Football is finally back this week. Shortly after the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV back in February, the sports world as we know it came to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While other sports like baseball, hockey, and basketball slowly made their return a few months ago, professional football seems to be coming back right on time.
During the offseason, there has been plenty of storylines. DeAndre Hopkins getting traded to Arizona, Tom Brady leaving New England to go to Tampa Bay, Cam Newton leaving the Panthers to go to New England and so many more. The amount of trades, draft picks, injuries and coaching hires is enough to make our heads spin. So, we decided to break things down by each division with their biggest storylines of this offseason and our predictions for how they perform this season. So let’s start with the AFC.
With the departure of Tom Brady, this division is getting quite the shakeup. For the first time in 11 seasons, the winner of this division may not be the New England Patriots. That’s not to say that Cam Newton can’t win, because he can. The number of hard hits this team has taken in the past few seasons with injuries, trades, and free agency has added up quickly and it puts them a few steps behind everyone else for once. The Bills made it back to the playoffs this past season, and after a dismal performance, they’ve seemed to get a lot stronger. Young QB Josh Allen has continued to show growth and now with the addition of Stefon Diggs, this team’s depth continues to expand. The Dolphins added tons of depth but still have some rebuilding work to finish up, but drafting Tua Tagovailoa definitely helps that process. The Jets added some names on the depth chart like Joe Flacco, Mekhi Becton, Pierre Desir, and Quincy Wilson. However, they still have some growing pains to get through before they can contend for the division.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
The AFC North is stacked with talent with names like Lamar Jackson, OBJ, and number one overall draft pick Joe Burrow. The Ravens took the division last season but were embarrassed in the playoffs by the Ryan Tannehill led Tennessee Titans. However, the Ravens will still run the division this year. The Browns have talent on paper, but they clearly still have some kinks to work out, starting with the inconsistency of QB Baker Mayfield. The Bengals did get their guy in the draft, but Joe Burrow alone isn’t going to save the Bengals who went 2-14 in 2019, tying their franchise-worst record. The Steelers’ loss of Roethlisberger and their constant revolving door of their two backup quarterbacks last season helped contribute to a disappointing .500 season. Their 6th ranked defense, however, kept them in the playoff conversation for a majority of last season. Roethlisberger will make his return to the field this season. With an expanded playoff seeding this year, we could definitely see a fight for the 7th seed come out of this division.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
The Tennessee Titans were the talk of the league last season after almost successfully making a run for the division title. The domination by Tannehill and Henry took the league by storm and they are expected to continue to impress. The Colts had a major roster shakeup before last season even began with the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck. This emergency at the quarterback position was taken over by Jacoby Brissett, who led the team to a sub .500 record of 7-9. Personally, he exceeded my expectations and I expected things to be a lot worse for them. They filled their quarterback position with seasoned vet Philip Rivers on a one-year deal. Their defensive line has impressed many during camp, and having TY Hilton catching passes from Rivers is definitely something to look forward to. The Texans have pretty much run this division for the past few seasons, but this year might be different. The Texans won this division by one game in 2019, and with the loss of DeAndre Hopkins in a trade to Arizona, they might not get the same results this year. Saying things are dismal for the Jaguars is an understatement. This team cleaned out their front office and they’ve gotten rid of almost all of their depth. Not much to say here except another losing season should be expected.
Winner: Tennessee Titans
The winner of this division should be a no brainer. The Chiefs topped off their Super Bowl victory by locking up their franchise QB on a half-billion-dollar contract, along with extending their head coach on a 6-year deal. These deals along with the one they made for Chris Jones plus all of the additional talent they have practically bursting at the seams makes this team an easy contender for years to come. The recently relocated Las Vegas Raiders drafted well and have plenty of young talent for the future, but they need much more to contend. The Chargers have a veteran and a rookie at the quarterback position to help fix the hole that Rivers left, and they are clearly in the rebuilding stage. The Broncos have a promising future behind QB Drew Lock, but the announcement of the season-ending injury of Von Miller definitely hurts their chances. This is definitely a division that could be fighting with the AFC East for a chance in the playoffs with the expanded season, so now more than ever every game counts.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
Now let’s look at the NFC
This division is a tale of two cities. It’s pretty safe to say that Dallas and Philadelphia are in control of this division. The only thing Washington and New York will be fighting for here is to not finish in last place. We haven’t seen a repeat winner of this division since the Eagles won it three straight times between 2002-2004. Dallas and Philadelphia have gone back and forth with division titles the past four seasons, with Dallas winning it in 2016 and 2018, and Philadelphia winning it in 2017 and 2019. Washington has a promising future with names like Chase Young and Dwayne Haskins, but their rebuilding is not over yet. The Giants are hard to read. Besides the pick of Saquon Barkley, their drafting as of late hasn’t been the best. I think they’ll finish ahead of Washington, but most of their wounds this season will be self-inflicted. When it comes to the Cowboys and the Eagles, I have to choose Philadelphia. The Eagles have been plagued with injuries lately and this offseason has been no exception. However, the lack of faith Dallas has shown in their quarterback by franchise tagging him instead of reaching an extension speaks volumes. Philadelphia was able to win the division last year despite all of their injuries, and Dallas struggled with stars. I think the Eagles go as far as Carson Wentz takes them.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
This division is also hard to read. The Bears acquired Nick Foles in the offseason and it seemed that they were going to make him QB1 over Trubisky. However, recent news from the Bears camp tells us that is not the case. The Vikings pulled off another upset against the Saints in the playoffs last season, but they have a big hole to fill in the loss of Stefon Diggs. Losses like Jimmy Graham and Bryan Buluga are tough, but I feel like Green Bay has enough depth (also a guy named Aaron Rodgers) to help carry them through this division. Oh Detroit. They’re a team that I desperately want to be good and perform well. Losing Darius Slay to the Eagles is a big hit on their secondary. Gaining a veteran player on offense like Adrian Peterson is extremely helpful for the Lions offense that can be extremely good if they’re healthy with Matt Stafford under center.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
I love this division. Like so much. It has to be one of the most entertaining divisions in the entire league. Even when the teams in this division are bad, they’re still so fun to watch. The clear contenders here are the Saints and the Buccaneers. And if you’re not excited for Brady vs Brees, you need to be. New Orleans is back-to-back division champs, but with an aging Drew Brees, their championship window is closing quickly. So they need to win a championship sooner rather than later if Brees wants his second ring. Brady is also clearly getting towards the end of his career also. But a stacked Bucs team with Brady under center is definitely something that will give the Saints a run for their money. The biggest highlight on the Panthers is clearly Christian McCaffrey, but losing a player like Luke Kuechly might hurt them big time in the long term. Atlanta seems like they’re going to have another .500 season. That’s not to say that they aren’t competitors, because you can just expect to roll over them. However, this division is far too stacked for them to really make a run.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
This division reminds of the NFC East, but like, better. The Seahawks and the 49ers are the clear favorites to take this division. The surprising struggle of the Los Angeles Rams is unfortunate. A team that was expected to be dominant and even made a Super Bowl run has recently performed below expectations and is seemingly going to continue to do so. I love this Cardinals team. The pairing of Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins is going to be electric and so fun to watch. They still have some work to do to build this team up, but I feel that this season will be much better than last season. I think they have a real chance of finishing above the Rams in this division or get really really close to doing so. The 49ers are filled to the brim with talent on the field and on their coaching staff. They are going to continue to torment this league and they will be a consistent competitor this season. The loss of Clowney is big for Seattle and seeing how they try and recover from it will be interesting. But no matter what the circumstance, you can never count out Wilson and his ability to carry this team.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers