Power Ranking Every NFL Division Heading into Training Camps
After what has been an interesting offseason, the NFL training camps are right around the corner. So let's explore how good—or terrible—each division truly is on paper heading into the season.
For a bit of a ranking system, we'll look at how many playoff contributors are in each division, who is a legitimate title contender and who the legitimate top-10 pick contenders are.
Going from the bottom to the top, we'll order these divisions based on how likely they are to have playoff teams and even legitimate title contenders.
No. 8: AFC South
Kicking it off, we have the AFC South. While they easily have a pair of playoff contenders in the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans, they also have a pair of teams who look like they are more likely to compete for top-10 picks than the playoffs in Tennessee and Jacksonville.
Unfortunately for the AFC South, they also don't have any legitimate title contenders. Indianapolis and Houston may be able to rack up wins against this terrible division in 2013, and it wouldn't be surprising to see both teams go 5-1 in the division.
But if that's what allows both those teams into the playoffs, the AFC needs help. Houston needs to be more consistent and explosive, while Indianapolis needs their defense to step up for once.
On the flip side, Tennessee and Jacksonville need their quarterbacks to step up to even be kept around as backups next season.
No. 7: AFC East
As long as Tom Brady is with the New England Patriots, they will be a title contender. They will almost be guaranteed a playoff berth. And they will just have to get guys who can run around and catch and Brady will figure out how to throw to them properly.
The issues with this division lies in the lack of other playoff possible teams. Miami is a lost cause right now until they can step up around Ryan Tannehill. They have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, but they need to scheme it properly and get a couple of balls to bounce their way this year.
Buffalo has the defense to compete for the playoffs, but their quarterback situation is questionable. With E.J. Manuel coming in as a rookie, they would have a truly raw quarterback from a team that doesn't know how to coach them. Kevin Kolb is the same thing.
Then there's the Jets. Insert Jim Mora, "Playoffs?!" here. Once the circus dies down around the Jets, they might have some ability to win some games. But Rex Ryan needs to cut the garbage out and push the team into a semi-quarantine mode for that to work out.
No. 6: NFC East
While this division doesn't have a single legitimate title contender, they could have any of the four teams make the playoffs this year. Philadelphia with the rookie head coach Chip Kelly and a questionable situation at quarterback would be the only team that could compete for a top-10 pick.
The Giants look to be a team who will be back in the running with a much improved offensive line and defense. By retaining William Beatty and drafting Justin Pugh early, they've made the point that protecting Eli Manning is their franchise's biggest priority. And if Eli is healthy, they can compete for a playoff spot.
Dallas will always compete for a playoff spot as long as Jerry Jones is dumping money and resources into his team. Their misguided contract for Tony Romo just obscures their title hopes until 2015 at best, and until Jones gets a true general manager, he won't have the right talent to protect the thought of a bad quarterback.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III could make them a true contender to win a Super Bowl, but he's still recovering from a horrific playoff knee injury. And while Washington should come back and compete for the division again if Kirk Cousins has to start, they won't go much farther with or without Griffin this year.
No. 5: AFC West
Legitimate title contender? Check.
Denver will have one as long as Peyton Manning is running the show on offense. That defense is also much better than it showed last year in the playoffs. Rahim Moore and Von Miller are two of the better players on that defense and should have breakout years.
As far as other playoff contenders, the division has two. Oakland is looking to be in the No. 1 pick sweepstakes and could use a true franchise quarterback to either step up from within—*cough* Tyler Wilson *cough*—or draft one in the 2014 draft.
Kansas City is a team that was much better than its No. 1 overall pick indicates. A true quarterback will help them, and Alex Smith with Andy Reid does look to be the answer. On defense, as long as they keep a 3-4, they will easily have one of the better units in the AFC West.
San Diego is a wild card. Phillip Rivers will have them winning games with his arm now that he has a better offensive line. But the Chargers need to give him a running game and the defense needs to step up for them to compete for a Wild Card slot.
No. 4: NFC North
The balance of power is in the NFC. And while the top three divisions will combine for seven true title contenders, this is the final division with just one legitimate contender in the Green Bay Packers.
The NFC North does have four playoff-caliber teams though. Minnesota made the playoffs in 2012, but with Christian Ponder at the helm, they won't be anything more than a first-round exit year in and year out.
Detroit will have to fight for a playoff spot with their offensive line looking more like a patched up tire than a brand new Michelin. If they can't protect Matt Stafford, then they will end up losing more games than they win again because he isn't made to absorb a ton of hits.
Chicago is another team who has a ton of talent and will compete for the playoffs but, again, has one of the worst offensive lines and a rookie head coach. Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman will have to scheme around the terrible line for the Bears to be remotely successful this year.
No. 3: AFC North
Honestly, the AFC North and NFC South feel like the same type of division to me. Both have that team on the decline, a team on the rise and a team who is peaking in their run. They also have that team who needs a quarterback to step up to be a legitimate playoff contender.
Unfortunately for the AFC North, their hopes for a fourth playoff contender rests in the hands of the Cleveland Browns and Brandon Weeden. I like Rob Chudzinski as a head coach and I love how that defense is shaping up, but Weeden is not the answer.
The three playoff contenders in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati have all been there in the past two years, so that's not really a stretch, as they have all reloaded this offseason. But if the Bengals can get Andy Dalton to step up, they will be a title contender.
Pittsburgh is on the decline after a nice long run at the top of the division because of a cap-related talent exodus. Baltimore looks like a legitimate title contender after reloading this offseason and quietly maintaining the same talent level that they won the Super Bowl with last season.
No. 2: NFC South
If Tampa Bay or Carolina were legitimately better all-around teams, the NFC South could be the top division in football. They easily have four playoff-caliber teams. Carolina and Tampa Bay should both push for 10-win seasons and a playoff berth.
The main issue with Carolina lies in the progression of its young defensive tackles and its awful secondary. Where the issue with Tampa is 100 percent reliant on Josh Freeman finally becoming a true leader as a starting quarterback.
Atlanta returns with a reloaded defense and a much better running back than Michael Turner in Steven Jackson. They should compete for a championship again this year and look to be one of the top four NFL teams again in 2013.
New Orleans is the real wild card. They look like they are finally on the decline. But with Drew Brees leading that offense, Sean Payton back with a vengeance and a new defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan, the Saints will still be a title contender. And that's scary.
No. 1: NFC West
While the AFC North and NFC South have a pair of title contenders in each and the possibility of four playoff teams in each, the NFC West has three legitimate championship-caliber teams. And one who will compete for the top-10 pick again.
But that's neither here nor there.
In a division led by one of the best young quarterback groupings in the NFL, it's the team with the oldest quarterback—Arizona and Carson Palmer—that looks like it will be leading the Teddy Bridgewater/Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes this year pending a complete turnaround.
The St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks could all three contend for the Super Bowl in 2013. They all have formidable defenses, and they all have talented quarterbacks who can make any throw and have elusive qualities.
They all have talented receiving corps who can make plays and running games who can burn yards. And most of all, they all have coaches who understand what it takes to win and the talent to do it with.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy Spotrac and Rotoworld. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.