Division Winner Predictions
So we’re seven (eight) games into the season, things are beginning to shake out and most divisions have a clear front runner. Having said that other divisions are much more competitive with no clear front runner and other divisions are the AFC South. I’m going to attempt to pick the eventual winner of each division.
AFC East Winner: Patriots
This is one of the easiest to pick and it generally is every year. The Buffalo Bills look much better than I gave them credit for at the beginning of the season. Their defence is currently ranked 3rd by DVOA on football outsiders with only two undefeated teams above them. The Bills are likely to make a decent wildcard push this season as their defence is good enough to carry them to around ten wins. However good the Bills appear to be this season, there is an oft spoke motto at Gridiron Gentlemen Towers. “I’ll count the Patriots out when they start to give me a reason to”. At 6-0, despite having a soft schedule, the Patriots have yet to give me a reason to discount them.
AFC West Winner: Chiefs
The Chiefs started off this season looking completely unstoppable. Patrick Mahomes rolled straight off the back of a record-breaking MVP season straight into this one like nothing had happened. However he has now dislocated his knee and is likely to miss a number of games. Fortunately for the Chiefs their division is very weak. The next best team in the AFC West are the Raiders, who are trending in the right direction, however I see them going 8-8 and just missing out on a wildcard spot. The Chiefs are currently very bullish on Mahomes timetable to return to the team. With no real competition for the top spot in the AFC West I think it’s the Chiefs division to lose and Mahomes doesn’t look like he’ll be out long enough for it to matter.
AFC South Winner: Colts
Here, the first time where there isn’t a clear front runner in the division. Currently the Colts sit at the top of the AFC South with the Texans a game behind. The Texans have a QB playing at the highest level along with possibly the best wide receiver in the game. The Texans defence ranks 11th on Football Outsiders. So with all that going for them, why wouldn’t I pick them to win the division. Well in my opinion the Texans have two large stones around their neck weighing them down. The first is their porous offensive line, the second is their head coach/general manager/overlord. The colts on the other hand have those two items as boons to the team. The Colts oline, led by Quentin Nelson, is a strength of the team and their head coach is doing a fabulous job getting his team competitive despite the shock news of Lucks retirement. I feel the Texans are a QB injury or Head Coach brain fart away from blowing up into a bang average team.
AFC North Winner: Ravens
Remember when the AFC North was arguably one of the best divisions in the NFL? Seems like a long time ago doesn’t it. This is a division full of dysfunctional teams and the least dysfunctional of them is the Ravens. That actually does a disservice to the Ravens who are actually a decent football team. However they don’t appear to have any in division competition. The Browns have continued to browns it up all over the shop. The Bengals might be regretting getting rid of the man who made them relevant after decades of ineptitude. The Steelers have forgotten how to play football from what I can tell. The Ravens should walk this one quiet readily.
NFC East Winner: Cowboys
This weekend just gone was a big swing in who was going to win the division. The Cowboys looked to be on a downward spiral after an embarrassing loss to the Jets. However the shellacking they just put on the Eagles is impressive. The Eagles are the only other team in the NFC East who could potentially challenge for the division crown, but they appear to be in a funk of their own. Back to back losses to the Cowboys and Vikings have really put a damper on their superbowl aspirations. After losing to the team they should be challenging for the division crown, the depleted Eagles roster looks like they might be dropping out of contention for a superbowl. The Cowboys looked amazing in their demolition of the Eagles and if they can continue to perform like that then they are one of best teams in the whole NFC.
NFC West Winner: Seahawks
This division is possibly the hardest to call in all of football. We have two teams playing at an excellent level. The 49ers are undefeated but have only beaten one team with a winning record and the rest of their opponents are averaging less than 2 games won. The Seahawks have lost two games to two of the best teams in the NFL while beating many of the same opponents as the 49ers. The 49ers first real opponents are the Carolina Panthers and we’ll know a lot more about how good the 49ers are after they played the Panthers. The Seahawks have Russell Wilson playing at a MVP level which is what is tipping the balance towards them. I don’t feel happy picking the Seahawks over an undefeated team, perhaps my man crush on Russell Wilson is the reason I did. I’m looking forward to when the Seahawks play the 49ers in three weeks.
NFC South Winner: Saints
Another division which is a two horse race. The Panthers have done a remarkable job with their back up quarterback. Winning four games on the bounce on the back of a strong running game and even stronger defence is no mean feat. The Panthers are going to give a number of teams a run for their money, however there is a team in the NFC south which is doing everything the Panthers are doing, only better. The Saints defence is incredible. Their defensive line is possibly the best in the league. Sean Payton is doing a fantastic job of putting his backup quarterback in the best position to win games. On top of all of this, Drew Brees is likely to be back soon. When you can get back a future hall of fame quarterback to lead your offense then watch out for their clash in week 12.
NFC North Winner: Packers
A few weeks ago I would have said that the Packers should win this division easily. However the Vikings have cast off the shackles of the early season and have matured into a very good football team. Early in the season the Vikings were maddening to me. They seem uniquely setup to be the best play action passing team in the league. They had a great running game with Dalvin cook and two excellent receivers who could stretch the field, but the coaches for whatever reason didn’t call enough play action passes. They seemed to have reversed this trend and now call around 32% of their plays as play action passes and the results are clear to see. The Packers however have an excellent defence and something that the Vikings don’t have. One of the best quarterbacks to ever play the sport. With a game in hand and a tie breaker over the Vikings it’ll take a monumental slip up for them to cede grasp of the Division.
Like the article? Hit Will up on twitter (@WClaringbold) or the gents (@gridirongents). Don’t forget to listen to this week’s pod where we take a look at QBs that probably won’t win a superbowl.