Winner: Dallas Cowboys
The NFC East should be the most exciting division in the NFL. Not only do they have some of the most heated rivalries in the entire sport, they possess four solid teams that could all make the playoffs and win the division. However, the Cowboys are still the favorites even with the loss of Ezekiel Elliott for the first six games. There is no doubt that Zeke is one of the best running backs in the NFL because of his combination of power and speed, but the Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines, which significantly contributed to his success. In addition, Darren McFadden represents a solid backup who should be able to handle the role for the first third of the season. Without Zeke, the Dallas defense, which was underrated last season, and Dak Prescott need to elevate their games and prove that their success from last season can be repeated. If the Boys do not claim the division for the second straight year, the next favorites are the Giants. The Giants have a plethora of talent on both sides and on paper may be the best team in the division. However, their shaky offensive line and injury history are factors that could keep them from matching their talent.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
Seemingly every year the Packers are predicted to win the division, but always find a way to either make things interesting or lose the NFC North title. With only Mitchell Trubisky, Matthew Stafford, and Sam Bradford as the other quarterbacks in the division, Aaron Rodgers has a huge leg up on the competition and should win the division every year. The amount of weapons on the Green Bay offense is never questioned, but the offensive line must be able to keep Rodgers up in the pocket for him to exploit his matchups. In addition, their acquisitions on defense, especially in the secondary, should improve a unit that consistently ranks toward the bottom half of the NFL. If the Packers are unable to claim their second straight division crown, it will be due to injuries on the offensive line and defense, improved play from Minnesota’s quarterback whether it be Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater, or significant enhancement of the Lions’ defense to complement Matthew Stafford and his offensive barrage.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
Outside of the NFC East, the NFC South has the potential to be one of the most interesting division because of the quarterback depth. The Saints have been mired in mediocrity for years and Drew Brees is nearing the end of his legendary career. The Saints’ offense is blessed with multiple options such as former All-Pro Adrian Peterson, Willie Snead, Mark Ingram, and Michael Thomas, while the defense has slowly been improving over the past few years. The Saints are never going to have one of the best defenses in the league, but their great offense and home-field advantage should let them complete for the NFC South. Last season, the Falcons were the undisputed best team in the division and nearly won the Super Bowl, but they are destined for a setback this season. The Panthers recently made the Super Bowl, but they do not have a reliable offensive line to keep Newton upright in the pocket. The Buccaneers are also a team on the rise, but Winston has not shown an ability to lead a team to the playoffs.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
Last year, the NFC West was one of the weakest divisions as the Cardinals did not live up to expectations and the 49ers and Rams were awful. The Seahawks beefed up their team this offseason with the addition of Sheldon Richardson, one of the premier pass rushers in the league. On offense, the team has the potential to be elite if Eddy Lacy and Jimmy Graham can return to form, Russell Wilson continues his progression as an elite quarterback, and the offensive line stays healthy. On defense, they are still one of the best with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson, and Cam Chancellor. In addition, the Seahawks still have the best home field advantage in football at CenturyLink Field. The Rams have the chance to step forward, if Goff can make significant improvements in his second year. The Cardinals were a dark horse candidate to win the Super Bowl last season before everything fell apart, but they still have the talent with Carson Palmer, David Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald to compete for a playoff position.