Predicting Division Races

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It's Mid-June. Most of the NFL's mini camps are over, and there's a long pause between now and training camp. NFL junkies are starting to countdown until kickoff. Fans of every team are starting to get excitement over a fresh start. Beat writers are writing positives, mainly because that's what fans want to hear. But also because everyone should look good in helmets and shorts.  All of this leads to people being fooled on how good a team might actually be. It's absolutely insane. How many years now have the Rams been expected to compete for their division? Same to be said for the Dolphins and Jets. The Lions were supposed to be really good last year. It always happens, year in and year out fans and media members are fooled into thinking a team is better than they are. It's happened to me.  Who really cares though right? Predicting outcomes is something that make being a fan fun.  With that said, here are my predictions for how each division will play out.

AFC West

1. Chiefs

2. Broncos

3. Raiders

4. Chargers

Yes, I'm aware the Raiders are the off-season darlings.  They signed Osemele and Irvin. But they aren't the best team in the division.  They will be looking up at the Broncos and Chiefs. Both the Broncos and Chiefs feature better defense and better run games and have better coaches. That's enough to keep the Raiders in 3rd place. I would say the Raiders are one more year away from competiting for the division title.  

AFC North

1. Steelers

2. Ravens

3. Bengals

4. Browns

I wouldn't at all be surprised to see 3 of these teams makes the playoffs like they did two years ago. This is a good division with a lot of good football being played. Sure the Ravens weren't good last year, but John Harbaugh is a top 5 NFL coach and Joe Flacco is coming back.  As C.J. Mosely comes into his own the defense will get better with him. Even with that said, the Steelers are a legit Super Bowl contender with Le'Veon Bell healthy. They might score 35+ per game and while they can't defend the pass, their front 7 shuts down run games. As for the Bengals? Losing Reggie Nelson hurts them against the two teams above them because they like to go deep, and losing division games will be the factor that puts them in 3rd.

AFC South

1. Colts

2. Texans

3. Jags

4. Titans

The Titans won't be good until they hire a real coach. Mike Mularkey is to the NFL what I would be to a World Cup team, useless.  The Jags will be  really good, a lot of quality talent on both sides of the ball but they're still too young.  I also have questions about their Oline.  The Texans over paid for an average Quarterback, but their defense will be good enough to get 2nd place and Lamar Miller will break out in a big way. First place will be the Colts. Don't let the spin of "what's wrong with Andrew Luck" from last year fool you. The called plays to push the ball down field with him behind center way too much last year behind a bad Oline. They didn't do that with Hasselbeck, they ran two different offenses.  If the play calling is better the Colts will again rule the division.

AFC East

1. Patriots

2. Dolphins

3. Jets

4. Bills

In this division 2-4 can be interchangeable.  I like what the Dolphins have at WR and with Adam Gase at Head Coach Tannehill should have a good year. The defense should also be better.  I don't think the Jets are a 10 win team with Fitz at QB again. He threw a lot of passes that were dropped, by the defense. That luck won't be there again.  With the Bills? They will win 7 games and Rex Ryan will have a good defense but there's issues there that keep them to 6 or 7 wins.  The Patriots well, Tom Brady.

NFC North

1. Packers

2. Vikings

3. Bears

4. Lions

The kid from Chico had 31 TD's and 7ints last year and we called that a down year. He's that good. With a slimmed down Eddie Lacey, and Jordy Nelson back, that offense will really hum. Clay Matthews is also moving back to outside LB, and will wreak havoc on QB's all year. The Vikings are a good team and will again make the playoffs but it might take 13 wins to steal the Division from the Pack again, I just don't think they have that in them.  The Bears and Lions is a coin flip, but I believe the Bears have the better coaching staff so they finish 3rd.

NFC West

1. Cardinals

2. Seahawks

3. 49er

4. Rams

The Cardinals traded for Chandler Jones. They also singed  Evan Mathis. Add that to a team that won the division and they will win it again.  Seattle won't make the playoffs, they will go 9-7 if they start slow like the last two years. During the last two years Seattle started 6-4 and went on a run to finish with double digit wins, an easier second half schedule helped that.  This year they don't have that. With second half dates at Lambeau and Foxborro Seattle is likely to stumble all season if they start slow.  I personally think they start 2-2 losing at the Rams and Jets because both those teams create a ton of interior pressure, that's the Seahawks biggest weakness. They're 1-3 vs the Rams since Aaron Donald showed up, the leagues best interior pass rusher. Seattle better hope Russell Wilson can be Houdini behind that OLine or they'll be watching the playoffs. The 49ers Defense gave up only 17.3 points during home games last year. They were poorly coached but sometimes flashed talent. A better coaching staff won't make them a playoff team but it makes them a 7 win team. The Rams are coached by Jeff Fisher.  That alone means 8 wins or less.  I see them being 2-6 on the road, and in their first year in LA with an over rated rookie QB it's hard to see them being better than 4-4 at home. 6-10 is their future.

NFC East

1. Cowboys

2. DC Football Team

3. Giants

4. Eagles

The Eagles want to place all the blame on Chip Kelly but now without him they paid a back up QB a ton of money. Actually two back up QB's a ton of money assuming the #2 overall pick starts for them. They're dumb, and will be last. The Giants fired Tom Coughlin but retained a GM who has been terrible at amassing talent, they're dumb. Their saving grace will be Eli and OBJ, but that won't be enough to win the division.  The DC Football team won it last year, and they have the 2nd best offensive talent in the division, so they'll be 2nd place.  I think people forget the Cowboys were a bad call away from the NFC Championship game (Dez Caught It) two years ago. Last year was a fluke and Romo was hurt. They will be a lot better this next year, an 11 or 12 win team that no one wants to see in the playoffs because their oline and run game can keep the defense off of the field. They are  a Super Bowl sleeper.

NFC South

1. Panthers

2. Saints

3. Bucs

4. Falcons

I have an odd feeling the Saints play pretty well at home this year, going 8-0 there and squeaking some road wins to surprise everyone. I think that the Coby Fleener signing was a great one for them, and that the offense will once again be near the best in the NFL. The Falcons don't really play defense, DeVonta Freeman slowed down late in the season when people game planned for him, they over paid a #3 WR and are making him a number 2. Also in a pass happy division they are playing a rookie at Safety. Bad News Bears for the Falcons, last in the division.  The Bucs have a very good young nucleus, but a first time head coach, two years away.  As for the Panthers? Well, that defense will still be elite, and Cam will still be Cam. They run this division.  

Thanks for reading.