Chances for Each NFL Team to Win Its Division
Last week, I wrote a column buying or selling each team's 2014 Super Bowl odds
Now, it's time to determine the chances for each NFL team to win its division.
Winning your division is critical in the NFL. It guarantees at least one home playoff game, which is the most valuable currency available for a potential run to the big game.
For each of the eight divisions, I've started at 100 percent and assigned each team a percent chance of winning said division—and the four teams in each division will end up totaling the 100 percent. So the team with the highest percentage is the current pick to win the division, the team second-highest percentage will come in second and so forth.
Where will your favorite team finish in its division? Time to find out.
1) New England Patriots (70 percent)
The Patriots are most definitely a playoff team, but are they good enough to win the Super Bowl? While I don't believe the 2013 Patriots will be a guaranteed title contender like in previous years, they are still the best team in the AFC East.
While it's increasingly likely that the Patriots will open the season without their top five pass-catchers from 2012 (Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead), the quarterback is still Tom Brady and the head coach is still Bill Belichick. You should be reticent to write off the Patriots.
Plus, the defense should be improved in 2013, as there is finally continuity to be found in the secondary, with both starting cornerbacks from 2012 (Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington) returning.
Go ahead and print the t-shirts. The Patriots will win the AFC East in 2013 for the fifth straight year.
2) Miami Dolphins (25 percent)
The Dolphins had the splashiest offseason of any team in the league, lavishing money on a host of free agents in hopes of bridging the gap between themselves and New England.
In particular, the signings of receiver Mike Wallace and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe should pay immediate dividends in South Beach.
Ultimately, Miami's season rests on the right arm of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Can he make a leap in his sophomore season?
Miami is a good team, and 2013's iteration will be better than 2012's. But that doesn't mean the Dolphins are as good as New England.
3) Buffalo Bills (5 percent)
For the Bills to win the AFC East, everything would have to break right. It's not completely outside the realm of possibility, but it's close.
Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel would have to win the starting job and perform at a high level. The defense, spearheaded by defensive end Mario Williams, would have to get after the opposing quarterback. And first-year head coach Doug Marrone would have to match wits with Belichick.
The Bills have a bright future, but they won't win the AFC East this season.
4) New York Jets (0 percent)
That's right. The Jets have a 0 percent chance of winning the AFC East.
The talent on the roster just isn't there. While the defense could potentially be solid, the offense is a veritable dumpster fire. For incumbent quarterback Mark Sanchez, first it was the Butt Fumble and now it's the Butt Dance.
Rex Ryan needs to win in 2013 to save his job. In a related story, someone new will be coaching the Jets in 2014.
1) Cincinnati Bengals (40 percent)
There's reason to be bullish on the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013.
Their first two rounds of this past April's draft were inspired. Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert (first round) and North Carolina running back Gio Bernard (second round) should add an injection of juice into an offense in major need of it.
Quarterback Andy Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons. He should be even better this season, and he has star receiver A.J. Green to throw to.
Plus, the Bengals possess one of the league's best coaching staffs. While head coach Marvin Lewis doesn't necessarily dazzle, his coordinators are the best in football, with Jay Gruden on offense and Mike Zimmer on defense. Both men will one day be head coaches in the NFL.
The defense is more than solid, keyed by defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
This is the year the Bengals break through and win the AFC North.
2) Baltimore Ravens (35 percent)
The Ravens, Super Bowl XLVII champions, will make the playoffs, but they won't win the AFC North.
While the team lost a number of key players this offseason (linebacker Ray Lewis, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, safety Ed Reed and pass-rusher Paul Kruger among them), it reloaded, bringing in defensive end Elvis Dumervil and safety Michael Huff and drafting safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown.
Baltimore still has the reigning Super Bowl MVP, quarterback Joe Flacco, and head coach John Harbaugh. That will be enough to qualify for the postseason, but Cincinnati will win the division.
3) Pittsburgh Steelers (20 percent)
That's right. The Steelers will finish third in the ultra-competitive AFC North.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin both appear ticketed for the Hall of Fame, but the talent on the 53-man roster just isn't up to snuff. It's an aging group of players, specifically on defense, and the team will have trouble matching up with Cincinnati and Baltimore.
This is not a moratorium on the 2013 Steelers. Because of Roethlisberger and Tomlin, they are always a threat to make the postseason. But, as of right now, the Bengals and Ravens are both better.
4) Cleveland Browns (5 percent)
Before Browns fans get up in arms over their low percentage, they should realize that it's a tremendous compliment. The AFC North is loaded, and to give the Browns any chance at all is a positive.
When it comes down to it, can you really trust second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden to get the job done in a big spot? Is he better than either Dalton, Flacco or Roethlisberger?
The Browns are on the right track. With the right personnel moves and draft picks, they could even challenge for the AFC North crown in 2014. But it won't happen in 2013.
1) Houston Texans (65 percent)
The two-time reigning AFC South champions, the Texans are in prime position to win the division once again in 2013.
Quarterback Matt Schaub leads a balanced offensive attack, with running back Arian Foster and receiver Andre Johnson the main weapons. And head coach Gary Kubiak does a fantastic job calling plays.
On defense, the Texans are loaded, including 2012's Defensive Player of the Year, tackle J.J. Watt. Wade Phillips is an outstanding defensive coordinator.
That should be enough to earn the Texans their third straight AFC South title.
2) Indianapolis Colts (30 percent)
The Colts had a dream season in 2012, finishing an ultra-surprising 11-5 and qualifying for a wild-card berth.
Even with quarterback Andrew Luck sure to be even better in his second season, they won't be as good in 2013, at least in terms of overall record. There are questions along the offensive line, and the defense is certainly not on the level of Houston's.
While the Colts could feasibly make the tournament again in 2013, they will not win the division.
3) Tennessee Titans (5 percent)
For the Titans, it all comes down to the development of third-year quarterback Jake Locker, and they've put him in a position to succeed.
The offensive line, one of last year's primary bugaboos, was addressed this offseason with the signing of guard Andy Levitre and the drafting of Alabama guard Chance Warmack in the first round. That should make running back Chris Johnson very happy. Plus, the team is loaded at wide receiver, with Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and rookie Justin Hunter.
But there are still significant questions on the defensive side of the ball, and they could ultimately cost head coach Mike Munchak his job.
4) Jacksonville Jaguars (0 percent)
First, the positives: New head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell will change the culture in Jacksonville, and all Jaguars fans should feel positive about the direction of their team.
The secondary, boosted by the drafting of safety Jonathan Cyprien and cornerback Dwayne Gratz, should be improved. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is a difference maker, and second overall pick Luke Joeckel will help keep the quarterback upright.
Now, the negatives: Everything else.
When considering the Jaguars' chances of winning the AFC South, look no further than the quarterback position, where Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are competing for the starting job. That would be tantamount to considering Amanda Bynes and Lindsay Lohan as babysitters for your young child.
Because of the issues at quarterback, the Jaguars have no chance of being crowned AFC South champions in 2013.
1) Denver Broncos (95 percent)
For the second consecutive season, the Broncos will be, by far, the best team in the AFC West.
Quarterback Peyton Manning spearheads an ultra-talented roster that is loaded on both offense and defense. Linebacker Von Miller is one of the premier pass-rushers in all of football.
The team is still smarting from its playoff upset at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens, so expect coach John Fox's team to come out with a sense of purpose in 2013.
Out of all the divisions in the league, the AFC West is the easiest to call. The Broncos will almost certainly win it.
2) Kansas City Chiefs (5 percent)
New head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey have breathed new life into the previously moribund Chiefs. They traded for quarterback Alex Smith, who will start in 2013. They used the first pick in the draft on offensive tackle Eric Fisher.
There are good players throughout the roster, so don't be surprised if the Chiefs have a markedly better record than last season's 2-14 debacle. But in all likelihood, they won't win the division. They just don't match up with Denver.
3) San Diego Chargers (0 percent)
New head coach Mike McCoy is charged with keeping Rivers upright and returning him to the MVP-caliber form he possessed earlier in his career. That will be a difficult prospect with the offensive line still looking like a moldy piece of Swiss cheese.
The team did draft very well, picking up potential studs in the first the first three rounds: offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, linebacker Manti Te'o and receiver Keenan Allen. So that's a positive.
But it won't help San Diego win the AFC West in 2013. The Chargers have no chance of dethroning Denver.
4) Oakland Raiders (0 percent)
The Raiders haven't made the playoffs since 2002, and, unfortunately for Raiders fans, that stretch will continue into at least 2014; the 2013 iteration has no chance of qualifying for the tournament or winning the AFC West.
Oakland is bereft of talent on both sides of the ball. While general manager Reggie McKenzie is doing a good job navigating the team out of the salary-cap hell he inherited, there just isn't enough quality on either offense or defense for the team to compete.
It doesn't help that the team's quarterbacks, presumed starter Matt Flynn, rookie Tyler Wilson and Terrelle Pryor, all reportedly struggled mightily at minicamps and OTAs, according to the Associated Press (via the Santa Rosa Press Democrat).
Raiders fans should hope for progress in 2013. A division title won't be possible until at least 2014.
1) New York Giants (36 percent)
While the Giants failed to qualify for the postseason in 2012, winning the NFC East is most certainly within reason in 2013.
Quarterback Eli Manning and head coach Tom Coughlin are among the best in the world at their jobs, and the team has talent throughout.
In the draft, Big Blue addressed needs along the offensive line (Syracuse's Justin Pugh in Round 1) and pass rush (Texas A&M's Damontre Moore in Round 3), two of their biggest areas of need.
While the linebacker position appears to be a disaster, if the pass rush is dialed in, that won't matter.
The Giants are listed slightly ahead of last year's NFC East champions, the Redskins, solely because of Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III's knee injury. Otherwise, the Redskins would hold this spot.
2) Washington Redskins (34 percent)
As noted above, if quarterback Robert Griffin III wasn't coming off ACL surgery, the Redskins would be the favorite to win the NFC East. Heck, they could easily still do it, with reports looking good on Griffin's surgically repaired right knee, according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post.
Head coach Mike Shanahan and his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, had the offense humming in 2012. There's no reason to believe it won't continue into 2013.
With injured players set to return on defense (pass-rusher Brian Orakpo chief among them), Jim Haslett's unit should be better this season.
Again, if not for Griffin's injury, the Redskins would be the favorite to win the East, and they are just slightly behind the Giants as of this writing.
3) Philadelphia Eagles (15 percent)
Per Ryan Glasspiegel of Sports Illustrated, new head coach Chip Kelly has already changed the culture in Philadelphia, putting his stamp on the franchise with his innovative approach to management. But will innovative translate to wins?
While the Eagles will be better than their putrid 4-12 mark in 2012, they aren't as good as either the Giants or Washington. Presumed starting quarterback Michael Vick is injury-prone, and while there are quality players on offense, it's the defense that's truly worrisome, particularly a secondary that was torched more often than not last season.
Still, the Eagles have a fighter's shot at the crown in 2013.
4) Dallas Cowboys (15 percent)
Ah, the Cowboys. Owner Jerry Jones' team is always good for some entertainment.
This offseason, Jones stripped head coach Jason Garrett of the play-calling duties in favor of new offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, emasculating Garrett in what is most likely a make-or-break season for him.
The offensive line is a major issue, even with the drafting of center Travis Frederick in the first round. No matter how well quarterback Tony Romo plays, can the team protect him in the pocket?
Plus, the team hired 73-year old Monte Kiffin to run the defense, radically transforming the unit from a 3-4 to a Tampa-2 4-3. Can the Cowboys defensive personnel truly fit that scheme? It remains to be seen.
Because of Romo, the Cowboys have a chance. But it's not a good one.
1) Green Bay Packers (60 percent)
The No. 1 reason why the Packers are the favorite to win the NFC North is because they employ the single best player in the NFL: quarterback Aaron Rodgers. With Rodgers serving as the maestro for the Packers' offensive symphony, Green Bay should roll to another NFC North title in 2013.
Head coach Mike McCarthy is a fabulous play-caller, and he gets consistent results from his team. The big question mark is Dom Capers' defense, shredded for much of 2012. Can it stop the high-powered offenses around the league?
Even if it can't, the Packers can usually count on Rodgers and company to outscore the opposition.
2) Chicago Bears (20 percent)
New Bears coach Marc Trestman was an inspired hire by general manager Phil Emery. Trestman's primary charge is to elevate quarterback Jay Cutler to the next level, and don't be surprised if he accomplishes that goal in year one.
Chicago has talent on offense, specifically with Cutler, running back Matt Forte and wide receiver Brandon Marshall, but the offensive line is still a major question mark, even with the signing of left tackle Jermon Bushrod this offseason.
On defense, the Bears will be without Brian Urlacher for the first time since 2000, with the linebacker retiring after not being offered a contract by Chicago. The unit, led by defensive end Julius Peppers, should still be solid under the coordination of Mel Tucker.
The Bears could definitely make the playoffs, but they aren't better than Green Bay.
3) Minnesota Vikings (15 percent)
Yes, Vikings fans. I'm aware that your team qualified for the playoffs last season. I'm aware that you have running back Adrian Peterson, a player who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
But are you aware that your quarterback is Christian Ponder? While Ponder is obviously capable of leading a team to the playoffs (he did last year), he's not as good as Rodgers or Cutler, which means the Vikings can't go above the Packers or Bears, regardless of what happened last year.
Still, the Vikings destroyed the first round of the draft, adding cornerback Xavier Rhodes, defensive tackle Shariff Floyd and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. General manager Rick Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier slammed it out of the park.
However, it won't be enough for the Vikings to dethrone the Packers as NFC North champions in 2013.
4) Detroit Lions (5 percent)
The Lions stumbled to a miserable 4-12 mark in 2012, failing to restore the roar from their 10-6 playoff team in 2011.
That makes this a make-or-break season for head coach Jim Schwartz, and he'll need a more balanced offensive attack to ensure he keeps his job. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, while among the best young signal-callers in the game, cannot throw the ball 727 times this year. That is no way for a team to succeed.
Can running back Reggie Bush help in the ground game? Can first-round pick Ziggy Ansah get to the quarterback? Can the defense step up and stop the high-powered offenses in the NFC?
The Lions have a chance, but not a good one. It's likely the team will be looking to hire a new head coach for 2014.
1) Atlanta Falcons (55 percent)
This past January, the Falcons came excruciatingly close to winning the NFC title game, with a fourth-down pass by quarterback Matt Ryan falling incomplete in the final seconds. Head coach Mike Smith and Atlanta will be extra-motivated to not let that happen again.
The team addressed its pass rush with the signing of defensive end Osi Umenyiora. While Umenyiora isn't the player he once was, he's solid and will contribute, especially on the turf of the Georgia Dome. The rest of the defense is solid.
The offense, triggered by Ryan, is spectacular. Running back Steven Jackson, signed away from the Rams, will make an immediate impact. And the receiving corps, led by wideouts Roddy White and Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez, are difference-makers.
Atlanta is definitely the presumptive favorite to win the NFC South in 2013.
2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (21 percent)
The Buccaneers had one of the best offseasons of any team, as they significantly shored up the secondary, their weakest component in 2012. General manager Mark Dominik traded for cornerback Darrelle Revis, signed safety Dashon Goldson and drafted cornerback Johnthan Banks in the second round. The unit should be improved.
Quarterback Josh Freeman made strides in 2012, and he should be even better in 2013. Second-year running back Doug Martin is a beast, and receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are very good. That will be enough to vault the Bucs into second place in the division behind the Falcons.
3) New Orleans Saints (19 percent)
Yes, head coach Sean Payton is back on the sidelines after serving his one-year suspension for his role in the Bountygate fiasco. And yes, that's great news for the Saints. But the team still has major issues on defense.
In 2012, the Saints possessed one of the very worst defenses in the history of the league. Can new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan help turn the unit around? That remains to be seen, but it doesn't look good.
The offense will obviously be in good hands with Payton and all-world quarterback Drew Brees, but will it be able to consistently outscore opponents?
New Orleans will certainly be better than its 7-9 mark in 2012. But the Saints won't be as good as the Falcons or Buccaneers.
4) Carolina Panthers (5 percent)
This past January, the Panthers elected to retain head coach Ron Rivera after 7-9 and 6-10 seasons, so this is certainly a make-or-break year for him.
While quarterback Cam Newton is a star, he doesn't have a ton of help surrounding him.
The pass rush should be decent, with defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy leading the charge, and first-round pick Star Lotulelei should help as well. But there just isn't enough talent on the roster.
Rivera will likely lose his job, and the Panthers won't compete for a playoff spot.
1) San Francisco 49ers (46 percent)
The 49ers came oh-so-close to winning their sixth Lombardi Trophy this past February, losing Super Bowl XLVII in heartbreaking fashion to the Baltimore Ravens.
On paper, they appear to be even better in 2013 than they were in 2012. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick dazzled last season, and he should be improved after a full offseason entrenched as the starter.
San Francisco is loaded on both sides of the ball, possessing the most complete roster in the NFL. Plus, head coach Jim Harbaugh, with trips to the NFC title game and the Super Bowl in his first two seasons, is among the very best at his job. It's because of Harbaugh that the 49ers are slightly favored to win the West over Seattle.
2) Seattle Seahawks (44 percent)
While the Seahawks finish second in the NFC West on this list, they are the best second-place team in all of football. In fact, if they were in any other division besides the AFC West, they would be the favorites.
Quarterback Russell Wilson was a revelation as a rookie, and he told Eric D. Williams of the News Tribune that there won't be a sophomore slump. That's very bad news for the rest of the NFC.
Seattle addressed its pass-rush needs with the signings of defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, and the trade that netted them Percy Harvin was a masterstroke by general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll.
The Seahawks are going to the playoffs in 2013. But, as of right now, they are slightly behind the 49ers in the race for the NFC West title.
3) St. Louis Rams (10 percent)
Many forget that the Rams had a 4-1-1 record against NFC West opponents last year—and coach Jeff Fisher's club will be better in 2013.
The team's first-round draft pick, West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin, should add another dimension to an offense in dire need of one. And he gives quarterback Sam Bradford a bona fide weapon as he seeks to break out.
Unfortunately for the Rams, they play in a very tough division. Otherwise, the odds would be higher. But with San Francisco and Seattle inhabiting the top spots and being two of the best teams in all of football, the Rams can't go any higher than third.
4) Arizona Cardinals (0 percent)
The Cardinals do have a talented defense, with cornerback Patrick Peterson and defensive end Calais Campbell leading the charge, and receiver Larry Fitzgerald is among the best players in football, regardless of position.
But the offensive line is disconcerting. While the team drafted UNC guard Jonathan Cooper in the first round to shore it up, he won't be enough.
An offseason trade for Carson Palmer definitely upgraded the quarterback position, but let's be honest: After last year's pu-pu platter of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, the Cardinals could have plucked a random 25-year-old off the street and likely improved.
Head coach Bruce Arians will eventually get the team turned around. But because the Cardinals play in the ultra-tough NFC West, they have no chance of winning the division in 2013.