Going into the NFL season there is always one division that is pinned as the hardest to win and best division in football. This year there are few that look to create real parity but there are still three that are going to be fought tooth and nail for their respective crowns.
The Top 3 Scariest 2017 NFL Divisions
3. The NFC East – Teams: Dallas Cowboys (13-3), New York Giants (11-5), Washington Redskins (8-7-1), Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)
The NFC East looks to be the most competitive division in football this year considering the subtractions and additions throughout this offseason. The Cowboys ran away with the division last season but dropped both of their games against the Giants; showing just how tight this division could be.
The reason this division is so scary is because any team could beat any team and then do damage in the playoffs.
The Giants and Cowboys both have great chances to get into the playoffs again but the Eagles are right their besides them. The Eagles added a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball and already have one of the leagues best front-seven’s.
The offensive fire power in the NFC East is probably the divisions greatest strength. Every team has a quality starting quarterback and one, if not more impact wide receivers. The receivers are also complimented by some of the leagues best, catching tight-ends. Washington’s Jordan Reed is debatably the NFL’s best receiving TE when healthy and New York’s Evan Engram has had his skill set compared to the receiving ability of Mike Evans.
The pressure is on the Cowboys sophomores; Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott to replicate the success they had in 2016. If they falter, it could be very challenging to repeat as division champions. Dallas’s current defence looks completely different from the one they had in 2016 and is going to need one or more playmakers to step. The Cowboys difference makers could include: first-round pick, Taco Charlton or cornerback, Orlando Scandrick. Scandrick is one of the few members that remain from last years, top tanked Pro Football Focus secondary.
Division Winner Prediction: New York Giants
The Giants may not have a great run game but make up for it with big-play wide receivers and a stout defence.
Besides Engram, the Giants have one the leagues best receiving cores; led by the speedy and sure-handed Odell Beckham Jr.. OBJ is one of the NFL’s most complete receivers and is complimented by budding, slot receiver, Sterling Shepard and veteran, Brandon Marshall.
However, the defence is what sets the Giants apart from the rest of their division. Big Blue’s defence is loaded with upcoming and already established stars. These stars include: the leagues best run stopping DT, Damon Harrison and maybe the best safety of 2016, Landon Collins.
The Giants are built to compete in a division full of firepower and are looking like an early Super Bowl favourite.
2. The NFC South – Teams: Atlanta Falcons (11-5), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7), New Orleans Saints (7-9), Carolina Panthers (6-10)
The NFC South is never without surprises. Two Years ago the Panthers were one win away from a perfect regular season and last year, the Atlanta Falcons were just a few smarter plays calls away from hoisting the Lombardi. Factor in the last two league MVPs, a 5-time 5000 yard passer, debatably the two best receivers in the league in Evans and Julio Jones and you have a division that is intimidating as they get.
Though the division has been ruled primarily by the Panthers and the Falcons, the Saints and Bucs both have the potential to do damage against any opponent.
Every team has a proven QB but one of the most underrated positions in this division are the backfields. It is usually more than one running back too.
The Falcons, Panthers and Saints all have a 1-2 punch in the backfield with the potential of running over or past your best defender. After seeing the damage that Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman did together in 2016, the Saints and Panthers went out and found their starting running backs some help. The new faces in the division include (maybe) the greatest RB of the Super Bowl era, the Saints: Adrian Peterson and the Panthers, Christian McCaffrey. McCaffery was the most versatile back in this years draft and should help the Panthers return to the run heavy offence they love to play.
Division Winner Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This may not be the popular opinion, but the Bucs have done a lot to improve this offseason. Not to mention, Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and Vernon Hargreaves III are all one year more improved. Tampa’s defence is good and their offence is only getting better. Tampa has four great receiving weapons in their arsenal so all they need is their running game to improve. Doug Martin should bounce back after a down 2016.
Atlanta may be the favourite to repeat and win the division but it is going to be very hard for Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offence to repeat what they did a year ago. There is a good chance that both the Bucs and Falcons go 11-5 or 10-6 but the Bucs have more to prove and a constantly improving all around roster.
1. AFC West – Teams: Kansas City Chiefs (12-4), Oakland Radiers (12-4), Denver Broncos (9-7), Los Angeles Chargers (5-11)
Going into 2017, the AFC West is hands down the best and scariest division in football. It is not close either. This is a division that is loaded with talent and could have any of the four teams get into the playoffs with realistic chances of doing a lot of damage.
The defining characteristic of the West in the crazy deep talent pool on defence. Denver may have the most outstanding defence of the bunch but every other team since Denver’s Super Bowl win has aspired to be like them. Each team in the division has a strong defence with at least a few elite playmakers per unit.
Of Pro Football focuses top 10 defensive players of 2016 four of the top 10 are in the AFC West. Three are pass rushers and one is a cornerback. Only two of those players-Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr.-are on the same team. That tells you just how many impact players there are on defence. The pass rush is the most talented position in the division and houses names like Joey Bosa, Justin Houston, and Khalil Mack. Each of Houston, Mack and Miller have recorded double-digit sacks twice in their careers. Bosa was a rookie in 2016 but finished with 10.5 sacks in only 12 games.
The Division is not known for their offence but the receivers in the West are elite. Consistently getting better, the teams in the West always have a way of adding a new star every season. Some recent additions have been Emmanuel Sanders, Michael Crabtree, Tyreek Hill and Chargers, 2017 first-rounder, Mike Williams.
The West is the scariest division because every team makes a habit of hitting you in the mouth on defence and then getting their receivers to fly by you on offence.
Division Winner Prediction: Oakland Radiers
As good as the West is, the Raiders have jumped ahead of the pack this offseason. Many thought the Raiders could have done damage in last years playoffs but an unfortunate injury to QB Derek Carr ruined any hope of an Oakland playoff run.
Oakland’s offence has a chance to be the best in the NFL this year but what will define Oakland’s success is it’s defence. The defence is improving but had less than stellar numbers in 2016. If first round picks Karl Joseph and Gareon Conley can solidify the secondary, it will go a long way in helping improve a unit that gave up the seventh most yard on defence last season.
If Oakland’s defence can put up mid-table numbers in 2017 they should have no problem winning the West, considering their high powered offence.