We haven’t seen a single down of the 2019 NFL season yet, but the exciting part of the off-season is over. The drafts are done, free agency is pretty dry, and the first round picks are starting to sign their contracts. All we can do now is twiddle our thumbs and speculate wildly about what could happen next year. Here’s a good example of that. Here are my divisional rankings, starting with easily, the worst division in the NFL.
Ranking the NFL Divisions
The AFC East
Sorry guys, the AFC East is easily the worst division in the league. The New England Patriots are defending Super Bowl Champions, which boosts your value a little bit, but they’ve also been AFC Easy Champions in every year except for 2000, 2002, 2008 during this millennium. Over the last 20 years, the Patriots have been Super Bowl Champions twice as often as they’ve been anything but AFC East Champions.
The New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills combined for 17 wins last year, and though the Jets have had a strong off-season, they’re far from perfect. Literally yesterday, they fired their general manager because their head coach doesn’t like how much they paid for their biggest off-season acquisition.
I think the Jets could actually sneak into the playoffs, but the Dolphins have the worst roster in football, and I’d be shocked if anyone but the Patriots ended this season as division champions.
The NFC West
Next up is the eternally overhyped division, the NFC West. You’ve got the reigning NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams, dealing with Todd Gurley’s knees, questions about whether Jared Goff is a system quarterback, and an aging defense that got older this off-season. And they’re the best team in the division.
The Seattle Seahawks should be good-not-great yet again this year, but it’ll be interesting to see how they handle their first year without the likes of Doug Baldwin and Earl Thomas, and whether Russell Wilson can live up to his monstrous contract.
After that, you’ve got the two worst squads from 2018, both praying that unproven quarterbacks can deliver wins to their team. Now, the Cardinals were banged up, and the 49ers have yet to play a full season with Jimmy Garoppolo for a full season, so we’ll see. But for now, there’s a whole lot of hype with very little proven production in this division.
The AFC West
The AFC West is, as always, one of the more interesting divisions in football. The Kansas City Chiefs are the obvious favorites, but they’re not without their own controversies. I guess we’re all just supposed to forget about Tyreek Hill and focus on how they completely revamped their defense. It’ll be interesting to see how this team moves forward with their abundance of domestic abusers and lack of depth at cornerback.
The Los Angeles Chargers should be great again in 2019, but a lot of that depends on whether they can stay healthy. It’s the same old song, they look great on paper, but one or two injuries separate them from greatness and for the 59th straight year, they fail to win a game that matters.
The Denver Broncos are gonna be sneaky this year. They have a lot of talent on defense and they hired Vic Fangio as their new head coach. They’ll go as far as Joe Flacco can take them this season, and then Drew Lock is going to take over. They say defense wins championships, so don’t be surprised if they end up sneaking into the post-season.
And then there’s the Raiders. The Raiders could end up doing just about anything this year and I wouldn’t be surprised. They could end up with a cancerous, broken locker room and two wins or they could have a 2016esque offensive explosion on their way to ten wins. Either way, it’l be entertaining.
The NFC East
The NFC East, as always, is fascinating. The Dallas Cowboys enter the season as obvious favorites to repeat, with the triplets of Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott intact, alongside a fierce defense. But the rest of the division might not be as bad as you think.
The Philadelphia Eagles are finally healthy again, and I for one, am eager to see DeSean Jackson in the green and black for the first time in years. If Carson Wentz can stay healthy, I think the Eagles could potentially steal the NFC East from the Cowboys. But if Wentz flops, get ready for some ugly nonsense in the city of brotherly love.
Don’t tell anyone I said this, but… I actually really liked Washington’s off-season. They went out and got their quarterback without reaching, and then turned around and added a strong pass rusher in Montez Sweat. Then they added a thumper in Landon Collins to their secondary. I’m not saying the Redskins are a playoff contender, but they were 6-3 at one point last year before injuries set in.
And then there’s the Giants, who haven’t had the strongest off-season. They traded Odell Beckham Jr, which wasn’t a great move, and then they reached for Daniel Jones with the sixth pick in the draft. I don’t have much to say about this team that hasn’t been said 100 different ways, so I’ll say this. Saquon Barkley might be the best tailback in football. Always end on a positive note.
The NFC South
I’m really torn about this division. On one hand, it seems like an open and shut case, the New Orleans Saints repeat as division champs. But then I look at the other teams and it gives me pause.
The Atlanta Falcons were underrated last year. They dealt with so many injuries right off the bat and never really got healthy. They completely wasted a great year from Matt Ryan and an unheralded rookie season from Calvin Ridley. I think they could actually be pretty dangerous this year, now that they’re finally healthy.
Speaking of dubious health, Carolina’s chances kinda hang on Cam Newton’s health. If Cam is healthy, and Christian McCaffrey doesn’t get popped for a “random” drug test, the defense should still be solid, and they could make a run as well.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a bit of a mystery. They were better than they had any business being last year, and then they went out and hired objectively-bad-broadcaster-but-pretty-solid-QB-guru Bruce Arians. Maybe he can work some magic with Jameis Winston? We’ll see.
The AFC South
For a long, long time, the AFC South has been a bit of a joke. It’s one of those divisions that is consistently dominated by one team (usually the Indianapolis Colts). Heading into the 2019 season, that’s not necessarily the case.
I could make a real case for three of the four teams being dangerous in the AFC, and while I’m not crazy about the Tennessee Titans, they are coming off their third consecutive winning season.
I think Nick Foles is just enough to make the Jacksonville legitimate threats again, Deshaun Watson is primed for a MVP caliber season, and the Indianapolis Colts might be the most complete team in the entire conference. It feels like New England’s AFC dominance is inevitable, but should they lose out, I bet someone in this division is the team representing the conference in the Super Bowl this year.
The NFC North
That’s right, I think the NFC North is the best division in professional football. I think three of the teams have rosters that could contend for a Super Bowl, and the Detroit Lions aren’t terrible either.
The Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings have star-studded rosters. The Pack are hoping Aaron Rodgers returns to form, Khalil Mack heads off an elite defensive squad, and the duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are a crucial part of the best receiving corps in football.
Curiously, I think the amount of talent in this division might hold it back. Because they have to play each other, it’s more likely that they’ll lose those important games and miss out on home-field advantage in the playoffs. Would you rather host the New Orleans Saints somewhere cold like Soldier Field or have to travel down to the Super Dome?
And hey, I blew them off, but the Detroit Lions made some strong moves this off-season as well. They’d be the ultimate Cinderella story.