NFL 2018: Ranking the Divisions
By Brandon Ray
Special to Pro Football Guru
A year ago, the NFC dominated the National Football League this past season. The conference was more talented and we saw a rise of different teams. The Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles are two clubs that took major steps forward. The Rams’ offense exploded under new head coach Sean McVay. Meanwhile, Philadelphia pulled off thenear- impossible by dethroning Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
All told, the NFC playoff picture was also more exciting to watch. On the other hand, The AFC had three teams that made the playoffs for the first time in quite some time: The Tennessee Titans (2008), Jacksonville Jaguars (2007) and Buffalo Bills (1999).
But that was a year ago. Heading into this season, here is a look at the divisions and how they rank from bottom to top.
8. AFC East
The New England Patriots are always in the playoffs and dominate throughout the season. It’s a different story with their three rivals. The Miami Dolphins have not been a serious contender in year’ and the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills are rebuilding their franchises with rookie quarterbacks.
Even with the Bills making the playoffs last year for the first time this millennium, they do not look to be any kind of threat within the AFC this year. The Patriots should claim this division for the 10th consecutive time.
7. AFC North
Much like the Patriots, this division has belonged to the Pittsburgh Steelers for many years now. Sure, the Baltimore Ravens gets their shots in but Pittsburgh is the big brother and ends up winning in the end. The Cincinnati Bengals have been in suffering mode for some time now under Marvin Lewis – who is certainly on the hot seat and. As far as the Cleveland Browns, the team has nowhere but to go up from this point on.
6. NFC West
This was once arguably the toughest division in football. But it’s safe to say that each team has taken a few hits. The Seattle Seahawks have lost their dominant defense and still have one of the worst offensive lines in the league. The San Francisco 49ers are slowly rebuilding. They have their franchise guy in Jimmy Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan will get a second season at head coach.
Elsewhere, the Arizona Cardinals have their bridge quarterback in Sam Bradford and their future in Josh Rosen and will be getting running back David Johnson back. For now, the Los Angeles Rams own the division and they could do more damage league-wise thanks to the acquisitions they made in the offseason.
5. AFC West
The only true non-competitor I see in this division is the Oakland Raiders. I like the fact that Jon Gruden is back in the game, but it’s completely different from when he first coached. Who knows how his team will adjust to the game plan he puts together. The Broncos added Bradley Chubb to go with Von Miller to form a dynamic pass rush duo. They also made a small upgrade at quarterback with Case Keenum. The two teams that should battle for the division title are the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. Both have great offenses on paper. But edge to the Chargers because their defense looks stronger.
4. NFC South
What a quartet. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints), Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons), Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) and Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). All four can be a serious threat to opponents. Heading into 2018, Winston is suspended for the first three weeks. Brees does not have Mark Ingram for the first four weeks, Newton still lacks a true No. 1 receiver and Matt Ryan can be inconsistent. Although, all four of these teams never fail to light up the scoreboard every week, especially the Saints and the Falcons. I see them as a tough division, but still the third best in the NFC.
3. AFC South
A couple of years ago, this would have been the biggest joke in the league. The division was basically owned by Peyton Manning when he played for the Indianapolis Colts. Well times have changed, and so have these teams. The Colts having quarterback Andrew Luck keeps them relevant. The Tennessee Titans made major improvements to their overall roster. The Houston Texans found their franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson a year ago. Then there’s the defending AFC South champion Jacksonville Jaguars, who arguably have the best defense in the league. This group has gone from being near the bottom of the league and has slowly worked its way up.
2. NFC East
This is a super close call. The Super Bowl champs are in this division and each team made a drastic improvement in the offseason. The ratings are always up when we see the New York Giants playing the Dallas Cowboys. The Philadelphia Eagles are the best team in the NFL right now while and the Washington Redskins are now without the services of Kirk Cousins. However, quarterback Alex Smith steps in with a new receiving corps and young running game.
1. NFC North
Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers is back and will be going on a revenge tour. Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions figure to continue utilizing a pass-happy offense, Mitchell Trubisky is the official starter for the Chicago Bears from the start of the season. And finally, Kirk Cousins joins the “Purple People Eaters” in the Twin Cities. Each team has an above average to excellent defense. And this division could be the most talented in football on both sides of the football.