1. Green Bay Packers (12-4)
Sure the Packers missed the playoffs last year, but that’s what happens when you lose a two time MVP and have to go with Brett Hundley for more than half the season. Rodgers is back 100% and have the weapons to have a great offense once again. Yes they lost Jordy Nelson, but Jimmy Graham more than makes up for it. They have three running backs they can rotate and have a legit run game with, and they made big improvements on the defensive side of the ball too. Sorry Vikings, hope you had fun at the top of the division last year, because it’s not happening again.
2. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
Don’t let my comments about the Packers fool you, the Vikings will be very good again this season. They’re defense actually got better with the Sheldon Richardson addition, and I think that Kirk Cousins is an upgrade over Case Keenum. However, they’ll be playing a lot of good teams on a first place schedule, so that’s where I see the regression in their record coming in.
3. Chicago Bears (7-9)
I had the Bears at 6-10 and an up and coming team in the NFC, then they went out and got Khalil Mack. That defense can be scary good this year, and if Trubisky resembles anything of what a top pick should be, the Bears could maybe sneak in as a wild card team if they catch some other breaks.
4. Detroit Lions (6-10)
Oh poor Lions. Once a threat to win the division and now they take their usual place at the bottom of the NFC North. I like Matt Stafford as a QB, but they haven’t done nearly enough as they should have to surround him with winning talent.
1. Atlanta Falcons (12-4)
Year two under the Steve Sarkisian scheme should see the offense go back up to the levels we’re used to seeing. I expect Julio Jones’ touchdown performance to skyrocket this year, and their running game can be just as lethal.
2. New Orleans Saints (12-4)
Credit the Saints front office for doing a great job building around Drew Brees during the final years of his career. Kamara is a game changing back, Imgram is finally proving his worth, and Michael Thomas is a top 6 receiver in the league. That along with the young, fast, and very talented defense, the Saints have all the makings of a true Super Bowl contender.
3. Carolina Panthers (10-6)
I really like the makeup of the Panthers this year. I’m a fan of Cam and McCaffrey last year showed flashes he can has game-breaker potential. They were able to replace Lotulelei with Dontari Poe, and I can’t wait to see what DJ Moore adds to their offense.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
After the debacle that was last year, I have no faith in the Buccaneers taking the next step forward. Jameis hasn’t developed like we thought he would, and the coach that was supposed to get him to the next level is the betting favorite to be fired first this season.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)
Will there be a Super Bowl hangover for the Eagles? That might be the narrative early under Nick Foles, but once Carson Wentz gets back, they can easily repeat as champs with the weapons they have at their disposal.
2. New York Giants (10-6)
The Giants are this year’s biggest bounce back candidate. Their defense severely underachieved, but I think that was a result of their offense being so bad. With Pat Shurmur at the helm, Odell and Shepard healthy, and the addition of Saquon Barkley, they can be top 10 on both sides of the ball.
3. Dallas Cowboys (7-9)
Count me in the minority here, but I think losing Dez Bryant is big for their offense. He might not have been as productive as usual, but he’s still someone you have to look out for as a defense. Jason Witten is also a big loss for them. I haven’t even gotten to the injuries of their offensive line yet. I don’t think Dallas has enough to get them into the conversation with the stacked NFC.
4. Washington Redskins (6-10)
I’m not a fan of Kirk Cousins, but how can anyone think that giving Alex Smith a big time extension is the right move for them at this point? They don’t have nearly the talent the Chiefs had, and that’s on both sides of the ball. On paper, Washington is the worst team in the division, and I think the season will play out that way.
1. Los Angeles Rams (11-5)
My god the Rams made moves this summer. They already had a great defense, and they go on to add Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Ndomukong Suh to it. The only thing keeping the Rams from the Super Bowl is the continued development of Jared Goff.
2. San Francisco 49ers (8-8)
The Niners went 5-0 when they finally decided to start Jimmy G, and although they won’t go undefeated this year, things are definitely on the upswing. They have young talent all over the field, just a shame that they couldn’t use more of that cap space and Jerick McKinnon tore his ACL before the season could even start.
3. Seattle Seahawks (6-10)
The Seahawks in year one of what’s going to be a big downfall. Most of their key pieces on defense are gone, and it’s only a matter of time before they are forced to trade Earl Thomas. They still haven’t done enough to upgrade their offensive line, and everyone in the NFC seems to be passing them by. I wonder how long it will take past this season until Pete Carroll contemplates retirement.
4. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
The Cardinals are a talented team, however, their offensive line is below average at best, and that’s not what you want when you plan on starting Sam Bradford at quarterback. I think Bradford once again misses most of the season with injuries and with a tough schedule, aren’t able to recover.