Each NFL Division’s Front Runner: Analysis, Outlook and Prediction
AFC East: New England Patriots
“The Dynasty is Dead” was the general opinion about the Patriots after the first few games of the season. But convincing wins over the then-undefeated Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills and the Patriots are officially back on track. The Patriots have a very difficult schedule, but since the next best team in the AFC East is the Buffalo Bills, they have a very good chance of winning the division for the 6th straight year.
Prediction: Division Champion, 3rd Seed
AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals looked absolutely dominant in their first three games, dismantling the Ravens, Titans and Falcons. But they were destroyed by the revived New England Patriots and then missed a late Overtime field goal against the Panthers to end the game in a disappointing tie. But their big play offense and stout defense make this team strong enough to stay at or near the top of the North all season long.
Prediction: Division Champion, 4th seed
AFC West: San Diego Chargers
The Chargers have vaulted themselves into the top tier of the AFC, and Philip Rivers has become arguably the best quarterback in the league. San Diego’s defense has stepped up in a big way, especially against the Defending Champions in Week 2. Branden Oliver is emerging as the new Darren Sproles, and when Ryan Matthews returns the Chargers offense will be downright scary. But the Chargers are going to be battling for the division crown with the Broncos all season, and a tougher schedule for the Chargers means the Broncos may come out on top.
Prediction: 2nd Place in Division, 5th seed
AFC South: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are in a familiar spot in 1st in the South, but they seem to have competition from the Texans in the division this year, as they won a close victory against them in Week 6. They do have two losses, but they were narrow defeats to the Broncos and Eagles at the beginning of the year. The Colts has had a surprisingly successful defense this year, and as long as Andrew Luck remains under center for the Colts, throwing to one of the best receiving corps in the League, this team is going to be at the top of the division for the rest of the season.
Prediction: Division Champions, 1st seed
NFC South: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have been one of the more surprising, yet up and down teams this year. Cam Newton has completely taken control of this offense, battled through multiple injuries, and made dew with his forever thinning receiver and running back depth.
The defense has been less stellar than in 2013, but they have still done alright without Greg Hardy coming off the line. The Panthers are coming up on a monster stretch of games, so they may slow down. But once they get through the tough stretch of games, they should still be in a position to win the division, due to the struggles of the Falcons and Saints.
Prediction: Division Champions, 4th seed
NFC North: Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford and the Lions have been successful so far, but inconsistent as usual. A victory over the Green Bay Packers has them clinging to the top spot in the division. Calvin Johnson’s injury is something of concern, but Golden Tate has picked up the slack for him so far. The Lions remaining schedule has some teeth, and we will find out sometime in November if this team is going to the playoffs. With the Green Bay Packers hot on their heels, this team will have to try to compete in December, which has been a problem for them in the past.
Prediction: 2nd place in Division, misses playoffs
NFC East: Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are shredding their previous disappointing, overhyped legacy so far this year. After beating the Seahawks at home in Week 6, they can finally be recognized as legitimate. DeMarco Murray is rushing for more yards than 28 NFL teams, thanks to this unstoppable offensive line. Tony Romo is coming into his own, making plays no one thought Tony Romo could make. The Defense that was supposed to be at the bottom of the League is exceeding expectations each and every game. With a favorable schedule going, they will have a chance to top the Eagles in the division. This is really happening, ladies and gentlemen. It’s not a dream.
Prediction: Division Champions, 2nd seed
NFC West: Arizona Cardinals
A surprising, white-hot start for the Arizona Cardinals to the 2014 NFL season. They have miraculously not thrown an interception all season, despite the fact that they have gone down to their 3rd string Quarterback. They are probably the most underrated and overlooked team in the NFL, but Bruce Arians has quickly built a squad that is capable of contending all season long. With Andre Ellington and Carson Palmer returning to full health, the Cards have a chance to keep winning. They are in a position to set the pace for the NFC West, and might possibly have an opportunity to push either the 49ers or even the Defending Champion Seattle Seahawks out of the Playoffs in December.
Prediction: 2nd Place in Division, 5th seed
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