We’re getting close to kicking off the NFL season, 8 days to be exact. Last year’s injury bug changed up the season for many teams, but now hopefully everyone is healthy and ready for week one as the Falcons and Eagles will square up on Thursday Night Football on September 6th. Both teams will be fighting for a playoff spot this year by winning their respective divisions. Where do those divisions rank among the rest of the NFL? Here’s a look at where I think these teams will stack up.
8. AFC North (Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers)
2017 Win Percentage: 45%
The Steelers are the only team worth noting in this division when it comes to any type of contender. No other team will even compete with them for that top spot in the division. The Ravens will be decent but nothing to rave about until they give Lamar Jackson that starting spot; even then, they’ll still be mediocre. I’ve come to the point to not expect much out of the Bengals. They have one of the league’s top receivers in AJ Green but that’s about it. I am excited to see the hype with the Browns this year though. Josh Gordon will be back for a full season (hopefully). Jarvis Landry is their new wide out.
The Browns have a good quarterback competition between Tyrod Taylor and the first overall pick, Baker Mayfield. The Browns have a shot at finishing second in the division after winning four games in the past three seasons.
7. AFC East (Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots)
2017 Win Percentage: 52%
Like the AFC North, the Patriots are the only standout here. Both the Bills and Jets will experiment with rookie quarterbacks this season. The Bills will probably hover around .500 this season while the Dolphins and Jets stick towards the bottom of the standings. Don’t expect much out of this division at all except for the Patriots who will continue to be a contender until Tom Brady retires.
6. AFC West (Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Raiders)
2017 Win Percentage: 47%
I mentioned in an article recently that the AFC West was the most open to win out of all the divisions but that doesn’t mean they are the strongest division.If every team finished two games within 0.500, I really wouldn’t be surprised. The Broncos improved by signing Case Keenum and had a strong draft by bringing in Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, and Royce Freeman. The Chargers are bringing back a strong team from last season. The Chiefs are riding a second year quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and brought in Sammy Watkins. The Raiders will have a healthy Derek Carr and he now has Jordy Nelson to throw to.
5. NFC West (Cardinals, 49ers, Rams, Seahawks)
2017 Win Percentage: 53%
This division is the one I question the most. The Cardinals bring back a stingy defense and will have David Johnson back but how will the quarterback situation turn out? The 49ers seemed to have fixed their quarterback issues after winning the last five games last season before starting 1-10. Some question if that was a fluke or is Jimmy G the real deal? Numbers say Garoppolo made the offense much better any most categories. The Rams have one of my favorite teams coming in. A strong offense and defense landed them number two on my early top five power rankings list. The Seahawks are on the downfall where it’ll pretty much be the Russell Wilson show. The defense they had years back isn’t there. They lost a top tight end in Jimmy Graham to the Packers.
4. NFC East (Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Redskins)
2017 Win Percentage: 50%
I’m doubting any team in the division will surpass the reigning Super Bowl champs. The Eagles will hopefully have Carson Wentz suited up by week. They’ve also added Michael Bennett on the defensive end. The Giants played absolutely terrible last season but it was bad enough to help them land Saquon Barkley who could be the rookie of the year. The Cowboys will look a little different this year as they will be without Jason Witten and Dez Bryant. I’m not sure what to expect from the offense but one thing I do know is Ezekiel Elliott will remain one of the league’s best backs. The Washington Redskins lost out on Kirk Cousins, as expected, but now have Alex Smith as their quarterback. After losing running back Derrius Guice for the season to a preseason injury, the Redskins signed 33 year old veteran Adrian Peterson. If we get a glimpse of the old AP, I’m curious on how the Redskins will finish the season.
3. AFC South (Colts, Jaguars, Texans, Titans)
2017 Win Percentage: 42%
This division has three teams who will contend for that top spot. The Jaguars bring in the best defense from last year. I’d be a little concerned about their receiving core after losing Allen Robinson to the Bears, Allen Hurns to the Cowboys, and Marquise Lee to injury. The Texans will bring back Deshaun Watson after tearing his ACL last season. The Titans have a strong offensive line to protect the second overall pick from 2015, Marcus Mariota, and new starting running back Derrick Henry. The Colts are a team everybody is sleeping on this year. Andrew Luck is finally healthy and the teem beefed up their offensive line by grabbing Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with the sixth pick in the NFL draft.
2. NFC South (Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints)
2017 Win Percentage: 58%
The Buccaneers fill finish at the bottom of this very tough division. Jameis Winston has been suspended for the first three games for violating personal conduct policy. These three games will be against the Saints, Eagles, and Steelers. A 0-3 start won’t be a good look for the Bucs. The Falcons finished third in the division last season with a 10-6 record. The Falcons will bring back a similar team and have improved their receiving core by stealing former Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley with the 26th pick of the NFL Draft. The Panthers bring back some core pieces in Cam Newton, Greg Olson, Christian McCaffrey, and Luke Keuchly. The Panthers will definitely be fighting for a playoff spot. The 2017 division winners, the New Orleans Saints, will still compete for that playoff spot. Drew Brees continues to impress as he is getting up there in age. Alvin Kamara surprised everyone last year with his speed and explosiveness. The NFC South won 58% of their games last season: the highest in the NFL.
1. NFC North (Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings)
2017 Win Percentage: 53%
Like I said earlier, Allen Robinson landed a spot with the Bears receivers. Mitchell Trubisky has a year under his belt. Jordan Howard is one of the leagues most underrated running backs. I’m not saying the Bears are near the top in the division but if this is the worst then that’s pretty good for the division. The Lions defense was bad last year but I’m sure new head coach Matt Patricia will fix that issue after Patricia has spent nearly a decade with the Patriots defensive coaching staff. On the offensive side the Lions bring back Matt Stafford, Golden Tate and Marvin Jones and brought in LeGarrette Blount to give the running backs some toughness. The Packers are what made the NFC North the top division. The best quarterback in the NFL is back and now has a weapon in Jimmy Graham. The Vikings won the Kirk cousins sweepstakes and will try to find their way to a Superbowl. Running back Dalvin Cook is also back from an injury.