top of page
  • pkostopanagiotis

Way Too Early Division Standings Predictions

All 32 teams have officially reported to training camp, and the Hall of Fame Game is just moments away. Football is finally back! To help tee things off, TRO is here to get some conversations started while the action continues to ramp up, by attempting to predict how each Division will finish the Season.


As teams continue to progress through training camp, their rosters and staffs have taken shape, starting lineups are starting to be decided, and we have just enough of a sense of how all 32 organizations look on paper. Of course, no team has ever won anything of significance based on how they stack up on paper in the summer, and attempting to predict Division standings this early is borderline crazy. That being said, here are TRO's way too early Division standings predictions. Below, you will find how we think each Division will finish from first (best) to fourth (worst):


AFC NORTH:

1) Baltimore Ravens

via Shawn Hubbard / Baltimore Ravens Photos


We know the Bengals represented the AFC in the Super Bowl last year, and they dramatically improved their offensive line. We're not denying that they won't be a very good football team again, but we'll get to why they might not bring home the division crown two years in a row below. For now, let's focus on why the Ravens will bring home the AFC North title. First of all, they were arguably the most injured team in football last year. Their injury report looked like the back of a Bonnaroo t-shirt. They'll be much healthier this year.

Second, they'll have Lamar Jackson, who either will be fresh off a new deal out to prove critics he's earned it, or waiting for a new deal, out to prove to the organization that they'll have to pay him what he's worth. We also are high on how well-coached this team is, and think that their defense (and run game with the return of JK Dobbins) will set the tone and control the pace of game play more often than not.

Lastly, look at how this team competed last year. They had multiple games they came up inches short on failed 2-point conversions, fourth and shorts, or where the ball just simply didn't bounce their way. Their aggressive nature normally pays off, and we think this year it will with a much healthier squad.


2) Cincinnati Bengals

via Cincinnati Bengals


There's a stigma around teams that were the runner up in the previous year's Super Bowl. Some of that can be refuted with statistics and playoff appearances in the following year, but there's no denying the pressure and expectations of returning to the big game. So much has to go right to win in the NFL. Don't get us wrong, we think the Bengals will win 10+ games, and be a playoff team poised for another deep run (and who knows, maybe a back-to-back Super Bowl berths), but we think they'll take a slight step back in the regular season.

There's a lot more film out there on their young core after last year, and it will take some time for their revamped offensive line to gel, which could make for a slower start and a stronger finish, putting them slightly behind Baltimore early in the year.

The good news for Bengals fan is, this team is still very good, and Joe Burrow (who is already a Tier 1 quarterback in this League) will likely get an extension after this year. He knows that, and his play should continue to trend upward on its rocket-like path.


3) Pittsburgh Steelers

via Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers


A lot of people are down on Pittsburgh this year. We are not. As long as this team is coached by Mike Tomlin, the guys on the roster will play to their potential, they will be physical, and they will find ways to mold games to fit their mantra. This defense will be elite once again, and the offense will run the football as often as they can with Najee Harris.

Lastly, we think that the Steelers actually improved their quarterback situation from a year ago. What we saw last year was a shell of what Big Ben used to be. He was a statue in the pocket, and he lost a great deal of velocity on his ball speed. We think Kenny Pickett will end up starting more games than Mitchell Trubisky this year, but no matter the case, either one will be able to move the chains at a higher rate than Big Ben did this past season. Both Trubisky and Pickett have the athleticism, mobility, and arm strength to make the Steelers' offense more competent than a year ago.

If the Steelers could get to 9-7-1 last year, and a Playoff berth, we can't imagine how they won't at least replicate that kind of performance.


4) Cleveland Browns

via Matt Starkey / Cleveland Browns


Irrespective of the pending Deshaun Watson suspension, we think Cleveland was in for a major letdown year this year. TRO always had the opinion that Watson would get a suspension of no less than 12 games, to maybe even a year or longer, and given the NFL's recent appeal, it looks like they will trend towards that margin. But no matter how you slice it, people forget that Watson was coming off of a year in which his team went 4-12 in 2020 despite his gaudy numbers.

For starters, there's just too much noise surrounding this team. Watson has been the biggest storyline since this time last year, and after the Browns put their name in the running to acquire him in the spring, all that attention shifted to Cleveland. They alienated their former Number One overall pick in Baker Mayfield, who brought the franchise its first glimmer of success and sustainability its seen in decades, and they paid Watson an astronomical amount of guaranteed money, setting the quarterback market, despite having zero indication of how his discipline will pan out. We think the Browns got too big for their britches, and were too eager to burn a bridge and chase more without realizing what was in front of them. What's that saying about Icarus flying too close to the Sun?

This team has had a far from normal offseason, they've opened up their coaches and players to a media circus, and it's not going away remotely any time soon. Being constantly asked about the status of your quarterback's 20-30 something sexual assault allegations, undeniable behavior towards unlicensed massage therapists, etc. instead of being asked about X's and O's and football will take a toll on a locker room. You can't help but wonder if players become divided, with some wishing they still had Mayfield, or if some gravitate towards Jacoby Brissett, or if others will wonder if playing in Cleveland is worth the extra media attention.

The other teams in this Division are far too well-coached and talented to not take advantage of Cleveland's situation. The Browns have a long history of finishing at the bottom of this Division, and they might have buried themselves back down there.


AFC SOUTH:

1) Indianapolis Colts

via Indianapolis Colts


The Colts have a complete roster. In fact, they have the most complete roster in this Division. We like all the moves they've made this offseason, and we think that Matt Ryan is the type of quarterback this team needs. He'll be a better version of the type of quarterback Indianapolis had in 2020 when Philip Rivers had this team in the playoffs. They've added pieces to each level of their defense, and they have some good insurance behind Jonathan Taylor.

Last year, Carson Wentz held this team back with his up and down play. Ryan will be a model of consistency in the white and blue, compared to the end of his career in Atlanta, throwing behind a better offensive line, supported by an elite run game, and complimented by a stout defense without any true holes.


2) Tennessee Titans

via Cameron Faulkner / Tennessee Titans


The Titans are in this weird phase where they have no choice but to hold on to what they have because its brought them consistent success as of late, but they're slowly bleeding out as each season passes. This offseason had to be underwhelming for Tennessee fans, largely because they traded away their best offensive weapon not named Derrick Henry. They also just seemed to lose a piece here and there on the offensive and defensive lines.

They'll still be a playoff-caliber team, but they'll be one scrapping and clawing for a Wild Card spot all season long as they pray Henry doesn't miss any time this year.


3) Jacksonville Jaguars

via Kam Nedd / Jacksonville Jaguars


Nothing bad to say about the Jaguars here other than the fact that they just have to keep on keeping on. Another year for Trevor Lawrence, a new, actual NFL head coach (don't get us started on why Urban Meyer should have never even been handed the keys to any NFL team, ever), and they also went out and improved their roster with a respectable effort in Free Agency. Sure, they overpaid for some guys, but they still added solid additions, and we believe Lawrence will continue to grow into a great quarterback in this League.

All that being said, this team started from the absolute abyss, and have some more time to put in before they are fighting for the top of the division. Don't be surprised if they pull off 7 wins this year, but let's keep expectations tempered for at least one more year.


4) Houston Texans

via Zach Tarrant / Houston Texans


There's not much to say about Houston other than the fact that they are still recovering from the hard reset after moving from the Deshaun Watson era. It's a good year to evaluate what they have in Davis Mills, but there's not much in Houston to be excited about other than the 2023 Draft in April.


AFC EAST:

1) Buffalo Bills

via Bill Wippert / Buffalo Bills


The Bills are the betting odds favorites to win the Super Bowl, and they should be. They're arguably the best team in the NFL. Josh Allen will have every opportunity to win the MVP, this team is loaded on both sides of the ball, they are well-coached, and they have a unique home field situation with Bills Mafia and the Buffalo weather.

Barring extreme circumstances, no one is challenging them for the AFC East crown this year.


2) Miami Dolphins

via Miami Dolphins


The Dolphins will be an intriguing team to watch this year. We had a tough time deciding between them and New England for the number two spot in the AFC East, but there's just too much talent down in South Beach to not ride with them. Say what you want about Tua Tagovailoa, and his deep ball (don't come for TRO Tuanon - we think Tua should impress this year), but it's going to be hard to game plan against an offense that has Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Mike Gesicki. Even if Tua does just throw slants, digs, screens, and crossing routes to these guys, they'll RAC their way to 10ish wins.

A first year head coach has us a little concerned for a let down, we think if Brian Flores was still here this team would be a lock for the Wild Card game, but we're excited to see what kind of offense Mike McDaniel puts together. Hopefully Josh Boyer can keep the defensive side of the ball respectable.


3) New England Patriots

via David Silverman / New England Patriots


The Patriots should be a League average team. Don't be surprised to see them back in the playoffs, but don't be surprised for them to go 9-8 or 8-9 and miss it in the hyper-competitive AFC either. There's not a whole lot to dig into here. On one hand, they're obviously going to be well-coached, disciplined, intelligent, and competitive. On the other hand, do they have enough talent and explosiveness to go far? Buffalo is going to be VERY good, Miami will be explosive, and now the Jets will have some flair to them.

We try not to put too much weight on a team's schedule before the season starts, but New England's sure does seem tough. They have to get off to a hot start. No matter what happens, Bill Belichick will keep them competitive, defensively stout, and at least nipping at the heels of the Dolphins all year long.


4) New York Jets

via New York Jets


Kind of similar to Jacksonville, the Jets are a team that is doing all of the right things and trending in the right direction, but they might just be one more year away from competing for the Playoffs. New York had one hell of an offseason, and there's a whole lot for fans to be excited about. However, this team is still very young and will have to continue to grow before they take that next step.

We like Robert Saleh, and we are impressed with how well he had this team playing late in the year this past season. So, hang on Jets fans, you're almost there.


AFC WEST:

1) Los Angeles Chargers

via Mike Nowak / Los Angeles Chargers


The Chargers might be the "on paper" champions. Their roster looks amazing, top to bottom, front to back, etc. They have plugged the holes they had last year with some eye opening additions, their young stars will only be better, and Justin Herbert will be right there with Joe Burrow, playing for that post-year three contract extension young franchise quarterbacks earn.

The AFC West will be the best, most competitive, and exciting division in football, making it the hardest to predict. That being said, it just feels like the Los Angeles team that didn't win the Super Bowl is poised for a breakout year.


2) Kansas City Chiefs

via Kansas City Chiefs


As long as the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, they will be pegged as a 10+ win team. However, this might be a "down" year for Kansas City fans, and all that means is that they don't win the Division, but still are amongst the League's upper echelon.

The loss of Tyreek Hill is going to be felt by this organization. There is no doubting that. Their receiving corp in 2022 frankly isn't that intimidating, and on the defensive side of the ball, they will have some holes at linebacker and in the secondary as well. This team is going to need time to gel, and grow. So, if they stumble out of the gates a bit, it will likely just put them a tad behind Los Angeles as the season unfolds.

Teams might have a little more success keying in on Travis Kelce, which will take plays longer to develop, allowing for pash rushes to get after Mahomes.


3) Las Vegas Raiders

via Matt Aguirre / Las Vegas Raiders


We almost wanted to put the Raiders at the two spot in the AFC West, but we just couldn't bet against Mahomes and the Chiefs. That being said, we love what Las Vegas has put together this year. Reuniting college best friends Derek Carr and Davante Adams will take this offense to the next level.

The only thing holding us back is questioning how Josh McDaniels will fare as the head coach of this team given his limited experience at the top of the chain. This team showed they were good last year, and they appear to have gotten better. We're also curious as to how their secondary will hold up, but think that their front seven can at least prevent that from becoming too problematic.


4) Denver Broncos

via Gabriel Christus / Denver Broncos


We can't fully buy into Russell Wilson instantly turning the Broncos into major contenders. Don't get us wrong, Russ is a great quarterback, and Denver will be good and competitive, but someone has to finish last in this insane Division, and to us, all signs are pointing to the Broncos.

This team could compete to win a number of other divisions, but the AFC West is just too talented. There's an entirely new coaching staff at play here, led by first-time head coach Nathaniel Hackett. This job will be his first true test in determining if his offensive coordinator career was held up by Aaron Rodgers, or if he has some real coaching abilities of his own. We also think this defense has been shaken up just enough to take a slight step back from their 2021 production.


NFC NORTH:

1) Green Bay Packers

via Evan Seigle / Green Bay Packers


Taking away the League's top ranked wide receiver from your team certainly doesn't make you better than you were a year ago. Green Bay's grip on the NFC North seems to be loosening just a tad. However, that grip is still firm as they'll likely remain near the top of the entire NFC once again. Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers, they have a two-headed monster at running back, and their defense will be elite for a second straight year.

The Packers are poised to run through the NFC once again (in the regular season), but it wouldn't be impossible for the Vikings to come up and surprise them, contesting for the crown of the North.


2) Minnesota Vikings

via Brad Rempel / USA Today


The Vikings are a talented football team, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Hiring offensive-minded Kevin O'Connell should help this team tap into their potential and prevent those unexplainable, self-defeating losses they suffered a year ago.

Look for Minnesota to keep Green Bay honest and win 10+ games this year. Don't be surprised to see them come gunning for the North if everything clicks for them ahead of schedule.


3) Detroit Lions

via Josh Mandujano / Detroit Lions


You've got to like where things are at, for once, if you're a Detroit Lions fan. We at least do. Dan Campbell has this team playing inspired football. They put together several competitive games last year, and played well down the stretch despite their season being over. That's how you know when a coach has control over his locker room and his guys believe in him.

This is a year where they will be on the right side of more of those close losses they suffered last year. This organization is trending upward, they added that playmaker on the defensive line they missed last year, don't be shocked if they pull out seven wins.


4) Chicago Bears

via Jacob Funk / Chicago Bears


We hate to come down hard on the Bears because we like Justin Fields, but if you stack up Chicago to Detroit going into 2022, the Lions check more boxes. Who is going to catch the football in Chicago?? Darnell Mooney is a very good player, but at 5'11'' and 174 lbs, he can't sustain 200+ targets across 17 games.

The Bears need help. They need help at receiver, they need some more help on the offensive line, and their defense appears to have lost just a bit of muster from a year ago. We like the coaching and general manager hires, so this team is doing the right things, but it's not going to happen overnight. Be patient Bears fans, enjoy watching Fields grow this season, and hope that Chicago will work to support him better going into next season.


NFC SOUTH:


1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

via Kyle Zedaker / Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Ever since Tom Brady came to town, the Buccaneers have had a clean grasp on the NFC South. That won't change this year. The Bucs might take a step back with the losses they have shouldered on the offensive and defensive lines, but with the goat at the helm, that won't hurt them but so much while playing in a weaker division.

Tom will be Tom, and he has an arsenal of weapons. Look for the Bucs to have to work extra this season, but they'll still get it done in the South.


2) Carolina Panthers

via Carolina Panthers


The Panthers have had one of the better offseasons in the League. Not only did they acquire Baker Mayfield, who, now healthy, will provide adequate and sustainable quarterback play for the Panthers for the first time since 2018. To anyone who thinks a torn labrum doesn't affect a quarterback's throwing motion, try doing any physical activity without one arm. Baker will be much improved this year, and he will have arguably the best skill players he's ever had in his career at his disposal.

DJ Moore is one of 2 receivers in the NFL to have 3 straight 1,200 scrimmage yard seasons, and he's done so with a revolving circus for a quarterback room. We all know how explosive Robbie Anderson can be, look for Terrace Marshall, Jr. to take that much anticipated second-year leap, and for Rashard Higgins to find comfort, reunited with his old quarterback. We are firm believers that CMC will sustain a healthy season, and everyone knows what that can do for an offense. Even if he doesn't, the Panthers solidified their backfield with sustainable depth.

Also, the Panthers have dramatically bolstered their offensive line, they have one of the more talented secondaries in the League, and have 3 or 4 young defensive players primed to take that All-Pro level leap. Lastly, Matt Rhule has surrounded himself with actual, experienced, NFL coaches, as he fights to cool his seat down and maintain his job.


3) New Orleans Saints

via Michael C. Herbert / New Orleans Saints


It was tough to pick between the Panthers and the Saints for the second and third spots, and you might be better off flipping a coin. One of these teams will win 9 or 10 games, and the other will win 7 or 8. We like what the Saints receiving room has evolved into, with Michael Thomas looking like he might return to a football field again, and the additions of Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry.

We all know the Saints defense will be good once again. What we are unsure about is a Sean Payton-sized absence on the sidelines and uncertainty surrounding Jameis Winston coming off of the knee injury. Lastly, our biggest concern is the discipline status surrounding Alvin Kamara. There's uncertainty as to when he'll play. We don't think his suspension will be more than six games, but we do think it might take a while for that decision to be made, which could remove Kamara at a crucial point of the Season

At the end of the day, both the Saints and the Panthers can compete for a Wild Card spot if a couple things go their way. Time will tell which team answers the call.


4) Atlanta Falcons

via Mitch Martin / Atlanta Falcons


Sorry Falcons fans, but we don't see Atlanta standing a chance to make it out of the basement of the NFC South this year. We love Kyle Pitts, AJ Terrell and Cordarrelle Patterson, but man, is that roster absolutely riddled with holes. Offensive line, all over the defense, wide receiver depth, and quarterback. Teams shouldn't have a problem double teaming Pitts and avoid throwing the ball near Terrell given the lack of help elsewhere. It might be hard for this team to stack up any consistency in the win department.


NFC EAST:

1) Philadelphia Eagles

via Kiel Leggere / Philadelphia Eagles


Sorry Cowboys fans, but one team in the NFC East dramatically improved this offseason, and that's the Philadelphia Eagles. They acquired almost everything they missed from last year. They obtained AJ Brown, the big bodied, physical receiver that can compliment DeVonta Smith and allows Jalen Hurts to make slightly less accurate throws while on the run. Philly added defensive monsters in Haason Reddick, who has proved he can get double digit sacks and disrupt offenses in ANY system, and true shutdown corner, James Bradberry, to play opposite of Darius Slay. Lastly, they had an amazing draft, nabbing two of the most impactful Georgia Bulldogs.

It's a big year for Hurts to prove the doubters wrong, and he'll have all the tools to do so. Things should go Philadelphia's way as they take control of the East.


2) Dallas Cowboys

via Tony Gutierez / AP Photo


Dallas will still be a solid team, especially as long as Dak Prescott is at quarterback. He's easily the best at the position in the Division. Look for CeeDee Lamb to have a monster year, and Dallas to have some success with their two-headed backfield.

That being said, this team just doesn't have the same talent they had last year. They lost Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup will miss time with his Week 17 knee injury, Cedrick Wilson is gone, and on the other side of the ball, Randy Gregory is gone. They also went through some changes on the offensive line.

Dallas's window is shrinking, which means they have had to shed some pieces. Unfortunately, that will negatively affect their win total this year, at least in comparison to last year.


3) New York Giants

via New York Giants


Brian Daboll might prove to be exactly what the Giants needed. We don't believe in Daniel Jones much at all, but we do like the skill players at his disposal. The Giants landed key playmakers on both sides of the trenches in this year's draft, and they just feel like they will be more competitive this year. Saquon Barkley should prove to be healthier, and things just seem on a more upward trend in New York than they do in Washington.


4) Washington Commanders

via Kourtney Carroll / Washington Commanders


We were high on the Washington Football Team last year, but we are low on the Washington Commanders this year, and it has nothing to do with the name change. We are actually in the minority that prefers "Commanders" to the un-identifying "Football Team." Ron Rivera is a solid coach, and Terry McLaurin is a monster, but this defense should greatly disappointed last year. This year, they seem to have lost some key pieces that will prevent them from improving dramatically on that side of the ball.

Landing Carson Wentz is an improvement, but something still feels off about him. This is a worse situation than Indianapolis, and we don't know how well he can shoulder the load. As we mentioned, we like McLaurin, we also really like Logan Thomas and Antonio Gibson. We were about to put this team ahead of the Giants, but with news that Chase Young might miss a good chunk of time early from last year's knee injury, this team might start off too far behind the eight ball.


NFC WEST:

1) Los Angeles Rams

via Brevin Townsell / Los Angeles Rams


The defending Super Bowl Champs should walk away with the NFC West crown. They have all the swagger, they have a confident Matthew Stafford, they have Cooper Kupp, and now Allen Robinson, and oh yeah, they have Aaron Donald. Let's not forget about Jalen Ramsey, and newly acquired Bobby Wagner. Lastly, we really think Odell Beckham, Jr. will reunite with the team once he's finished rehabbing the knee injury he suffered in the Big Game, giving them another late season boost, just like he did last year when he arrived via trade.

The Rams shouldn't have to worry too much about in terms of a Super Bowl hangover, as they feel like they've reached a point of consistency for at least another year. The coaching staff and key players are still there. The biggest area of concern for them will how will their offensive line hold up after some shuffling around.


2) Arizona Cardinals

via Arizona Cardinals


Kyler Murray got paid, rightfully so, and hopefully he does his homework this year... In all seriousness, this team is very similar to the team they put out on the field last year, and should be in contention for a playoff spot. However, the six game suspension of De'Andre Hopkins might put this team in a bind early. Maybe for once, Arizona will start off slow, then get hot late.

Either way, we think they're good, but not good enough to best Los Angeles for the top spot of the NFC West.


3) San Francisco 49ers

via San Francisco 49ers


San Francisco will have no trouble being well-coached, stout up front on defense, and aggressive running the ball. With Trent Williams anchoring the offensive line, this team can out-physical just about anyone. The jury is still out on Trey Lance, but it's officially his show this year.

We think Lance will fare OK, but he simply hasn't had enough snaps at this point. He has to go through some growing pains, and those will happen this year, which will set the 49ers behind Arizona and Los Angeles.


4) Seattle Seahawks

via Rod Mar / Seattle Seahawks


As we wrap up our Division Rankings, we land with fourth spot in the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks. This organization underwent too much change, ending an era with all-time greats on both sides of the ball in Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. A Drew Lock - Geno Smith quarterback competition isn't really a headliner for greatness.

This team wisely locked up D.K. Metcalf for their next quarterback, but with no true leader at the helm, a leaky offensive line, and holes all over the defense, Seattle's in for a rebuild. You had a nice run Hawks fans, and maybe this won't take too long, but nothing good will get done this year, even if Jimmy G comes to town.




WELCOME BACK, STAY TUNED FOR MORE TRO!

54 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comentários


bottom of page