With all the excitement of the NFL draft gone by and no real big news (besides Blackmon being arrested, for his second DUI *eye roll*) I have become very bored as my life revolves around the NFL. In my rusings recently I have been comtemplating the current level of play in the NFL and am under the impression that this year will be extremely competitive with most clubs fielding “solid” teams. Of course not every team in the NFL will have 10 wins and make the playoffs, that is not possible, but there definitely seems to be an inordinate amount of talent across the league at this time. It got me thinking not only which teams are best, but which division currently reigns supreme throughout the league. Following will be a worst-to-first comprehensive list of my current NFL divison rankings and some reasoning for each placement.
The worst division, although it is close, is probably the AFC South. They have a powerhouse in Houston, but after that they have a lot of question marks and I’d be surprised if any other team in the division reaches even 8 wins this season; partly due to the fact that they have to play every team in the NFC North. Tennesee has quarterback issues, running back issues, defensive issues and their leading receiver is coming off of a very serious knee injury. Jacksonville as well has quarterback issues, and the player they drafted to help Blaine Gabbert develop was as I mentioned before recently arrested in Oklahoma for his second DUI, his BAC was at a level in which they could charge him with a felony. If you’re a top pick in the NFL draft, you better have a chauffeur you trust take you everywhere you need to go; especially if you have been consuming alcohol. Jacksonville’s defense has been decent the past few years, but that anemic offense and their schedule is against them. Lastly there is Indianapolis, good ‘Luck’.
I had some trouble with this spot because I am not entirely sold on the division doing poorly, but I had to put the NFC West here. I do not think anyone will contest me on putting San Francisco at the top of the division, with the other three teams pretty far behind. This is another division that could see only one team reach the 8-win plateau. Seattle seems to me to be one of the teams that you never know what you’re in for. They are a pretty good defensive team, and have an up-and-coming running back in Marshawn Lynch, but the rest of the offense is a question. Their wideouts are suspect at best, and there is a three-way (giggity) competition at quarterback and their offensive line was spotty last season. Arizona also has a quarterback controversy, inconsistent running back play and little depth at receiver. They do have a solid defensive line and one of the best safeties in the game in Adrian Wilson, which can help them win games in their division but they might have trouble when they face teams with extremely prolific passers. St. Louis is the biggest question to me, they seem to have some great pieces but just cannot figure out how to put the puzzle together. If they do they could pull out 8 or 9 wins, but they will not make the postseason, the NFC is too strong for 9 wins to make it this year.
This is where things really start to get hard. As I mentioned earlier there is a large amount of talent across the league, and it is tough to figure out exactly who is going to falter and who is going to succeed. With that being said, I am going to put the AFC West here. Denver will probably win the division again, as long as Peyton can play at least 70% as well as he did his last playing days with the Indianapolis Colts. Their defense is the best in the division and they have a strong running game. They also have a young, fast and talented receiver corp that will probably perform at a much higher level than they did with Tebow throwing them the ball. San Diego lost their best playmaker, but Mathews could turn out to be his replacement as the go-to offensive weapon. Their defense has been mediocre as of late, but if they play to their full potential they could overtake the Broncos as the best team in the division. Oakland is the maverick of the division. If their young receivers pan out, and McFadden can stay healthy, their defense should be enough to get them to 8 wins and possibly a division title. If they have to resort to backups, Palmer can’t get the ball to his receivers and the defense is weary from being on the field too much they could be looking at 4-5 wins. Kansas City will probably be last in the division. Too many questions at too many positions.
Ranked 5th and at the top of the bottom half of the NFL I have put the NFC South. Having this division in the bottom half just shows how talented the rest of the NFL is. New Orleans should be at the top, but it will be interesting to see whether Brees comes and plays like he can, and whether the defense and team as a whole can rebound from the drama that took place over the offseason. Atlanta always seems to field a solid team. They have a great running game and plenty of talented receivers. Their offense did fall apart last year in the playoffs, but I believe that was more of a hiccup than a true illness. Tampa and Carolina have young teams, neither should make the playoffs this year but both could contend for a .500 record.
Slightly above the NFC South I am placing the AFC East. The Patriots are the clear class of the division, and with their additions on defense and continued progress on offense I don’t see them regressing any time soon. Buffalo has some few kinks to work out, mostly on defense, and just the addition of their rookies should help shore that up. They have a solid offensive line and great depth in the backfield and a very strong young wide-receiving corps. They also have a smart quarterback who can play like a top-ten talent when the pieces around him are working. The Jets surprise me every year, they are very talented but just do not seem to play well as a team. They now have a large quarterback controversy, and I would not be surprised if they are on the field at the same time on multiple plays throughout a game. Miami, needs a lot of work, they could possibly be the worst team in the NFL this year.
Many people may not agree with this, but in third I have the NFC East. The Giants are the defending Super Bowl champions, they won two Superbowls in four years. All that beside, they may not even win their division. They have a great offense and an extremely intimidating defense and a quarterback who plays well in the clutch. They have to contend with the likes of Dallas and Philadelphia for a division title however, and both teams should be much better this year (maybe play to the potential they had last year). As much as Tony Romo is ridiculed, he has a very great rating and that only happens when quarterbacks play well. Maybe he isn’t as “clutch” as Eli Manning, but he is a great decision maker with high accuracy. Their running game is young and explosive, as well as their receiving corps. They have possibly the best defensive player in the game, and he leads a strong front seven. They addressed their secondary in the draft and if their new players pan out, and they can satisfy Jenkins before the season begins they might have the best defense in the NFC East. Philadelphia has game-changing playmakers at every offensive position and many defensive positions. They disappointed last season after making huge signings in the previous offseason, but they took care of some of the power-balance issues and should be primed for a big year. The biggest question mark for them are their young receivers and running backs, will Mccoy still play hard after inking all that money? Will Jackson become a better route runner? There is not much to say about the Redskins except for that with RGIII at the helm, I think they will win a few more games than last year, and that still isn’t much.
In second in the NFL when it comes to divisions I have placed the AFC North. Baltimore is the best team in the division with the most maligned quarterback. By that I mean they are consistently a great team yet their quarterback gets little of the respect for that. I agree with most of the “haters” in that he is not the reason they win, he is simply a benefactor of the amazing talent around him. Baltimore could represent the AFC in the Superbowl next season. Pittsburgh is on the fall, their typically stout running game is questionable at best, their receivers are talented but unpolished, their offensive line is getting old and their defense is slowly getting slower. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cincinnati passes them up this year in win total. The young duo of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green is beyond exciting and their defense is playing tough enough to compete in this rough defensive division. They brought in Benjarvus Green-Ellis to replace Cedric Benson and make their running crew younger, if he and Bernard Scott can complement each other well I could see this team pushing Baltimore for the division lead. Cleveland has a quarterback controversy, trouble at many of their play-making positions and questions on both offensive and defensive lines. They could be the worst team in the NFL.
The best division in the NFL this year should be the NFC North. Green Bay has possibly the best quarterback in the league, one of the best receiver groups (including their tight ends) and a solid defense highlighted by play-makers. Their running game is suspect, and in the increasingly talented division this could be too much for the Packers to overcome this year. Chicago did a lot to take care of many of the problems they have faced in the last few years. They traded for a #1 receiver, drafted a #2 and acquired a formidable backup quarterback in Jason Campbell. If they make Matt Forte happy and he plays to his potential they could have the best backfield in the NFL this year. Their defense is getting old but still very good, the biggest question is the offensive line. If the line can play well they could win the division. Detroit addressed their main on the field issues, mainly running game and defense. Their biggest issue as of late is the behavior of their young players and the impact it is having on the rest of the team. They have amazing talent on their team but if they cannot stay on the same page they could implode this season. If they can pull themselves together they could win the division. Minnesota has problems at receiver and the defensive back 7. They have players they know can fill their role and play well but the consistency is not at the level it needs to be. They do have a promising young quarterback and Percy Harvin could be a top receiver on almost any team in the league. Adrian Peterson coming back will be a boost, but not enough to finish higher than last in the NFC North this year.
Well there you have it, I’m excited for this season more than any in recent memory. Should be a great one.