The Geography of the NFL

The American Professional Football Association officially became the NFL on June 24th, 1922. The league fielded 18 teams during the inaugural season, including three that are still in the league today. The Decatur Staleys (who became the Chicago Bears in 1921) and the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) were founding teams.


Did you know that the Green Bay Packers, who joined the APFA in 1921 just before the name change, are the only current team in the history of NFL who have maintained their name and location for its duration?

Below is a rather neat map of NFL divisions if they were to be based purely on geography.


If you are wondering why certain teams chosen for NFL divisions do not necessarily make sense geographically, there are a few reasons:

  1. Many divisions were re-aligned with a goal of keeping old divisional rivalries intact, rather than by using a strict geographical logic. This is why the Dallas Cowboys, the 7th most-western franchise, are in the NFC East.
  2. The two conferences complicate things, such as not being able to put the two New York teams in the same division. The Baltimore Ravens and Washington are about 30 miles apart, but in different conferences.
  3. There are too many teams in the north and east for regional divisions to work properly as North, East, South and West. This is why the Colts are in the American Football Conference (AFC) South.