What division is the best in football? It's hard to say, and even harder to predict. But the pre-season is approaching and I'm getting antsy.
This is a much disputed rankings of each division, and the predicted record of each team in that division, with analysis on why they have that record. Now as far as postseason success, you can't predict.
I based this off of talent of the team, final records of each team, and the talent of the players in each division.
Sorry fans, it's not that hard to tell that the AFC west is the NFL Worst. The Broncos are in disarray, the Chiefs need an overhaul, the Raiders are rebuilding, and only the Chargers are left to take the crown.
1. San Diego Chargers (11-5) Truth be told, they are only 11-5 because they get to beat up on their poor division six times a year. But as tough as a non-division schedule they have, having an easy five or six wins is a good cushion.
2. Oakland Raiders (6-10)- Despite only one more win, expect lots of improvement in the play of the Raiders. I think Darrius Heyward-Bey is a good addition. Crabtree or Maclin would have been better, but DHB is good. Their defense is still weak, but their offense will show improvment.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (4-12)- The Chiefs need another year or two to compete. Matt Cassel is an improvement, but he won't do nearly as well as he did for the Patriots. Tyson Jackson is the beginning of a good thing on defense, but it will take a year or more.
4. Denver Broncos (3-13)- Hate me all you want, but this record will show how much McDaniels screwed up. He was so in-love with his one-year-wonder that he alienated his franchise quarterback and best receiver. Cutler is gone, and his best target might be gone. All that's left is Brian Dawkins, Kyle Orton and Eddie Royal, if it weren't for those three, I can't imagine what a disaster the 2009 season would be.
You will see lot's of improvement in this division, despite the low ranking. The Cardinals have improved, the Seahawks have improved, and 'Niners have improved. The Rams are still rebuilding
1. Arizona Cardinals (10-6)- The Cardinals have improved where they needed it, on defense and in their running game. Darnell Dockett returns and so does Karlos Dansby. They added Chris Wells to their line-up, and with Tim Hightower, they running game has shown great strides.
2. Seattle Seahawks (8-8)- This really depends on whether Matt Hasselbeck can stay healthy. Their defense remains good, and slight improvements in their secondary help. But they added TJ Houshmanzadeh, who should give Hasselbeck the target he needs to be a powerful force in the West.
3. San Fransisco 49ers (8-8) Led by a mirror image of Ray Lewis in Patrick Willis, the 'Niners are on a roll. They got a steal in the draft by getting star receiver Michael Crabtree, and have a strong running back in Frank Gore, who isn't slowing down. However, they won't become a playoff contender until they get their QB situation under control.
4. St Louis Rams (4-12)- The Rams are in a a state of change. it is going to be a few years before they are rebuilt and ready. Marc Bulger needs to get is case together, they need new receivers, and they need a defense. Steven Jackson will be the bright spot for the Rams, as he will probably make the Pro-Bowl.
The Minnesota Vikings will remain the top of the lot in the Black and Blue Division. The Packers are improved and ready for a winning record, and the Bears are on their way to a 2006 repeat. The Lions, are still lacking in too many areas.
1. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)- The quarterback situation in Minnesota is what keeps them from 11 wins. They have Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson to rush to success. The addition of Percy Harvin helps at reciever, and their defense remains dominant.
2. Green Bay Packers (9-7)- Aaron Rodgers was a top 10 QB on a sub par team last year. Imagine what he will look like on a a good team. The Packers haven't gotten past some of the issues that transpired in the 2008 offseason, and are ready to play again. Their weak spot is their running game, where they paid too much money to resign Ryan Grant when they could have gotten someone better for the same amounts
3. Chicago Bears (9-7): More improvement than Jay Cutler is needed. The Bears have possibly the worst receiving corps in the league, and Kyle Orton was sacked 27 times last year. In order to get past 9-7, they need new receivers and linemen.
2. Detroit Lions (3-13)- The Lions need a lot more time in order to get back on track. They have Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith, so they have a good start, but their offensive line is terrible, and their defense rolls over when they play someone. Don't expect a 0-16 repeat, but don't expect any more than three wins.
The AFC North is dominated by the Ravens and Steelers, with the Browns and the Bengals having a decent year every so often. It's not so hard to see why, considering the Ravens and Steelers are the best defensive teams of the decade. Expect to see much of the same, except with steady improvement in Cincinnati
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)- Despite visiting President Obama, the Steelers haven't changed at all, for good or bad. They still have a run-first offense, and a "beat the crap out of you" defense. They also still have a pathetic offensive line, so don't expect improvement. They'll just stick to their winning formula.
2. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)- The Ravens are making vast improvements on offense and defense. Despite high-profile losses, their defensive nucleus remains intact. With an upgraded offensive line, they will have the same formula as the Steelers, run the ball, then unleash the "beat you until you cry" defense.
Unfortunately, they face a tough schedule this year, so they will have to wait another year to get past 11 wins.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-9)- The Bengals need another year until they are in the Lombardi hunt, but they have improved a lot from the disaster that was 2008. They upgrade their D with younger players, and brought in some free agents to help the offense.
4. Cleveland Browns (5-11)- The Browns are in deep... brown. They have yet to resolve their quarterback issues that have nagged them since their re-entry to the league. Their receiver corps have been seeing a decrease, and Jamal Lewis has seen a drop in productivity.
How could the AFC East be this low? It's because the Patriots are the only dominant team in this division. Don't expect much from the Dolphins, Bills and Jets. All of them face many problems, and tough schedules.
1. New England Patriots (13-3)- The Patriots are completely reloaded. If Matt Cassel can post an 11-5 record, it won't matter if Tom Brady is 100%, he can still get the job done. Their Achilles Heel is their defense, who suffered the losses of Mike Vrabel and Rodney Harrison.
2. New York Jets (9-7)- Mark Sanchez will most likely be the starter, but he won't pull a Matt Ryan/Joe Flacco miracle. He needs receivers for starters, and since Lavernues Coles has departed, he has none. Their defense is improved though, so expect a more defense minded team this year.
3. Buffalo Bills (9-7)- T.O will make a bigger difference than people expect. Owens is the other target that Trent Edwards needs. Dick Juaron may have just saved his job this year, but expect another year before they enter the playoffs.
4. Miami Dolphins (6-10)- The Dolphins key to success last year was the easiest schedule in the league and the Wildcat formation. Well the Ravens successfully found a way to stuff the Wildcat, so they won't be surprising anyone. Ted Ginn Jr. is their best receiver, so they need more assistance.
The Atlanta Falcons have too much talent to not win the division. They recently added top TE Tony Gonzales who completes the Atlanta offense. New Orleans and Carolina will fight for the second spot. Tampa Bay needs to fix their QB conundrum before they threaten to take the top spot.
1. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)- They have a stacked offensive roster. They have Roddy White, Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, and Michael Jenkins. Their defense remains relatively the same, and is their soft spot.
2. New Orleans Saints (9-7)- They had the number one offense last year, but their poor defense cost them a playoff spot. Things remain the same in New Orleans, but their offense is just as likely to perform as they did in 2008, and maybe better.
3. Carolina Panthers (9-7)- Carolina needs a secondary, NOW. Which was shown in the playoffs last year. They have all the weapons they need on offense they just need s cornerback and a safety. They recently retained Julius Peppers, a big help, but they need someone to stop the pass. Until then, they won't repeat 2008's success.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) Everyone is predicting 3 or four wins for the Buccaneers. I don't see why. They just received Derrick Ward and Kellen Winslow. So they will at least get 5 wins with those weapons. They need a quarterback however, and their defense is slowing down.
This is the Colts division now. The AFC South has 3 teams in strong playoff contenton. Houston, Tennessee, and Indianapolis all have a chance to enter the playoffs.
1. Indianapolis Colts (12-4)- Even with the loss of head coach Tony Dungy, the nucleus of offensive players is strong enough to carry his replacement. They retain Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez. Their only soft spot is their defense, which is very sub-par when compared to Tennessee or Houston.
2. Houston Texans (10-6)- Maybe I'm jumping on the Texan bandwagon, but it's not hard to see why. They have a loaded offense, centered around Andre Johnson. Johnson led the league in reception yards last year, rookie Steve Slaton turned heads, and controversial first round DE Mario Williams has paid of greatly.
3. Tennessee Titans (10-6)- Kerry Collins isn't ageless like Kurt Warner or ray Lewis. He will give in eventually, maybe this season or maybe next, but expect Vince Young to step back in at one point. They have a run first offense, centered around the now defunct "Smash and Dash" with Chris Johnson and LenDale White. But as much as Johnson dislikes it, they will still be a duo.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10)- Jacksonville is so inconsistent it is hard to predict. In 2007 they had a run to the AFC Championship, but crapped the bed last year. They have a strong running back in fantasy favorite Maurice Jones-Drew. Torry Holt brings some experience to the team, but their defense remains weak.
Once again the NFC East is the most talented division in the NFL. All of the four teams, including Washington, are possible playoff contenders. With Dallas, Philly and New York in the Lombardi hunt.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (14-2)- Every year it's the same thing right? Eagles in the Super Bowl..... Well I don't know about the Super Bowl, but I can tell you they'll dominate in the regular season. The Eagles have the most improved team coming into the 2009 season. They have all their needs addressed, and have a good receiver corps, which is what they lacked the past few years. The loss of Brian Dawkins was more a leadership loss than a skill loss, as his replacements can fill in well for his loss.
2. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)- Even without Terrell Owens, the Cowboys still have Roy Williams and Jason Whitten, and Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin will finally get some passes. With the headaches out of the way, the team can move on. The defense remains the same, with Ken Hamlin making a name for himself and DeMarcus Ware being...well..DeMarcus Ware.
3. New York Giants (10-6)- Gone are Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer. Eli Manning's top target is now Steve "The Other Steve" Smith. But Brandon Jacobs, Amhad Bradshaw and their stout defense will carry them to success, as it did in Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
4. Washington Redskins (9-7)- Can money buy success? In the past, no, but in 2009, maybe. While they may have overpaid Albert Haynesworth and De'Angelo Hall, having them on the team may be a big help. Santana Moss and Clinton Portis Anchor the offense for the 'Skins, who might have a decent season next year.