Here’s how I rank each of the eight NFL divisions heading into the 2017 season:
1. AFC West. 1. Oakland Raiders. 2. Kansas City Chiefs. 3 . Denver Broncos. 4. Los Angeles Chargers.
Analysis: Three of the four teams — the Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos — will make the playoffs. And the fourth team — the Chargers — will be tough. They underachieved last season because Philip Rivers’ weapons were injured.
2. NFC South. 1. Atlanta Falcons. 2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 3. New Orleans Saints. 4. Carolina Panthers.
Analysis: The Falcons lost assistant coaches, but still have a playoff-caliber roster. The Buccaneers improved this offseason with the addition of DeSean Jackson. And the Saints and Panthers should be around .500.
3. NFC East. 1. New York Giants. 2. Dallas Cowboys. 3. Philadelphia Eagles. 4. Washington Redskins.
Analysis: The Cowboys and Redskins both got worse this offseason, but each team in this division will be competitive.
4. NFC North. 1. Green Bay Packers. 2. Detroit Lions. 3. Minnesota Vikings. 4. Chicago Bears.
Analysis: The Packers are the best team in the NFC. The rest of the teams in this division could finish the season under .500.
5. AFC North. 1. Pittsburgh Steelers. 2. Cincinnati Bengals. 3. Baltimore Ravens. 4. Cleveland Browns.
Analysis: The Steelers have issues on defense and Ben Roethlisberger almost certainly will miss a few games due to injury, but the Steelers will win the division. The Bengals should rebound after a sub-par season in 2016. And the Ravens and Browns are non-factors.
6. AFC East. 1. New England Patriots. 2. Miami Dolphins. 3. Buffalo Bills. 4. New York Jets.
Analysis: The Patriots still are the best team in the NFL. The Dolphins will be lucky to win eight games. The Bills have no chance to make the playoffs. And the Jets are tanking for the first pick in next year’s draft.
7. NFC West: 1. Seattle Seahawks. 2. San Francisco 49ers. 3. Arizona Cardinals. 4. Los Angeles Rams.
Analysis: The Seahawks have the best home-field advantage in football, but they’re a declining team. The Cardinals won seven games last season and they’re worse now. And the Rams have one good player — Aaron Donald. The 49ers will be surprisingly good because they have one of the easiest schedules — four games against the Cardinals and Rams, and four games against teams from the worst division — the AFC South.
8. AFC South: 1. Tennessee Titans. 2. Indianapolis Colts. 3. Houston Texans. 4. Jacksonville Jaguars.
Analysis: The Titans have a weak defense, the Colts can’t protect Andrew Luck or run the ball, the Texans still don’t have a quarterback and the Jaguars aren’t worth mentioning. The team that wins nine games will win this division.