After a crazy offseason full of moving pieces, let’s break down favorites and sleepers to win each division this upcoming season.
Favorites: Buffalo Bills
After reaching the playoffs in four of five seasons under Sean McDermott, is it finally the year Buffalo gets over the hump? Josh Allen is here and he’s putting the league on notice. Leading the Bills to a combined 24-9 record over the past two seasons. Two-time Super Bowl champion Von Miller signed a mega six-year contract worth up to $120 million. Bolstering one of the league’s best defenses from a year ago. The rapid upbringing of Gabriel Davis last postseason to work alongside Stefon Diggs and Dawson Knox makes Buffalo’s offense even more electric. There’s a good chance Allen and company will be playing in Arizona in February.
Sleepers: Miami Dolphins
The team down in South Beach might the team that transformed the most this offseason. Under their new young head coach Mike McDaniel. Miami went out and acquired one of the most explosive players in the league when they traded for Tyreek Hill. As well as transforming their backfield headlined by Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert. All of the pressure will be placed on Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins will go as far as he can take them. They could make the playoff picture interesting come January.
Favorites: Cincinnati Bengals
It would be crazy not to pick a team that made an improbable run to the Super Bowl last season as the favorites to win their division. Usually, that doesn’t set a team up for success the next season but the Bengals went out and did everything this offseason to make sure they have the weapons necessary to claim the AFC North. Going out and signing La’el Collins will continue to help their offensive line struggles.
Sleepers: Baltimore Ravens
Barring any early season injuries, the Ravens will roll out a healthy squad to start the 2022 season. Something that hampered them before the season started last year. Their backfield continues to pick up pieces from injuries. J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards will be able to take the field together this year, and Kenyan Drake will also try and make a name for himself in the offense. Mark Andrews will have every chance this season to prove to the league why he’s the best tight end in the game. The secondary will be dangerous after adding rookie safety Kyle Hamilton to play along with Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Marcus Williams, and Chuck Clark.
Favorites: Indianapolis Colts
Matty Ice has made his way to Indiana to play behind the best offensive line in the league. It will be the first time he will have a proven line and I expect him to dominate. The Colts also have one of the best running backs in the league, Jonathan Taylor. They also have a very talented defense highlighted by DeForest Buckner and Shaq Leonard. The Colts will be able to hang in most games because their defense will force teams off the field.
Sleepers: Tennessee Titans
You can never count out a Derrick Henry-led offense. After trading star wide receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles their receiver core will look different this season. Robert Woods is making his way back from an ACL tear and Treylon Burks is a promising rookie. They lost a key member of their defense when veteran Harold Landry tore his ACL in practice. If somebody in this division is going to compete with the Colts for the crown, it’s going to be the Titans.
Favorites: Kansas City Chiefs
Any team that has Patrick Mahomes leading an offense will always be in contention to win their division. The Chiefs will be without Tyreek Hill this upcoming season, but they went out and signed JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, to pair alongside Travis Kelce. To keep it straight forward the Chiefs will be fine. They still boast one of the better offensive line units in the league in what will be the most competitive division in all of football.
Sleepers: Los Angeles Chargers
The best yearly tradition for fans that follow the AFC West is the yearly discussion about how the Chargers will win the division. Justin Herbert is only going to continue to improve and he has the weapons to support a top offense in the league. Now you add J.C. Jackson and Khalil Mack to the Joey Bosa-led defense. The Chargers will be able to score a lot of points this season. They will go only as far as their defense can support.
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles
Howie Roseman went out and got Jalen Hurts his top target when the Eagles acquired A.J. Brown from the Titans this past offseason. The Eagles boast one of the most efficient running attacks across the entire league. This division will be close but the Eagles have too much talent not to be considered the front runners in the NFC East.
Sleepers: Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys’ offense will take a hit after losing their top target last year after trading away Amari Cooper. They also lost their best edge rusher when Randy Gregory made his decision to head to Denver. Mike McCarthy could be the first head coach fired this season depending on how the Cowboys start off their season.
Favorites: Green Bay Packers
Things have finally settled down in Green Bay. Davante Adams is now playing out west with his college roommate on the Raiders. It’s a new age for the Packers when looking at their receiving core. But the one constant is Aaron Rodgers, who hands the ball off to the two-headed dragon of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. Rodgers will be able to find targets regardless and the Packers will be able to make a run for the division.
Sleepers: Minnesota Vikings
The post-Mike Zimmer era is now fully a go in Minnesota. Kevin O’Connell now controls the ship and will bring an offense that should benefit all parties involved. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen will love playing in his system. The main knock on the Vikings will be surrounding their defense. Last season eight of the nine games they lost were within one possession.
Favorites: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady leads one of the best all-around offenses in the league down in Tampa. Once their receiving core is fully healthy there’s an argument to be made for them to be one of the best in the league. Their young secondary continues to improve. Questions surrounding the offensive line now that they’ve been hit with the injury bug will always be there. Nonetheless, the Bucs will be fighting for the top overall seed in the NFC.
Sleepers: New Orleans Saints
The weakest division in the NFL could very well be the NFC South. Quarterback problems surround the other two teams in this division. But the Saints seem to have found their man with Jameis Winston. If he is able to stay healthy this offense could surprise a lot of people. Michael Thomas will have to stay healthy down the stretch if the Saints want to make a run in the playoffs.
Favorites: Los Angeles Rams
Very rarely are the reigning Super Bowl Champions favorites to win it all the next season. The Rams might be the one exception to this. They only got better this offseason, Allen Robinson has now found his home out west. Aaron Donald put off a potential retirement to attempt to “run it back”. Sean Mcvay is one of the best minds in the game leading the charge. Keep an eye on any potential injury to Matthew Stafford, but if he is able to stay healthy the Rams should be playing for a chance to play in Arizona.
Sleepers: San Francisco 49ers
The Trey Lance era is officially here. Deebo Samuel has been paid and Brandon Ayiuk is poised for a breakout season. This team is very talented and there are no questions about that. The biggest question mark will be how will Lance play throughout a full season. If he is able to shut out all of the outside noise, he could have a very successful first full season as the starter in San Francisco.