New England Patriots

By Matt McCarthy,

Rumors are now swirling about the Los Angeles Chargers relocating to London after a report in The Athletic suggested the NFL and the team would entertain the idea just a few short years after the franchise left San Diego for not-so-greener-pastures.

The Chargers have denied the report, but it’s easy to see why the NFL might consider a move as the team struggles to establish any footing in Los Angeles.

The league has not been shy about their desire to put a team in London, but logistics concerns have likely prevented that from happening up until this point. This much, however, is clear: if the Chargers were to move to England, it would almost certainly set off a major realignment of the AFC that could have a big impact on the Patriots.

It seems unfeasible to keep the Chargers in the AFC West in the event they land in London. There will be enough travel concerns putting a franchise across the Atlantic Ocean as it is, let alone if that team has to travel every year to Kansas City, Denver, and Las Vegas. It seems unfair to the Chiefs, Broncos, and Raiders to have to fly to London every season for a divisional game, too.

The Chargers would have to move divisions, and it’s easy to see why the AFC East makes the most sense.

The new AFC could look like this:

AFC East: New England Patriots, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, London Chargers*

AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals

AFC South:  Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins*

AFC West:  Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, Houston Texans*

The last NFL realignment came in 2002 when the Texans started up and the league was careful to not break up traditional division rivalries as they moved to a four-division format. The NFL left the Cowboys in the NFC East (despite being west of the Mississippi) and moved the Colts to the AFC South to keep the Dolphins in the AFC East.

But almost 20 years later, there’s no reason to keep the Dolphins in the East. The Dolphins-Jets and Patriots-Dolphins rivalries have fizzled. Moving Miami to another division to make room for the Chargers would cause little uproar from fans.

Realigning the Chargers to the East would, of course, not make the Patriots, Bills, and Jets happy. That would double their travel time from a typical division game in Miami. But if the league is serious about expanding its global footprint, then some teams are going to be negatively affected. There’s no way to avoid that.

Pat Patriot might want to get his passport renewed. He could need it soon.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.

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