*denotes playoff qualification
- Despite 13 wins last season, nobody really believed in the Green Bay Packers, which was justified after they were flattened by the 49ers. Much to the dismay of QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay spent their first draft pick on a new QB, putting Rodgers long-term future into doubt. Luckily for Green Bay, Rodgers tends to thrive with a chip on his shoulder.
- The Minnesota Vikings look most likely to challenge the Packers. QB Kirk Cousins has shaken the ‘primetime choker’ label by winning a playoff game. The Vikings have lost several key men on defense. Losing receiver Stefon Diggs may hurt the offense too, but if Minnesota can run the ball efficiently again, and patch the defence together they are a threat.
- The Chicago Bears defense didn’t live up to expectations last season, whilst QB Mitch Trubisky was disastrous. Despite bringing in Nick Foles, Trubisky won the starting job again as he attempts to recover his career. If the Bears defense can be elite again and the offense is functional, the Bears could sneak into the playoffs.
- The Detroit Lions hired former Patriots staff to rebuild the Lions in the image of champions, but after 2 years it hasn’t paid off. With QB Matthew Stafford healthy, a nice depth of offensive weapons and the arrival of Jamie Collins to lead the defense it might be time for the Lions to stir up the North. If they don’t it will probably be re-build time again.
- The Dallas Cowboys have long had the roster to make an impact in the playoffs, but after failing to do so, head coach Jason Garrett hit the chopping block. Hiring Superbowl winning head coach Mike McCarthy and completing an exciting draft has renewed optimism in Dallas, who really ought to be turning talent into playoff wins now.
- The Philadelphia Eagles won last season’s NFC East with half their roster on a hospital bed. This team is gutsy and talented, but injuries have started mounting up again, losing 2 offensive linemen for the season already. The Eagles have a great QB in Carson Wentz, and a young star in Miles Sanders. This, plus additions at receiver, and Darius Slay to help the defense means the Eagles have what it takes to upset Dallas again.
- The New York Giants rebuild nears completion on offense, allowing us to see what QB Daniel Jones is made of. Regardless of whether the offense is good, the defense has been so bad that the Giants won’t challenge until some significant upgrades are made.
- The rebranded Washington Football Team are transitioning from top to bottom. New head coach Ron Rivera has a huge task to turn this franchise around. Second year QB Dwayne Haskins has doubters, and those who drafted him are already out the door. Washington acquired the highly praised Chase Young in the draft, adding to a solid front seven on defense. But overall expectations are low this year.
- The New Orleans Saints are in Superbowl or bust mode as their elite QB Drew Brees has announced this will be his final year. The Saints have accumulated the most wins over the past 3 seasons, but plenty of playoff heartbreak. Additions of experienced winners Malcolm Jenkins and Emmanuel Sanders might get the Saints over the hump.
- Head coach Bruce Arians exciting brand of football lured legend Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have been sneakily good on defense, and are loaded with weapons on offense, adding Brady’s buddy Gronkowski. The Bucs were previously hampered by mistake ridden QB Jameis Winston but bringing in Brady could be the difference, shifting the Bucs from an exciting team to a great one.
- The Atlanta Falcons haven’t rebounded since the Superbowl collapse in 2017. The Falcons offense is flooded in first-round talent. But, the real difference between a bad start and a great finish last year was the defense as they began generating turnovers. This division is a tough ask, but the Falcons are capable of putting up some fight.
- Releasing QB Cam Newton and head coach Ron Rivera ushered in the end of an era for the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers appointed rookie head coach Matt Rhule and added QB Teddy Bridgewater after he impressed in New Orleans. The Panthers have some pieces to move forward with, including all-pro running back Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers used 7 draft picks on defense, but still need more time and acquisitions.
- The San Francisco 49ers were leading the Superbowl after three quarters but couldn’t finish the job. Now they’re aiming to avoid a Superbowl hangover. The Niners have the league’s finest defense and adequately replaced any players lost from last season’s team. Some doubts have emerged regarding whether head coach Shanahan and QB Garoppolo can get it done in the biggest game.
- The Seattle Seahawks took the 49ers to the wire twice last season and look ready again. The Seahawks lost a key player in Clowney from their defense, but traded a package of draft picks for Jamal Adams, one of the NFL’s greatest defensive stars. The Seahawks will go far again.
- The Los Angeles Rams suffered a Superbowl hangover last season. Previously, teams were envious of the Rams exciting offense, creative young coach, and star studded defense. Whilst they have lost a few big names, the biggest star Aaron Donald is still there. The problem for the Rams is this is the toughest division in the NFL.
- The Kingsbury and Kyler project enters its second season for the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals signed DeAndre Hopkins to provide QB Kyler Murray with the game’s most expensive weapon. They concentrated their draft on defense, which should help them be more competitive, but it might be a year too soon for the Cards.