(Page 2 of 2)

The Nfl's New Deal

Realignment: The addition of Houston in 2002 will result in eight new divisions, and some new rivalries

the Ravens will end up in either an AFC North or AFC South.

Pro Football

May 20, 2001|By Ken Murray | By Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

The league has been operating with a schedule that is weighted more by the previous year's standing (third place vs. third place, fourth vs. fourth). At the owners' meetings last March, Tagliabue said there was overwhelming support for the new formula.

"The best of the division rivalries will be maintained and the upside is the [14] common opponents and the equity that produces," he said. "You won't have to look at all those charts saying that one team in the division played opponents with a strong aggregate won-loss record, and another played opponents with a weak aggregate won-loss record. That type of thing will become history, and from a coaching standpoint and a competition standpoint, that's good."

Nevertheless, there will be some potential sticking points when the meetings open Tuesday (a final vote is not expected until Wednesday). One trouble spot is the AFC North. Although both Rooney and Modell want Baltimore in this division, Houston and Indianapolis are two other viable options.

Before the Oilers left Houston following the 1996 season for Nashville, Tenn., they had played in the AFC Central for 27 years. Texans owner Bob McNair and general manager Charley Casserly want to re-create those rivalries.

"That's where Houston has always been, where our fans have their memories," Casserly said. "That's common sense. Put us any other place, and it's a fish out of water."

Polian said the Colts' preference is to remain in the AFC East, where they have played the last 31 years, including 14 seasons in Baltimore.

"Absent that, if it's in the league's best interest, we would consider anything the league might suggest," Polian said. "Our fans have indicated some interest in being with Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati."

If that fails, the Colts likely would wind up in the AFC South with Tennessee, Jacksonville and either Houston or Baltimore.

Much movement in West

Another thorny issue is which teams will be added to the NFC West. Only the San Francisco 49ers and probably the Rams will remain from the five teams that play there this season. Most likely to join the division are Arizona and Seattle.

The Cardinals will give up their best draw when they leave the NFC East and the Dallas Cowboys. Of the team's 17 sellouts since moving to Arizona, 10 have come against the Cowboys.

Seattle's departure represents another hardship. The Seahawks probably will be the only team asked to switch conferences, moving from the AFC West. Because Houston is targeted to play in the AFC, one AFC club will have to move out to balance the conferences at 16 teams apiece.

Interestingly, Seattle played out of the NFC West as an expansion team in 1976, and moved to the AFC West a year later. It became a permanent division member in 1978. Moving back to the NFC would mean the Seahawks would forfeit two of their annual sellouts, against the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders.

Two of the league's seven proposals have the San Diego Chargers moving to the NFC West instead of Seattle. That's unlikely, though, because the Chargers have been playing against the AFC West teams since the AFL formed in 1960.

"There's a lot of sentiment to keep the original western teams of the AFL, going back to 1960, together in a western division, so that probably does indicate that Seattle would move into a new division," Tagliabue said in March.

Realignment and the Ravens

Plan 1: AFC North-Ravens, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh

Plan 2: AFC North-Ravens, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh

Plan 3: AFC South-Ravens, Houston, Jacksonville, Tennessee

Plan 4: AFC South-Ravens, Indianapolis, Houston, Jacksonville

Plan 5: AFC South-Ravens, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee

Plan 6: AFC North-Ravens, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh

Plan 7: AFC North-Ravens, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.