, 2012 at 11:02 AM Flag Quote & Reply

The GFsix Show
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Posts: 1329



April 8, 2013 at 2:33 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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