With the preseason wrapping up and the start of the regular season right around the corner, football is about to take over again.
Through the draft and free agency, some teams have improved, while some have weakened. Subsequently, the strength of each team's respective division has improved or weakened.
Going into the 2012-13 NFL season, here are my power rankings for the NFL's divisions from worst to best.
Patrick Willis and the 49ers defense are one of the few bright spots in the NFC West
Despite the strength of the San Francisco 49ers, the NFC West is the worst division in football.
The 49ers, who finished 13-3 last season, are one of the best teams in all of football, but it is the three other teams in the division that make the NFC West so bad.
Both teams splurged in free agency to grab what they thought would be their franchise quarterback; however, both moves seem to be duds. The Cardinals aggressively traded for Kevin Kolb, while the Seahawks signed Matt Flynn to a big deal in free agency, and by the looks of things, both will be on the bench come Week 1.
The St. Louis Rams, meanwhile, remain one of the worst teams in pro football after failing to build on a promising season two years ago. With a new coach in Jeff Fisher, the Rams seem to be in rebuilding mode yet again.
Andrew Luck looks like the real deal.
Once dominated by the Peyton Manning-led Colts and Jeff Fisher's Titans, the landscape and quality of the AFC South has changed quite a bit over the past two years.
The Houston Texans are definitely the class of the division, as they are the only team with an established quarterback and coach. The Texans made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season, and with Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson coming back healthy, they should return to postseason play this season.
The three remaining teams in the division, the Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars, all have rookie or second-year coaches and rookie or second-year starting quarterbacks. While there is promise out of those positions, particularly out of Indianapolis, it will take some time before either of these teams makes some noise in the postseason.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have controlled the AFC East for over a decade.
If this list was taken two years ago, the AFC East would be much higher up, but due to the decline of the Jets and Dolphins, the AFC East as a whole is a lot less competitive.
The New England Patriots remain the dominant team in the division and conference after yet another Super Bowl appearance. The acquisition of Brandon Lloyd and a solid draft make the Patriots even better this season.
On the other side, the Jets have fallen considerably from their back-to-back championship game appearances two years back. With Mark Sanchez showing limited development and Rex Ryan's defense struggling to remain dominant, they were ranked 20th in scoring defense, but the Jets are no longer an elite team.
The Bills are a wild card in the AFC, as they possess a potent offense and have arguably the best defensive line in all of football. Consistency is the key for the Bills if they wish to reach the postseason.
At the bottom of the division, and perhaps the bottom of the conference, are the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins cleaned house in the offseason and are starting anew with a rookie head coach and quarterback.
Peyton Manning's arrival in Denver has changed the landscape of the AFC West.
The AFC West was one of the weaker divisions last season, with quarterback issues plaguing each team.
Whether it was the Tim Tebow-Kyle Orton fiasco in Denver, Jason Campbell's injury in Oakland and the subsequent acquisition of Carson Palmer, Matt Cassell's injury in Kansas City or the extended slump of Phillip Rivers, the quarterback play in the AFC West last season was terrible.
Things should be quite different this season.
With four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning joining Denver, the Broncos have a true franchise quarterback to build around. With an above-average defense and several weapons for Manning, the Broncos should improve on last year's record.
Kansas City and San Diego should also experience improvements over last season, assuming both of their quarterbacks play to their capabilities. Kansas City in particular could have a great season, as the Chiefs defense looks like they could be one of the top units in the NFL.
Things aren't as rosy in Oakland, as the Raiders have struggled with Carson Palmer at quarterback. Palmer, who threw 16 interceptions in only 10 games last season, has looked lost throughout the offseason and looks nothing like the player he was five years ago.
The NFC East is home to the champs, the NY Giants.
Usually considered the best division in NFL, the NFC East is perhaps the most overrated division in football.
All four teams are high-profile, teams which has contributed to the hype. However, not all of them have lived up to the hype.
The Giants certainly lived up to the hype, winning their second Super Bowl in four years behind another great year by Eli Manning. However, the Giants still only went 9-7, including a 5-5 record outside of the division.
Two teams that failed to live up to the hype were the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles. Both teams came into the season with Super Bowl aspirations, and both fell flat on their face, with several uninspired performances. The pair have similar expectations this year, but again, I believe they will fail to live up to expectations.
Filling out the division are the Washington Redskins. The Redskins have struggled of late, but with new rookie quarterback Robert Griffin lll, things are looking up in the nation's capital.
Cam Newton has the Panthers heading in the right direction.
Just like the NFC East, each team in the NFC South has the most important requirement in the NFL: a franchise quarterback. With Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman all in the division, the quarterback play in the NFC South is high-class.
In the Saints and Falcons, the South has two of the most consistent teams over the past few years.
The Saints are just three years removed from winning the Super Bowl and should be contenders in spite of head coach Sean Payton's suspension.
The Falcons have recorded double-digit wins and reached the postseason three of the four seasons Matt Ryan has been quarterback. Unfortunately, the Falcons also have an 0-3 record in those games, and unless Ryan improves his postseason, play the Falcons could be stuck in the same situation for years to come.
Tampa Bay and Carolina are both young teams on the precipice of some great football. Cam Newton and Josh Freeman are both playmakers at quarterback, and with improving talent around them, both of these teams could have much improved seasons.
Tampa Bay in particular was aggressive in free agency and could see a big bounce-back year this season.
The NFC South often has a different winner each season, and this season could follow suit.
Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are a big reason behind Baltimore's sustained dominance.
With four of the top nine defenses in the NFL and three playoff teams, the AFC North is as competitive as it gets.
The Ravens and Steelers have been elite teams for the last decade and should remain that way this year. With the two best defenses of the 2000's, both teams have added explosive offenses as they continue to battle for divisional dominance.
The Cincinnati Bengals joined that battle last season, submitting a great season led by their nasty defense and emerging star duo in Andy Dalton and AJ Green. Much of their success can be attributed to their drafting, as the Bengals have been among the best drafting teams of late.
The Browns are the only below-average team in the division as they embark on yet another rebuilding season. If Brandon Weeden doesn't pan out, the Browns could be here for years.
Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best player in the NFL.
The NFL's best division is also home to the best team in the league, the Green Bay Packers. The Packers had the best record in the league last season and should be just as dominant this season. With reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers eager to make up for last season's playoff nightmare, the Packers should be the NFC favorites to reach the Super Bowl.
Also in the division is one of the NFL's emerging young teams in the Detroit Lions. With a healthy Matt Stafford and superstar receiver Calvin Johnson, the Lions had one of the best offenses in the league last season and could be even better this year with some new weapons. If the defense improves, the Lions should be contenders for years to come.
The Chicago Bears came in third last season, mainly due to the injury sustained by quarterback Jay Cutler. With Cutler back and reunited with Brandon Marshall, the Bears offense should improve significantly, while the defense should continue to be among the best in the league. The Bears almost beat the Packers in the NFC Championship game two years ago, and this year's team should be better than that team.
Rounding out the division are the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are the only team with quarterback issues, and these problems are holding them back big time. If Christian Ponder fails to show development, the Vikings could be at the bottom of the division for a long time.