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NFC North no longer the toughest division in NFL

At one point, the muscle of the NFC North was the toughest in the league; now it's all about finesse.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time when the NFC North was referred to as the Black and Blue division for its intense rivalries and physical style of play, and for many years was arguably the toughest division in the league.  From the brutal Bears-Packers rivalry, to the ground-and-pound nature of the Lions and Vikings, the NFC North was a representation of the best the NFL had to offer.

But when was the last time we heard anyone reference the Black and Blue division? It's been a while.

In recent years, your offensively-finessed teams have risen to the top, and if we were to look around the league right now, you'd see that same trend manifesting. But some divisions are more stacked than others.

Take a look at the AFC North-- the Bengals, Ravens, Steelers, and Browns are all at least two games above .500 and in playoff contention. If that's ever happened this late in the season before, I certainly don't remember it.  Bt is the AFC North the toughest in the league?

For my money, that distinction goes to the NFC West. Three of those four teams-- the Seahawks, Niners, and Cardinals-- go out each and every Sunday ready to knock somebody's block off, and to shove the football down their opponent's throat. From big-play potential on offense, to cut-throat aggression on defense, I think the NFC West is by far the toughest in the league.

The question is, though, how long will that last? Each of those divisions, including the NFC East and AFC West, generally only have 1-2 good teams each season, while the North could get back to a point very quickly where 2-3 teams could be battling for a playoff spot.

Outside of the Packers, can we stick a fork in the North for a few more years? Will it ever again fill the expectations of the Black and Blue division?

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