The 2017 NFL season isn’t far away now; the draft has passed, and the majority of the better free agents have been snatched up. So, it’s a good time to look into who’s leading the way going into next season – or more specifically, who’s going to be winning each division.
The more predictable divisions
While anything can happen in an NFL season, with injuries being huge season-changers for many teams, a few divisions look to have nearly certain winners. The AFC East (New England Patriots), AFC North (Pittsburgh Steelers), NFC North (Green Bay Packers), and NFC West (Seattle Seahawks), all appear to be quite easy to call.
The NFC East and NFC South are a bit trickier. The ever-improving New York Giants and Dak Prescott-led Dallas Cowboys are nearly level-pegging when it comes to a team-to-team comparison. The Cowboys may just edge it, but who the winner of the division will be is a very hard call.
In the NFC South, the Atlanta Falcons – who went to last year’s Super Bowl – appear to be the favourites, but they may have a fair bit of competition from the upstart Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Or, the Carolina Panthers – more specifically Cam Newton – may return to their Super Bowl finalist play.
New divisional kings in town
One of the most fiercely contested divisions in the NFL next season looks to be the AFC South, but perhaps not for the best reasons. The Houston Texans are going into the campaign with a precarious quarterback situation, which may trouble their offence in a similar way to how it did last season. The Indianapolis Colts look to have similar problems to last season as well, with Andrew Luck still having an offensive line that leaves much to be desired.
Then there are the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were the winners of the free agency and drafted a potential franchise running back in Leonard Fournette. However, the team still have a lot of problems to deal with and are last in the running for the AFC South.
Possibly quite surprisingly, the Tennessee Titans have a great chance of winning the division in 2017, despite being third-favourites at +220 in the NFL betting odds. They proved themselves to be a team to be reckoned with, and they’ve only improved since. The Titans do have a tricky road schedule between Week 11 to 15, but the youthful talent in their squad will help to pull them through.
Last season, in the AFC South, the Kansas City Chiefs narrowly won the division, holding the same record as the Oakland Raiders. Now the young Raiders have a chance to take the division for themselves.
They were hit hard by Derek Carr’s injury last season, but with him fit, the addition of Marshawn Lynch out of retirement, and an anticipated improvement from their young defence, the Oakland Raiders look set to take the AFC West from the Chiefs. Sure, Lynch won’t be the same powerhouse that he was in Seattle, but he’ll still be very good.
Next season, despite not being the favourites, the Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders have the potential to take their divisional titles and even do well in the playoffs.