By Greg Sulik @GregSulik on July 18, 2014
Which division is the best in the NFL? It's a simple question that can spark a lot of debate, and the strength of a division can have a major impact on a team's playoff chances. Every team has optimism as training camp nears, but not all of them should be so upbeat. After taking a closer look, here are the power rankings for the NFL divisions.
The AFC South was the only division in the league to have three teams finish below .500 last season. The champion Colts were knocked out in the divisional round of the playoffs and didn’t make a ton of upgrades this offseason. The Texans have a talented roster, but the lack of a quarterback will hurt them. The Titans are a bit of mystery until Jake Locker can stay on the field, while the Jaguars remain at least a couple years away.
The NFC East was often called the NFC Least last season, and for good reason. The entertaining Eagles hope to build on last season's division title. The Giants won't be going anywhere unless Eli Manning plays much better this season. The Redskins are hoping RGIII returns to form, but there may not be enough talent around him. Finally, the Cowboys are hoping that Tony Romo will be healthy and the offense can overcome a weak defensive unit.
The AFC North is a division in decline, with the Ravens and Steelers fighting aging rosters and cap problems as they try to stay contenders. The Bengals won the division last year but were bounced in the Wild Card round for the third straight season. If Andy Dalton doesn’t improve, this team can't take a step forward. The Browns will stay in the cellar this year, but they are hoping Johnny Manziel will bring them to the playoffs soon.
To be honest, the only thing that separates the AFC East from the previous divisions is the Patriots, who remain one of the best teams in the NFL, and will as long as they have Tom Brady. The Jets have a talented roster but a disastrous quarterback situation, while the Dolphins have a promising quarterback but not enough talent around him. The Bills bring up the rear, but they are building a solid team and could surprise some people this year.
The NFC North only had an 8-7-1 champion, but the truth is these teams are better than their records. The Packers were obviously hurt by Aaron Rodgers’ injury, and if he’s on the field for the entire season they will be better. The Bears collapsed down the stretch, while the Lions are still looking to get over the hump. Finally, the Vikings are hoping that Teddy Bridgewater will be the QB they need to take advantage of Adrian Peterson's prime.
The AFC West was a pleasant surprise last season, as both the Chiefs and Chargers exceeded expectations, though the Chiefs faded down the stretch. The Broncos remain by far the best team in the AFC despite their Super Bowl embarrassment, and they are the favorites in the conference. The Raiders are hoping this year’s strong draft class will be a big boost, and they should be better, though it may not be reflected in their record.
The NFC South could be the most improved division in football this year, as the Bucs have made some nice additions while the Falcons should be much better than last season’s disaster. The Saints remain a consistent threat to win the division, though they probably aren't quite at Super Bowl level. Finally, the Panthers may take a step back, as they don’t have enough offensive talent around Cam Newton to support their outstanding defense.
There should be zero doubt in anyone’s mind this is the best division in football. The Seahawks are the defending champs, while the 49ers are arguably the second best team in the league, The Cardinals missed the playoffs at 10-6, and they have the defense to contend again. Everything hinges on Sam Bradford for the Rams, but the simple fact that a team like this is an also ran proves how good this division really is.
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