Power Ranking NFL Divisions After the 2012 Draft
The NFL draft has the ability to completely change the outlook of a season for a team. Teams improved and regressed as result of the 2012 NFL draft, and in turn, so too did the eight divisions in the NFL.
For example, the Philadelphia Eagles had one of the best overall drafts, and thanks to that, the NFC East grew much stronger as a division. On the other side of the spectrum, the Jacksonville Jaguars struggled throughout the draft and weakened an already lowly division.
Here are my NFL divisional rankings from weakest to strongest after the 2012 NFL draft.
8. AFC South
Best Team: Houston Texans
Worst Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
The AFC South will start the 2012 NFL season as the worst division in football.
The only team that looks like a playoff-caliber team right now is Houston, and they don't even look like a threat to make a deep playoff run. Losing Mario Williams and Eric Winston in free agency, along with a less-than-impressive draft, will likely make them weaker than they were last season.
The problem with the remaining three teams lies at the quarterback position. With Andrew Luck, Blaine Gabbert and either Jake Locker or Matt Hasselbeck starting for the other teams in the AFC South, they lack the talent at the most important position on the field to be much of a threat.
While the AFC South has plenty of offensive star power with players like Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew and Chris Johnson, there are simply too many holes all over these rosters for them to make any serious noise.
In a few years, especially if Locker, Gabbert and Luck all improve, the AFC South could become one of the better divisions in football. Unfortunately, 2012 will be another down year for the division.
7. AFC West
Best Team: Denver Broncos
Worst Team: Oakland Raiders
When the Broncos signed Peyton Manning in the offseason, they made the AFC West one of the more exciting divisions in the league. Unfortunately, weak draft classes from the Denver, Oakland and Kansas City made this division the second worst in the NFL.
The only team that looks capable of challenging the Broncos for the AFC West crown is the San Diego Chargers. Neither the Raiders nor Chiefs have enough offensive firepower to keep up with Manning and Philip Rivers.
What gives the Broncos a slight edge over the Chargers as the best team in the division is their defense. While San Diego definitely improved through the draft with their first-round pick of Melvin Ingram, there are still questions remaining in the secondary. Having questions in the secondary is never a good thing when you have to face Peyton Manning twice in a year.
If there is one team that could surprise people this year, it is the Chiefs. While reaching for Dontari Poe in the first round was a poor decision, Kansas City added some nice pieces on both sides of the ball. Plus, star running back Jamaal Charles says he's ready to go.
Look for the Broncos to be one of the better teams in the entire AFC, but not good enough to make the AFC West a powerhouse division.
6. NFC West
Best Team: San Francisco 49ers
Worst Team: Arizona Cardinals
It may seem surprising to see the division with one of the teams in the 2011 NFC Championship this low in the rankings, but the 49ers simply don't get enough help from the other three teams in their division.
The Cardinals, Seahawks and Rams all have some intriguing pieces on their respective rosters, but the only team that is a real threat this year is San Francisco. The Seahawks and Cardinals still have questions at quarterback, while the Rams' defense and receiving corps have yet to prove their merit.
While it's hard to imagine the 49ers having as impressive of a season as they did last year, it wouldn't be surprising at all if the other three teams in the division improved each of their records. In fact, the battle for second place in the NFC West behind San Francisco could very well come down to the wire.
If Matt Flynn, Sam Bradford and Kevin Kolb all prove to be capable starting quarterbacks, the NFC West could end the 2012 season as one of the better divisions in the NFL.
5. NFC North
Best Team: Green Bay Packers
Worst Team: Minnesota Vikings
The only reason the NFC North ranks this low is because of the Vikings. Minnesota will likely be one of the worst teams in the entire NFL and really doesn't have a chance to contend in the division. If Minnesota was even an average team, the NFC North would be the best division in football.
With the Packers, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions all having solid draft classes this year, each of these teams will be Super Bowl contenders when the season gets underway. In addition, they will combine some of the most potent offenses and talented defenses in the league to make the race for the top spot in the division extremely competitive.
The Packers get the slight nod as the best team in the division because of Aaron Rodgers and a deeper receiving corps. While they may not have a Calvin Johnson or Brandon Marshall, a balanced attack of Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb make their passing attack one of the best in the league.
With some of the most intense rivalries in the NFL, the NFC North will be one of the best divisions to follow in the NFL.
4. NFC South
Best Team: New Orleans Saints
Worst Team: Carolina Panthers
This is where the divisions become extremely competitive top-to-bottom, and the argument could be made for each of these divisions to be higher or lower on this list.
Coming in at the fourth spot is the NFC South, which should be one of the most exciting divisions in the NFL. It is hard to call the Panthers the worst team in the division because they have a great chance at making a run to the playoffs.
On the other side of the rankings, the Saints are barely holding onto the title of best team in the division despite their bounty scandal. Both the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear ready to give New Orleans all it can handle at the top of the division. In fact, few teams have had as productive of an offseason and draft as the Buccaneers.
They key to this division will lie on the defensive side of the ball. Whichever defense in the division proves to be the most stout will likely lead its team to a divisional title.
3. AFC North
Best Team: Baltimore Ravens
Worst Team: Cleveland Browns
Much like the NFC North, if the Cleveland Browns were a little better of a team, the AFC North would have to be considered as the best division, top to bottom, in the NFL. With that said, I like what the Browns did through the draft and fully believe they could surprise some teams this year.
While Cleveland won't be in contention for the playoffs, the same can't be said for the other three teams in the AFC North. The Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals all made the playoffs last year and it would be safe to say that all three teams improved during the 2012 NFL draft.
Even with the Ravens losing Terrell Suggs, they are still the team to beat in the division. Their combination of Ray Rice and a talented, veteran defense is what sets them apart.
However, this is likely the last year Baltimore reigns supreme in the division as the Bengals are much younger and look poised to become one of the best teams in the NFL.
2. AFC East
Best Team: New England Patriots
Worst Team: Miami Dolphins
The AFC East will once again enter the 2012 season as one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, especially after all four of its teams put together solid draft classes.
The Patriots moved up twice in the first round to improve their defense greatly, while the Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets all grabbed players that should be able to improve their teams instantly.
The big question in this division is how good Buffalo will be in the upcoming season. The Bills' offseason signing of Mario Williams along with the best draft class in the division has them seriously threatening the Patriots and Jets as the best team in the division.
It will also be interesting to see if the Jets can somehow get back to form after an extremely disappointing 2011 season. While I doubt Tim Tebow will do much for them, their draft picks of Quinton Coples, Stephen Hill and Demario Davis could have a huge impact on their upcoming season.
Overall, this division has the talent to potentially send three teams to the playoffs. If Ryan Tannehill progresses faster than expected for the Dolphins, even Miami could threaten to steal a playoff spot.
1. NFC East
Best Team: New York Giants
Worst Team: Washington Redskins
Rhe best division in football belongs to none other than the NFC East. It isn't that hard to believe when you have the defending Super Bowl champion in your division, along with three other teams that have playoffs written all over them.
The Redskins will surprise the majority of casual fans with a successful first season under Robert Griffin III. They have impressive players on both sides of the ball, and Griffin will be the frontrunner for Offensive Rookie of the Year. While I don't see them making the playoffs this year, a record close to .500 or better is definitely a possibility.
As for who wins the division, throw the Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys in a hat and pick a name. They all had fantastic draft classes, successful offseasons and will enter the 2012 season as three of the best teams in the NFL.
It wouldn't be surprising to see each of those three teams split their games against each other, and the division winner walk away with a 9-7 or 10-6 record. Of all the divisions in the NFL, the NFC East is the most wide open with three teams that could not only win the division, but could also make the Super Bowl if they get into the playoffs.
That is what makes it the best division in all of football.
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