Which division you play in matters. The Washington Football Team hosted a playoff game last season because it happened to be in one of the worst divisions in NFL history.
Not all divisions are equal. With that in mind, let’s figure out which division is toughest (and weakest) by ranking all eight:
8. NFC East
The good news is the NFC East won’t be as bad as last season, when a 7-9 Washington Football Team held off the 6-10 New York Giants and 6-10 Dallas Cowboys for the division title. Washington and the Giants all showed promise in the second half of the season, and Dak Prescott’s return is huge for Dallas. The Philadelphia Eagles won’t be very good, but none of the teams in this division will be that good. Just better than last season, hopefully.
7. NFC North
This division would have been a mess if Aaron Rodgers left it. But he’s back with the Green Bay Packers, and there could be intrigue in the division if the Minnesota Vikings take a step forward. The Chicago Bears might be a year away and the Detroit Lions might be years away, however.
6. NFC South
It’s hard to make a case for anyone challenging the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The New Orleans Saints might not fall off without Drew Brees, but they will take a step back. The Carolina Panthers have a lot of questions and the Atlanta Falcons likely aren’t close to playoff level. This could be a division with just one playoff team.
5. AFC South
The top two teams are good. The bottom two probably will not be. The Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans are quality teams and it should be a fun division race. The Houston Texans are the consensus pick as the worst team in football and the Jacksonville Jaguars seem intent on challenging them for that honor.
4. AFC East
The Buffalo Bills look like a strong bet to repeat, but the Miami Dolphins could challenge them. And let’s not forget the New England Patriots, who went on a free agent spending spree after missing the playoffs last season. The New York Jets are rebuilding and have a lot of tough tests in this division, which could end up with a fun three-way race for the crown.
3. AFC West
The Kansas City Chiefs are the known commodity. If the Los Angeles Chargers play up to their talent level, and either the Denver Broncos or Las Vegas Raiders (or both) take a step forward, it could be an interesting division. Everyone will be picking the Chiefs to win it, but multiple teams from this division could make the postseason.
2. AFC North
If the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t fall off much, this will be a heck of a division. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns are the consensus top two, and either team could win. The Cincinnati Bengals are an exciting young team that could score a lot. And let’s not forget that Pittsburgh was 11-0 to start last season.
1. NFC West
You can make a reasonable argument for three of the teams being Super Bowl contenders. And the Arizona Cardinals have the ability to contend for the division title. The Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers all have a tremendous upside this season. Every divisional game will be a great matchup, and this is the only division in which that rings true.