NFL Division Winners
The offseason noise is all starting to simmer. We are getting real looks at Adams and Wilson in their new AFC threads. Coaches in Minnesota and Miami are hoping they can be the right guy to flip their respective divisions that have been top-heavy for so many years. This rookie class may not have had that high profile QB, but it wasn’t deprived of talent. Who is going to be that Ja’Marr Chase type of player that takes the league by storm?
With every question will come cheers and tears. Not every team will hit their marks. It sucks but it is the sad reality. Some of the best in the league won’t get a chance to make a difference on their team because of injury. Coaches that felt secure will be fired, and franchises will be set back multiple years in just a few weeks.
The league has tons of ups and downs… and that’s what makes it fun. Everyone loves parity and hopefully this NFL season will be full of it. The first goal for each & every team is this: win your division. Only 8 teams will be able to check this box. Some seem like easy locks, while others are looking to take back the throne from a divisional foe. Below are my picks to be the 8 NFL teams to accomplish this task in 2022.
AFC South – Indianapolis Colts (-125)
There is no easy division in football. Every team has NFL talent and can win any given week. Yet some divisions are clearly not as tough as others. The AFC South falls into the weaker category of things. That’s not a terrible thing if you’re a Colts fan. After missing the playoffs in heart-breaking fashion, Matt Ryan hopes to be the guy who can finally get this Colts team back to the successful days of Luck and Manning. The Colts come in once again with an elite offensive line and a polished ground game to carry the team. This is something Matt Ryan hasn’t been able to lay claim to in years. According to Sharp Football Analytics, the Colts have the 3rd easiest schedule in all of football. That is mostly due to that weak division we alluded to earlier. The Titans are in a weird re-shuffle, the Jaguars are implementing a whole new scheme, and the Texans are still trying to erase the mess that was left behind by Bill O’ Brien. The AFC South plays the daunting AFC West in this year’s scheduling rotation, so some losses will come. I have them slated for a 12-5 record, and that’s more than enough wins to take this division.
AFC East – Buffalo Bills (-230)
The Bills were one Tyreek Hill type trade away from being -400 favorites in my eyes. This Bills team looks like a juggernaut ready to run through the league. Josh Allen put the team on his back last year, and it looks as if he will have a similar showing this season. Thankfully the Bills added James Cook in the draft to help with this tragic run defense. They will be getting back All-Pro corner Tre’davious White from injury, and hopefully guys like Isaiah McKenzie or Gabe Davis can step into this number two role in the offense. Defensive coordinators will have a game plan – some will work, whereas most will sadly fall to last year’s 3rd highest scoring offense. With this team getting a strong taste of meaningful football, I see a slow start in their future. They open the season against the defending Super Bowl champions, a battle against Tennessee, a Miami team looking to prove themselves, and a Baltimore team that knows how to win against Buffalo. Still that slow start will only trip them up momentarily and I project the Bills to finish with a 13-4 record. Miami will be a challenge, Belichick always plays Buffalo tough, but the Jets are the Jets. This seems like the easiest lock for division winners in the 2022 NFL season.
AFC North – Baltimore Ravens (+125)
After everything we heard this offseason, this year sounds like it will be the Lamar Jackson revenge tour. Seemingly day after day, we have seen sites, writers, and content creators say that “Lamar Jackson isn’t a top 10 quarterback.” Yet Lamar averaged just 17 less yards per game than Aaron Rodgers last year. Yes, he needs to make a serious improvement in the turnover department. That is well-known, but let’s not forget that his line play was atrocious last year. Lamar had the 4th highest sack percentage last season and Baltimore’s front office noticed that. They used a 1st round pick on Tyler Lindebaum, who was projected a first-year starter. They also signed Morgan Moses, who only allowed 4 sacks in over 1,000 offensive plays. The secondary took huge hits to injury last year. Now that they are healthy, they are regarded as the best group in the league. The Ravens know how to win in the regular season. Harbaugh will get this team back to where they are supposed to be as long as Lamar is healthy. Ravens +950 to win the AFC is also something that seems intriguing. My guess is that those odds get worse as the season goes on.
AFC West – Los Angeles Chargers (+240)
Betting against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to win the AFC West has been one of the worst bets over the past couple years. Yet it seems like the writing on the wall might be that it’s time for a new leader in the West. Los Angeles seems like the perfect team on the rise. Justin Herbert looks like he is ready to enter that “elite” tier at QB. His 5,000-yard season last year was way better than a lot of people thought, and if he gets better then look out. His offensive line looks to be top tier again and he is returning all of his key skill position players. The defense added Khalil Mack to be opposite of Joey Bosa, yuck. JC Jackson sadly will start the year with an ankle injury, but if he can come back healthy he would really make the secondary look dangerous. Ultimately though, the other teams in the division have more questions. Will the Chiefs be able to repeat success without Hill and Mathieu? How much of an impact can Adams make on his offense? Were the Broncos really just a QB away from being great? Los Angeles oddly feels adventurous, yet safe at the same time. This looks like the perfect team to be a regular season juggernaut that falls early in the playoffs.
NFC South – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-270)
Tom Brady is back baby!! Despite the failed retirement and the mysterious stories about why he missed a large portion of the off-season obligations, Tom is back. That means the Bucs are the clear favorite in this division. In the 20 years Brady has been a primary starter, he has lost just one divisional title. The Panthers brought in Baker Mayfield to turn things around, but that shouldn’t scare the Bucs one bit. The Falcons are in a clear rebuild. The Saints are arguably the most slept on team this season. They will beat Brady and the Bucs at least once this year, but Tom always gets home field in the playoffs. Nothing about the rest of this division indicates that changes this year.
NFC East – Philadelphia Eagles (+155)
I can say with all honesty that this was the Dallas Cowboys up until about 2 minutes before this article was written. Dallas has always been regarded as the juggernaut running this division, and until recently that’s been true. Maybe that window is closing, and the Eagles look primed to take this division back over. New York and Washington have more questions than they may want to believe, and they will both probably be looking for different QB’s next year. This is about Jalen Hurts, this offensive line, and adding AJ Brown. Hurts at times looked like he was doing too much or even uncomfortable in the pocket. Yet in his last four games he was able to throw for over 260 yards, with a 7/2 touchdown to interception ratio. His additional ability to run the ball effectively has shown to keep this potentially potent offense on the field. The offensive line has been the talk of the off-season. They have 2 of the top 10 offensive lineman according to PFF.com (Jordan Milata 3rd, Lane Johnson 10th). Jason Kelce is returning for his 12th season. That should also tell you the belief this team has in itself. When people talk about the best receivers 25 and under, it’s a two horse race. Jefferson and Chase are great, but Brown is no slouch either. He has shown game breaking speed, the ability to attack the ball, and a knack for finding the end zone. His size and speed combination will draw attention from secondaries and allow the other assets to flourish in 1-on-1 coverage. The defense has questions, but this pick is solely because the aura around this team feels a little different. This play won’t feel good until the very last week, but I think the dirty birds ultimately pull it out.
NFC North – Green Bay Packers (-155)
No Davante Adams, what will Aaron Rodgers do?! He will more than likely go out and give another MVP like season, help the Packers win the division, and probably lose in the playoffs – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s easy to get lost in the big headlines that happen in the off-season. Some can really point you into the right direction of where a team is heading, others are just noise because we need to have some drama around the team. All the negative things that I have read about the Packers this off-season just seem extra. We are talking about one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and one of the best teams. Adams wasn’t this whole offense. Jones and Dillon out of the backfield will be the best RB duo in the league. Allen Lazard at times has been productive. The defense will still float around top 10 all year, and people will be kicking themselves for doubting. Minnesota looks like they have made strong improvements but that feels like a “next year” thing. Take this discount right to the cash counter.
NFC West – Los Angeles Rams (+125)
Surprisingly, this doesn’t feel good. This Rams team is coming back with a level of tenacity we haven’t seen in some time. The defending Super Bowl Champions, in the latter stages of the preseason, were featured in a giant brawl with the Bengals in their joint practice. Whether that was a good idea is a different question for a different day, but we can gain some insight from this. Acting like you have a chip on your shoulder is one thing, but maybe this team is not locked in. Matthew Stafford is coming in with elbow issues that seem like they won’t go away without surgery. The defensive line got a little worse with Von Miller leaving, and Whitworth will be missed on the offensive side. Yet despite the early season struggles they will face; I think they inevitably win a tough NFC West. The 49ers led by Trey Lance don’t seem too promising, and the Cardinals still don’t seem believable. This will be another ugly and long-winded finale. Yet I think the Rams win when it matters – if Stafford is healthy.