The 2009-2010 NFL season is still months away, but with the NFL draft over and rosters set for the most part, I'd like to take a look at NFL divisions and rank them from weakest to toughest.
8. NFC West
This was a tough decision on the weakest division because the AFC West may not be much better this year either. I'm putting the NFC West here because I honestly think it will be another down year for the Rams and Seattle.
I don't think either team has made enough improvements in the offseason so far to warrant any belief in winning seasons. The Cardinals will once again win the division, possibly with an even better record then last year, but that still doesn't push this conference out of the weakest spot.
San Francisco could be a surprise team this and make a run for a wild card spot so be on the look-out for them as well.
7. AFC West
San Diego and Denver both went 8-8 last year and both sat atop the standings in this weak division. Oakland is a train-wreck and somehow will be even worse this year than last year. In my opinion, they will continue to struggle until they make a change at the quarterback position.
Kansas City will get more than two wins this season, but not much more. The loss of Tony Gonzalez and a new quarterback in the system could spell another long season for the Chiefs.
I expect San Diego to be the class of the division once again with not much of a challenge from Denver who will have a new quarterback, new head coach, and no much of a dependable running game.
6. AFC North
It's hard to rank this division THIS low with the defending Super Bowl champs here and a great team like Baltimore, but blame the Bengals and Browns for that. Wide receivers are looking for any reason possible to get out of Cincinnati. They have no running game, a defense that really has struggled, and a quarterback that seems to be injured more than healthy (he can thank his offensive line for that).
Cleveland surely won't be better this year as the quarterback merry-go-round continues to turn. They lost TE Winslow, managed to keep WR Edwards for his final year of contract, but he will surely be running out of town after this season as well. Neither team will get more then four wins this season I don't believe.
Pittsburgh and Baltimore will continue to be great teams and battle it out for the division. They both look to continue where they left off last season and I'm sure one of them will make a great run for a Super Bowl spot.
5. NFC North
This was another tough spot for me, because I could honestly have put this division at the fourth position ahead of the AFC South simply because I feel this will be the most improved division in the NFL top to bottom this year.
The Lions will not go winless this season. Looking at their schedule, I could see them winning anywhere from three to five games. They have a rookie quarterback in Matt Stafford who will be playing early in the season, a solid young running back in Kevin Smith who will have a break-out season, and a nice rookie TE in Pettigrew. The offense will be better in all aspects.
Green Bay will be better than a six win team this year. Chicago made the big move of the offseason by geting Cutler and that puts them in a great position to make a push for the division title this year.
The Vikings are still the favorites here and will have another great season (Favre or no Favre) simply because they have Peterson and a solid defense. This will be the most improved division in the NFL with all four teams cashing in more wins than in the 2008-2009 season.
4. AFC South
Despite the controversy at quarterback, Tennessee will be great again this season with the solid running game and defense. Will they be 13 win great? Probably not, but they will still make the Colts sweat it out come down to the end of the season. I expect both the Colts and Titans to be 10+ win teams again this season, with the Colts winning the division over the Titans by one game or holding the tie-breaker.
Houston will have a healthy Matt Schaub this season and if they can protect him long enough, I think Houston could also make a run at 10 wins as well. The tricky team for me to make a prediction on is the Jaguars.
Every season I have reason to believe that this team will finally make it over the hump. Jones-Drew will now be the go-to guy "officially" now that Fred Taylor has left, and that will turn out to be great for both Jones-Drew and the Jaguars. If they can get consistent play out of Garrard and the defense can continue to be strong, the Jaguars could pick up a few more wins than last season, making this a great all-around division.
3. NFC South
If it wasn't for the fact that Tampa Bay will probably have a rough season this year, I could have easily put this division a spot or two higher. I think Atlanta, despite a really tough schedule, will win the division.
They have too much talent on the offensive side of the ball this year and will dominate many games with ball control. Matt Ryan will experience no sophomore slump with the likes of Turner, White, Norwood, Douglas, and the Hall Of Fame TE Gonzalez.
The defense will be improved with young guys stepping up in the secondary. The addition of veteran Mike Peterson at LB will also bring much-needed leadership to the defensive side of the ball.
Carolina will once again be a 10+ win team with the combination of that great running game and the always dangerous big-play threat from Steve Smith. The Saints will play a little more consistent this year, and if healthy, will threaten Carolina and Atlanta with nine or 10 wins as well.
Tampa Bay is rebuilding, with a new coach and no lock at quarterback. While they could always surprise me, I just don't see Tampa Bay being a threat in the NFC South this year.
2. NFC East
New York Giants have experienced great success in this division the past couple of season with great defense, balanced running attack, and smart play from Eli Manning when it was needed. This year may be a little different for the Giants. They will still be successful and make a run at the division, but I see Philly giving them a hard time this season.
The loss of Derrick Ward will have ripple effects throughout the Giant's offense. Brandon Jacobs only had to carry the ball 219 times last season due to having Derrick Ward sharing time with him. Much more will be expected of Jacobs this year and I think he will be exposed for not being an every down kind of back. Plaxico Burress will be gone and the rookie Hakeem Nicks will be asked to step in and fill the role immediately. The Giants will be looking at another 10+ win season, but not the division title.
I believe that goes to the Eagles. Westbrook will be back and healthy by the start of the regular season, Maclin will be another offensive threat for Donovan, and the defense will continue to be great again this season. The Eagles lost three games last season by five points or less and I just see them winning those close games this season with the improvements they have made.
Dallas and Washington will both be good again this season, both having eight or nine wins, but neither being able to contend with the Eagles or Giants.
1. AFC East
Man is this division stacked or what? Let's look at the division from bottom to top here going on last season's records:
Buffalo Bills - The Bills went 7-9 last season. Many believed that once Tom Brady went down for the Patriots that it was the Bills who had a real shot at winning the division. Injuries and lack of offensive weapons for the Bills ended their shot at the division, but this year will be different with the addition of Terrell Owens.
Marshawn Lynch and Dominic Rhodes will make for a stellar backfield, and if Trent Edwards stays healthy, he could post great numbers this year. I see the Bills improving on their win total last year and maybe passing the Jets in wins in 2009-2010.
New York Jets - Brett Favre is gone (breathe easy Jets fans) and Thomas Jones is happy. The offense will struggle early with Mark Sanchez at quarterback, but lucky for him he has a balanced running attack to lean on to until he catches up.
I see the Jets winning maybe one less game this year, which isn't bad considering the changes at the quarterback position and the loss of Laveranues Coles.
Miami Dolphins - With one of the most impressive turn-around seasons in the history of the NFL, the Dolphins will be looking to match their dream season of 2008-2009. The wild cat formation could have gotten even better with the addition of rookie Pat White and the defense gets long-time veteran and Hall Of Fame LB Jason Taylor back.
Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will continue to offer the Dolphins a balanced change-up backfield and Chad Pennington looks to prove everyone wrong again by staying healthy for a full season. Combine all of these aspects and you've got a 10 to 12 win team this season who will threaten to win the divisional title.
New England Patriots - Tom Brady is back and apparently as healthy as ever. Players in OTAs have said he's more driven then ever to get back on the field and has determination to get back on the field and win another Super Bowl title.
The usual company of receivers are there with Moss, Welker and the addition of Greg Lewis and Joey Galloway will surely add depth at the position. The Patriots also picked up veteran RB Fred Taylor from the Jaguars and cashed in on the draft once again by picking up 12 rookies on draft weekend.
With weapons all over the field for Tom Brady and a solid defense returning, this could be another record-setting year for Brady. I'm picking them to win the division, though it will be tough, and also see them making another Super Bowl appearance.
That's my take on the NFL divisions from worst to first.
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