Who are the teams to watch in the NFL this coming season?
While the NFL season does not officially get underway until early September, it is just a couple of weeks before we see the teams in action for the first time in a selection of pre-season games to hone their skills ahead of the first weekend of the regular season.
As such, it is an extremely busy and important time of the year as the 32 teams across the NFC and AFC hone their skills in training camp and try to get any last minute trades or squad selection decisions finalised and in play ahead of the start of these warm up matches.
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Each team plays four games across the four weeks in August to get themselves in tip-top shape for the season start and after free agency and the outcomes of the NFL Draft earlier in the year, it promises to be an intriguing season ahead.
So who are the teams that have looked sharpest and made the key moves in the off-season to put themselves in contention for the playoffs at least come next year? Let’s take a look at each of the eight divisions in turn.
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NFL Season Preview
The Chicago Bears will once again be the team to beat in the NFC North and after a number of shrewd moves in the off-season but I think it will be a close run thing between then and the Minnesota Vikings, given that the Vikings have also enjoyed a productive off-season and had more top picks in the draft. I think Green Bay, even with Aaron Rodgers at the helm at WB will struggle, while the Detroit Lions have not made any massive moves to instill their fans with any confidence to suggest they will finish anywhere above bottom of this tough division.
Tip – 1. Chicago, 2. Minnesota, 3. Green Bay, 4. Detroit
This division used to be the toughest to predict in football and last season the Cowboys pipped the Eagles to the divisional title, but I think this year could be different. I like what the Giants have done in the off-season and the signs were last season that the Redskins were on their way back after several years in the wilderness. Philly are for me, the more complete team here, but I reckon there will be some twists and turns in this division and more than a few upsets.
Tip – 1. Philadelphia, 2. Washington, 3. New York, 4. Dallas
I think of all the divisions in the NFL, the one most likely to be a case of ‘as you were’ for this coming season is the NFC West. I can’t see anything but another solid season for the Superbowl losers the Rams and of the other teams in this group, the Seahawks are indubitably the best. I can see the 49ers making some real progress this season and being better than 4-12, but they won’t quite be able to catch the top two. The Cardinals, I’m afraid look set for another long hard season.
Tip – 1. LA Rams, 2. Seattle, 3. San Francisco, 4. Arizona
For me, this is the trickiest of the four divisions in the NFC to predict. New Orleans are the smart pick here as they have made some very astute signings in Free Agency and the draft, but Atalanta can never be ruled out in this division, while I think the Panthers are an unknown quantity and tend to go as to how well Cam Newton is health wise. Tampa too have made some excellent progress this season and for me, this could be the tightest of all four NFC divisions in terms of the difference between top and bottom.
Tip – 1. New Orleans, 2. Atalanta, 3. Tampa Bay, 4. Carolina
For me, thi sis the division that I think has the biggest chance of seeing a sweeping change at the top. Cleveland have made some massive signings this season and if they work out, I can see them topping both the Ravens and the Steelers here. I can see the Steelers and Ravens finishing almost level in the battle for second but I feel Cincinnati are going to be the whipping boys of this division. I would not be too surprised if both AFC Wildcards came from the North.
Tip – 1. Cleveland, 2. Pittsburgh, 3. Baltimore, 4. Cincinatti
Any division with the current Superbowl Champions in will have them as the favourites and in truth, this is probably the easiest pick of all eight divisions because the Patriots will win the division, they always do. I can see the Jets and Bills improving while Miami may struggle a little after making better progress this season. The Pats are a class apart from the other teams in the East and they’ll win this division at a canter.
Tip – 1. New England, 2. New York Jets, 3. Buffalo, 4. Miami
This should be a cracking division with two genuine Superbowl contenders, the Chiefs and Chargers set to battle it out. I think Oakland could be in for another long and hard season and the same can be said for Denver as they have the prospect of facing these two talented teams twice. The Chiefs and Chargers both finished 12-4 last season and I think of the two, the Chiefs may just do enough to move clear and win the West.
Tip – 1. Kansas City, 2. Los Angeles Charges, 3. Denver, 4. Oakland
This was the weakest division in the NFL at one time but now it is one of the strongest with four teams who will all feel they have a chance of the playoffs this season. For me, I feel the Texans time has come and gone and while they are still a threat in this division, I think the Colts and Jaguars off-season moves have seen them become real threats once again. The Titans too cannot be ruled out but they are dogged with inconsistency. This is a division where all four teams are contenders and picking a winner is going to be very tough.
Tip – 1. Tennessee, 2. Indianapolis, 3. Jacksonville, 4. Houston