Here I am again to predict early NFL division winners. This time around, I want to cover the NFC and it’s wiiide spectrum of talent across the conference.
NFC East: Washington Football Team
Let’s start with an easier pick, well at least for me. The NFC East is by far the worst division in the conference. Dallas and Philly both have major defensive issues, while the Giants have an uncertainty at QB in Daniel Jones, a star RB coming off major knee surgery and an unproven offensive line. Washington, however, is much more solid all across their roster.
In my opinion, Washington has a top 5 caliber defense with possibly the best defensive front seven in the league, explosive weapons offensively with Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and Antonio Gibson, plus they signed veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick who could provide some much needed consistency to this team. Given the foundation of this team and the weapons they’ve added in recent years, I think they’re a star QB away from title contention. For now though, I’ll give them the NFC East crown.
NFC West: Los Angeles Rams
This pick was a bit tough. The NFC West is filled with talented rosters all throughout. You can never count out Seattle with Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockette, DK Metcalf, and a talented defense– but their offensive line play is what holds them back in my eye. Arizona has made some splashy moves this offseason and looks to be a very solid team, but can Kyler Murray lead a team to over 11 wins? That’s likely what it will take to win this extremely competitive division, and I’m not entirely sure he’s at the stage in his career where he’s ready to unleash that type of productivity. The 49ers will be interesting, as they get Jimmy G. and a lot of other stars back from COVID or injury, but I think they’ll take this season as a stepping stone transition for 3rd overall pick Trey Lance… leaving the Rams in line for a NFC West title.
LA made the first huge move of the off-season in late January when they sent multiple draft picks and Jared Goff over to Detroit in exchange for QB Matthew Stafford, who I consider to be one of most talented, underrated QBs in the NFL. He adds a whole new level of arm talent to Sean McVay’s system that allows the offense to open up completely. With Jared Goff, they were limited in terms of arm strength, but Stafford has a cannon and can make elite throws that sets this Rams offense up to be even more dynamic than it already was. They have weapons in Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson, and Cam Akers, so look for this offense to be extremely lethal and high scoring.
On the flip side, they have elite talent on the defensive side of the ball. Aaron Donald is a perennial All-Pro defensive line force and Jalen Ramsey is a top-3 lockdown corner in the league. Both players can anchor a defense on their own, but together they automatically make this Rams defense extremely dangerous. Plus, they added lots of front seven depth though free agency and the draft, which just makes their case to win this division even stronger in my opinion.
NFC North: Minnesota Vikings
This was a tricky choice. Aside from Detroit, who is obviously in rebuild mode, this division has a tight race for the winner of the division. Green Bay is by far the best team in this division…when they aren’t struggling with internal problems that could impact the future success of the team. I expect Aaron Rogers to be traded at some point before the trade deadline, so that takes them out of contention for me. The Bears have a very talented roster as well, especially on the defensive side of the ball. My concern comes with 1. the offensive line and 2. Justin Fields as a potential franchise QB. If you’ve read my draft notes and articles (which you should have by the way), you’d know that I am not sold on Fields as an NFL success, so they are also out for me.
With those three teams out, I have to go with the Minnesota Vikings. Of all the teams in this division, Minnesota has the least amount of uncertainty and most amount of potential, at least in my opinion. They have an elite WR tandem between Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, an explosive dual threat RB in Dalvin Cook, a young and fast defense with veterans at key starting positions, and a solid QB in Kirk Cousins. I really feel that the Vikings can pull through here. This is their opportunity to sneak a division title amidst the issues and questions surrounding their division mates.
NFC South: Carolina Panthers
I might get some heat for this one, but hear me out. New Orleans is going to take a massive step back without Drew Brees and Atlanta can score at will, but has a tendency to blow leads defensively. They’re out for me.
Yes, I’m aware of the defending Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers and Tom Brady, but they really had issues in the regular season last season and if they slip up early on again that may leave room for a young exciting team like Carolina to take advantage.
Carolina got young QB Sam Darnold from the Jets at a bargain price this off season. I really have high hopes and see star power in this kid. He came into the NFL surrounded by dysfunction all over the Jets franchise, but now with Carolina he gets offensive line protection, star offensive talent, and a young solid defense. Despite only having 5 wins last season, this team was very competitive and played in a lot of close games with great teams. Adding Darnold, getting back Christian McCaffery, and having Robby Anderson/D.J Moore will take this offense to the next level in terms of efficiency and production. Panthers just might surprise the league and win this division. BOOK IT.