The 2019/20 NFL season kicks off in just over a months time, with 32 teams battling it out to be proclaimed World Champions by winning Superbowl 54, being held at the Hard Rock Stadium, Miami in February 2020.
The pre season is about to get underway, with the regular season kicking off on September 6th, 2019 when the Green Bay Packers visit the Chicago Bears. All teams will play 16 games as they bid to make the end of season playoffs – with the eight divisional winners automatically qualifying, joined by 4 ‘Wildcard’ teams – being the teams with the best records who haven’t won their division.
Here, we take a look at all eight divisions, and attempt to predict the eight teams who will grab those precious automatic playoff berths :
AFC EAST : Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets
We start with the easiest and most certain prediction of the eight….since 2002, the New England Patriots have won this division on every occasion bar once, when the Miami Dolphins had the impudence to win the division in 2008. The Jets, Dolphins and Bills are not expected to make any inroads into the Patriots continued dominance this season – with the Belichick/Brady combo expected to be in the mix for yet another SuperBowl appearance and defend their World Champion status. Of the three, we like the Jets to take a cosmetic second place behind the Patriots – but if ever there was a shoe in – here it is.
Predicted Winner : New England Patriots
AFC SOUTH : Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans
If the AFC East was easy to predict, the AFC South is anything but. All four teams would have a more than reasonable claim to taking the division this season – Houston have won three of the last four titles, but were eliminated from the play offs last season by the Colts, with the Titans only missing out on a playoff berth themselves in the last game of the regular season. The Jaguars were disappointing last season – but the arrival of QB Nick Foles is a huge upgrade over Blake Bortles – and if RB Leonard Fournette (above) can stay healthy, they will be a huge factor. The divisional games will be huge here in deciding who prevails….but the reality is that any permutation of these four teams could work out correct. The Texans will likely start favourites – just – but we like the Colts to go one better than last season with Andrew Luck driving a hugely underrated offence.
Predicted Winner : Indianapolis Colts
AFC WEST : Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Oakland Raiders
Two genuine Superbowl contenders here, with the Chiefs and Chargers likely to fight it out for top spot, the Broncos honest but being a little in transition, and the Raiders dangerous but limited in their appeal. Kansas City were one of the most exciting teams on offense to watch last season. Under rookie QB Patrick Mahomes they ran riot over many teams before running into the Patriots to lose the AFC Championship game 37-31. Defensive frailties remain though – which cannot be said about the Chargers, who may just have the best balanced team in the NFL. Veteran QB Philip Rivers has all the weapons he needs at his disposal to bring a first divisional title to the Chargers since 2009 – and they could just be the biggest threat to the Patriots in representing the AFC at the Superbowl.
Predicted Winner : Los Angeles Chargers
AFC NORTH : Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers
This division is never for the feint hearted and the 2019/20 season will prove to be no exception. The biggest, refreshing, change here though is that for once, we can talk about the Cleveland Browns as legitimate contenders rather than the divisional whipping boys. The Browns have been slowly improving over the last few seasons whilst still propping up the division…but now they are ready to unleash on the NFL. Its been 30 long, long years since a divisional title was claimed by Cleveland…now, with exciting young QB Baker Mayfield (above) having an explosive WR corps to pass to in Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and David Njoku, as well as RB Nick Chubb hammering the line AND a very strong combative defence, there is real optimism in Cleveland. But, they will have a resurgent Pittsburgh team to deal with – a hugely aggressive Baltimore outfit – and whilst the Bengals seem a little in decline, they are no pushovers either. It will be a fascinating division to watch – with 9-7 possibly being enough to take the title. Now is the time Cleveland.
Predicted Winner : Cleveland Browns
NFC EAST : Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins
Traditionally one of the strongest divisions in the NFL, the NFC East has been more the NFC Least than NFC Beast recently, the divisional winners flip flopping around and no team winning back to back titles since the Eagles did it in 2004. That doesn’t auger well for the defending NFC East champions Dallas Cowboys who will again rely on stud RB Ezekiel Elliot (above) to carry the load, with QB Dak Prescott not developing into the QB many expected him to be. This could open the door for the 2018 Superbowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles to swoop in for another title. QB Carson Wentz will need to stay healthy now backup Nick Foles has departed for the Jaguars, but will have another deep and talented backfield and WR corps to utilise. Their defence remains strong – they should be the team to beat this season. The Washington Redskins could be anything, but it could be a season too soon to really pressure their divisional rivals, whilst the Giants look to be a team sinking without trace.
Predicted Winner : Philadelphia Eagles
NFC SOUTH : Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The New Orleans Saints have won this competitive division, that has provided a Superbowl team in two of the last four events, for the last two seasons – and its hard to see them not making it a hat trick of titles. The Saints were hugely unlucky not to make it to last seasons Superbowl – only a horrific umpiring decision preventing them from likely beating the Los Angeles Rams – and they are, arguably, the best team in the NFC. But the Atlanta Falcons will come again after a disappointing 2018/19 season, and the Carolina Panthers, with Cam Newton at the helm, are not to be taken lightly either. The Buccaneers seem a class below their divisional rivals still and will likely prop the others up – but for us its the Saints again to threepeat.
Predicted Winner : New Orleans Saints
NFC WEST : Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks
All eyes will be on Jared Goff and his Rams as they look to prove their Superbowl appearance last season was no flash in the pan, and win their own third successive NFC West title. The feeling was that the Rams lost a lot of their offensive potency towards the end of the season, and stumbled rather than sauntered into the Superbowl, where they could only score 3 points against the Patriots. Their defence remains solid though – but they will be tested this season, with the Seahawks and 49ers getting ever stronger – the latter maybe the Browns of the NFC, with Jimmy Garropolo (above) looking to lead the 49ers back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Arizona were the worst team in the NFL last season and whilst they should improve on that, may take a few seasons to get back to a winning record. The Rams will start favourites – but we see a minor shock on the cards here.
Predicted Winner : San Francisco 49ers
NFC NORTH : Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings
Another blood and thunder division, with a genuine dislike of each other amongst the four. The Packers have largely dominated the division – but have seen the Vikings and Bears return to the top across the last couple of seasons. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers remains one of the best in the NFL, but his supporting cast hasn’t been there to take the Cheeseheads back to the playoffs in those last two seasons. Whether they have the talent enough this season remains to be seen, with both the Bears and Vikings again looking strong. Chicago flew somewhat under the radar before losing to the Eagles in the Wildcard game, whilst the Vikings flattered to deceive after signing QB Kirk Cousins from Washington….but are expected to go better this season. Its a very close call – but we are gonna side with the Vikings.
Predicted Winner : Minnesota Vikings