Is any division in the NFL better than the others?
Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus
By Jake White @jakewhite58
The NFL is far different than college football. In college football, you know the SEC, the Big Ten, and the ACC will have a powerhouse team. In the NFL, with free agency, the draft, and retirements being a factor, last year's hardest division could be next year's weakest. So I will give my honest opinion and rank all 8 divisions in the NFL and explain why some are weak, and some are incredibly strong.
I don't know if this is a consensus, but when only one team has a legitimate chance to make it to the playoffs and the rest of the division either looks lost or is constantly rebuilding it makes the whole division rather weak. The Green Bay Packers own this division and have for the better part of a decade. The Vikings always feel like they are missing just a couple of field goals from the playoffs. And the Bears and Lions have been rebuilding since Brett Farve retired. In 2022 I don't see it changing. Even with Devante Adams out of Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers is head, shoulders, knees, and toes above his competition in the North. The Bears may leap the Vikings, but honestly, no one sees either team as a threat to the Packers. And the Lions… they'll always have Thanksgiving.
When I looked at the divisions, I did not want to put this one so far down. But as tough as the top two teams are, the bottom two teams are terrible. The Titans are a tough team, with the best running back in the game leading the charge. The Colts, are plugging and playing trying to find that winning combination to at least not choke at the end of the season. The Texans are a mess and have a couple of pieces, but will not be competing anytime soon. The Jaguars are a team that could surprise us if new head coach Doug Pederson (Old friend alert) can harness the potential of QB Trevor Lawrence. But right now the division has one true Super Bowl-caliber team in the Titans and they are one injury away from being a losing team. The division has potential but potential doesn't count until it's realized.
I think most people view the NFC East as the weakest division in football. But two teams made the playoffs last year and all teams did something to improve themselves. The Cowboys, as annoying as they are, were one play away from potentially playing in the NFC Championship game. If they can make smarter decisions and their defense can step up more, they'll be back in the championship hunt again. The Eagles are the team that did the most this offseason, AJ Brown, Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean at LB, and another year with Jalen Hurts at QB who I think is very underrated and comes into this season with little to no pressure to succeed. The Giants are starting another rebuild and this might be Daniel Jones's last chance to impress anyone. This might be the year Saquon stays healthy. They finally addressed their offensive line and defense and reloaded on some draft capital. Finally, the Commanders, the most productive thing they have done is change their name. I feel bad for Ron Rivera, he doesn't deserve to coach for an organization run the way it is. This team will struggle as long as Dan Snyder is the owner.
The NFC South is run by the Buccaneers. But is this the year father time catches Tom Brady? With Bruce Arians letting go of coaching how will that affect the team? The rest of the division has questions but COULD contend. The Saints were on a roller coaster with Jameis Winston at QB but can win with him and signed Tyrann Mathieu who we all know can change a defense. The Falcons were a garbage truck on fire last year, but have several pieces that can make them dangerous. Maybe Marcus Mariotta can find some magic in ATL and show the potential of Kyle Pitts. The Panthers are just a team living on potential and hope. Is Christian McCaffrey finally healthy, will Sam Darnold be what Matt Rhule wants him to be?
You can disagree if you want, but the division is super heavy at the top, contenders in the middle, and one that is being poked with a stick to do anything. The Bills are studs, Josh Allen and Company can win on any given day. They might win the Lombardi this year and no one would be surprised. They have everything they need (minus 13 seconds). The Patriots are like the Death Star, you can blow them up but they'll come back, filled with no-name Stormtroopers, and be a pain in your side. Bill Belichick is never out of contention and constantly causing teams to pause. Mac Jones will only get better as he gains experience. The Miami Dolphins did everything this offseason to give Tua Tagovailoa all the weapons needed to succeed. With all-world talent in Tyreek Hill, youngster Jaylen Waddle and Cedrick Wilson on the outside, and the gifted TE Mike Gesicki. If Tua can't succeed with this group the Dolphins will be on the hunt for someone who can. The Jets are another problem. They appeared to have a great draft this year, and Zach Wilson showed glimpses of what he can be. But glimpses and potential won't best their division with year.
The NFC West is home to the Super Bowl Champion Rams and arguably the deepest talent pool of any division. If it wasn't for the Seattle QB situation this would be my toughest division. Starting at the top with the LA Rams, they have used all their money to re-sign and keep their core players including Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald. I don't know what salary cap they have and they don't have a first-round draft pick till 2024. Les Snead is living up to his quotes. The Cardinals were not without controversy this offseason. Kyler Murray was on fire at the beginning of last season and was extinguished completely when Deandre Hopkins was injured. Now he starts this offseason without Hopkins, and HC Kliff Kingsbury is notorious for second-half collapses. This season may be a breaking point for the HC-QB connection. San Francisco is amid either a revelation or a regression. Deebo Samuel was revolutionary last season, but according to experts, the QB position has been holding them back. Taking the reins this season is Trey Lance, hopefully, he will be the talent to take the 49ers over the top. Seattle finally did what they said they would never do, traded away Russel Wilson. Leaving them in a precarious position, with two top-tier receivers and a mediocre QB. Could they have competed with Wilson, of course. But trading him away gave them something in return they may not have gotten had they let him walk.
Always a great division every year, but has several question marks going forward. The division could go anywhere but going off last year's standings. The Bengals are the cream of the crop and followed the Chiefs model last year and went all-in on the offensive line. Will the Burrow-Chase connection just keep growing? Burrow has the tools and confidence, the coach has trust in him, and the players like playing for him. That team will be tough going forward. The Steelers are going through a micro-rebuild right now. With Ben Rothlisberger gone and Mitchell Trubisky being the #1 option right now, and draft pick Kenny Pickett learning the system. It might be a while before the Steelers are competing again. Although, their defense is top-notch and TJ Watt is just getting better every year. The Browns just traded for and signed a generational QB, but probably won't play this year. But has one of the best RB rooms in all of football. Their defense is led by a freak in Miles Garrett and continues to frustrate teams. The Baltimore Ravens were tied for last place this year. They are always a Lamar Jackson play away from winning. But with “Hollywood” Brown now in Arizona, how will Lamar stack up? He still has Mark Andrews but Lamar will need to start winning big games to move from the bottom of the division.
Last year, the AFC West was like most divisions, Heavy on top, barely strong in the middle, and heavy on the bottom with lots of hype. Going into this year, all teams made moves either to help right now or secure the future. The Chiefs made a splash but possibly in the wrong direction losing Tyreek Hill and defensive captain Tyrann Mathieu. They loaded up on receivers and drafted well on defense, but is that enough to keep them competitive? Patrick Mahomes is the catalyst going forward. If he can continue his Mahomes Magic, they will always be in the hunt. The Raiders brought in Derek Carr’s college roommate and arguably the #1 WR in the league Devante Adams. Will that be enough firepower to help Carr get over the Patrick Mahomes hump? The on-paper darlings LA Chargers have a great young QB in Herbert. But in two years of starting, he hasn't produced anything past the regular season. His team is loaded on both sides of the ball. Every position has a top player. The Chargers eventually are going to need to capitalize on this talent to be competitive. The Denver Broncos traded for and signed Grammy-winning Ciara’s husband Russell Wilson. The Broncos have often claimed to be a QB away from competing. This will be that test. Russell Wilson has shown his ability to make plays happen, but does he have the talent around him to do it in Denver?