Out of the eight division winners from last year, six were not the division winners the previous year. With high turnover, there is the likelihood that some divisions will have new winners in 2017-18. Here are the top contenders to steal their division from reigning champions.
Top Contenders to Steal Division From Reigning Champions
1. Oakland Raiders – The Raiders were so close to winning the division last year and getting a first round bye. However, when quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg Week 15 against the Colts, it all went downhill. The Kansas City Chiefs stole the division while Oakland lost in the first weekend. But this year, with a healthy team, they should be right back where the were going into Week 15, and ready to take the division.
2. New York Giants – The Giants were actually pretty good last year and with the addition of Brandon Marshall, there is no reason to believe they won’t be good again. They were just two games behind Dallas for the division. While both teams play most of the same opponents, Dallas has to add Atlanta and Green Bay while New York gets the 2nd place schedule with Arizona and Detroit. With the schedule favoring the Giants slightly more than Dallas, they could easily move above them in the standings
3. Tennessee Titans – The Titans were close to winning the bad AFC South last year before Mariota got hurt, very similar situation to Oakland. So this year, if everyone is healthy and if the new offensive additions fit in well, they could easily win the division with very low competition.
4. Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings surprisingly just won the NFC North a year ago, but struggled after Week 7 this past season after injuries plagued in. Minnesota added some weapons such as Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook to replace Adrian Peterson. Remember, the Vikings were the last undefeated team last season, starting 5-0. If they can stay healthy on offense, and the defense plays the level they have in recent years, Minnesota can very well be contenders to take down Green Bay.
5. Detroit Lions – Detroit was a wild card team last year after the Packers stormed back from their 4-6 start to rip the division out of the Lions’ hands. Detroit now wants the division back. Matthew Stafford was a near MVP candidate last year and if he leads his team again, they could be in the conversation. They didn’t improve a lot this offseason but they did sign free agent T.J. Lang who used to play for Green Bay. It will be tough, but Detroit can compete for the NFC North again.
6. Carolina Panthers – It wasn’t long ago when Cam Newton and the Panthers were 15-1 and in the Super Bowl. Then the Super Bowl hangover set in. After a year recovering from the loss, they want to be back where they were before. Atlanta can suffer the same setback as Carolina. And if Cam goes back to his MVP form, Carolina could be back.
7. Indianapolis Colts – First, the AFC South is the worst division in the NFL and second, Andrew Luck is a top quarterback in the league. T.Y. Hilton led the NFL in receiving yards last year so there shouldn’t be a setback there. Andrew Luck has been somewhat injury plagued throughout his career however. Also, they haven’t had much of a defense. If Indianapolis can improve their defense, they could be back in the playoffs.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – This pick might come as a surprise but I see big things for Tampa Bay this year. Jameis is turning into a star, and with the help of Evans and new additions, their offense should be killer. Like I said for the Panthers, Atlanta could suffer a setback, and the Buccaneers want to take their place. Look out for Tampa Bay this year.
9. Baltimore Ravens – Some might say Baltimore has no chance to win their division, but they were right in with the Steelers late in the season. Joe Flacco is super underrated, they have an above-average defense, and they added some weapons this offseason. The additions of Maclin and Woodhead should help. If they live up to their potential and Pittsburgh struggles, Baltimore could win the AFC North.
10. Arizona Cardinals – While this might be a bit of a stretch, the Cardinals could storm back this season. David Johnson is arguably the best back in football, and Palmer was an MVP candidate 2 seasons ago. They still have a great secondary, and Fitzgerald can still ball. If the Seahawks’ locker room issues are true, Arizona will look to take the division from them.
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