Team's That Could Rise:
1) San Francisco 49ers
- In a crowded division where there's Russell Wilson and Jared Goff, I think it's the 49ers who have the best shot to emerge from this division next year. For one it was night and day when Jimmy Garoppolo got under center. With a full off season to build chemistry I can only imagine them to be better on offense with just Jimmy alone. However, they have one of the highest cap spaces in the league when the new year start and most importantly the most space within their division. Most importantly for their success next year they get to face off with a last place schedule and should be able to take advantage of that scenario. Much like the Rams did last year and they also get to face off twice with the currently quarterback less Cardinals. Overall, this is my dark horse team to really emerge next year.
2) Dallas Cowboys
- I had the Cowboys falling back last year due to the fact that they had an extremely hard schedule last season and had the looming Zeke suspension over their heads. I also, expected Dak Prescott to be exposed due to team's having more tape on him. However, since the NFC East has not had repeat champions since the 2001-02. With that kind of stat I think I will be riding with the Cowboys to buck that trend. If they avoid the injury and suspension bug this team should be better next year with less turmoil around them. Plus, I cannot imagine them not upgrading the passing game or defense a little bit to help this roster. They also face off with an easy schedule than last season.
3) Chicago Bears
- It might be the homer in me, but I can see the Bears seeing a jump up for the first time in almost a decade and should battle for a Wild Card spot. I doubt they win the division with a healthy Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, but like we all saw the Packers are one Rodgers injury away from being irrelevant. With a new offensive minded head coach in tow, and Vic Fangio still in the fold making this one of the more underrated defenses in the league they should be better than a 5 win team from last year. Mitchell Trubisky looks determined to prove he was worthy of the 2nd overall selection last year that many scoffed at and Ryan Pace the GM has generally been a solid drafter. Finding gems like Eddie Jackson, Jordan Howard, Cody Whitehair, and Tarik Cohen in recent years. Plus, they will have the 3rd highest cap space behind the Jets and Browns. If they play their money smartly in free agency they can be a team to watch out for.
4) Cleveland Browns
- This is barring if they pick the right quarterback prospect Sam Darnold or pick up Kirk Cousins to solve their quarterback woes. In none of their games, were they really out matched completely outside of the quarterback position. Their defensive front with Myles Garrett, Jamie Collins, Christian Kirksey, and Emmanuel Ogbah is actually a great bunch. They have a strong line with a healthy Joe Thomas at left tackle then Joel Bitonio, J.C. Tretter, and Kevin Zeitler along side him. They have an opportunity finding a good right tackle to solve that one hole. They have 12 picks in the draft total and 5 in the first two rounds. They have the highest cap space and a desperate coach who needs to win. They may over spend, but if they do it on the right players I can see them being a much better team next year than people expect. Especially in a division with the Ravens and Bengals seemingly stuck in neutral I can see the Browns catching up to them fast.
5) Indianapolis Colts
- This is another choice barring on their quarterback situation. If Andrew Luck is healthy and back to what he was prior to the injury I can see him carrying this team again. He has a huge chip on his shoulder now missing almost two seasons now and will have an itch to prove he is still as good as advertised. They look to have a better coaching staff with Frank Reich and I have a gut feeling that they dodged a bullet by getting stiffed by Josh McDaniels who I think is extremely overrated. Their GM Chris Ballard knows how to draft finding good players last year to build around on defense and with a prime pick at 3 they can have their pick at another game changer. Plus, I do not see this division being too tough with Marcus Mariota's growth stalling, Deshaun Watson's knee being healthy is a bit doubtful, and I doubt the Jags avoid the injury bug so well like they did this season. All in all if Luck is back this team should be better.
Teams That Will Fall:
1) Philadelphia Eagles:
- Call me a hater all you want, but I was on the Philly bus starting the year predicting them to win the division. Now I did not believe this team would win the Super Bowl, but hey even a dumb squirrel finds a nut. In any case, I find it really hard for them to repeat next year. First of all, Wentz is most likely not going to be healthy by next year maybe even missing half the year. I know Foles was the Super Bowl MVP, but even guys like Brad Johnson, Mark Rypien, and Trent Dilfer have won Super Bowls. Winning one game does not make you a franchise quarterback. Now Foles is one of the better back ups, but he is still a back up. If asked to start multiple games next year against a first place schedule I think teams will figure him out. Plus, they have lost their top two offensive coaches outside of Doug Pedeson. Losing Mark Reich and John DeFillipo will be tough to overcome just ask Matt Ryan last year who did not look the same without Kyle Shanahan and other top assistants who left with him. Also the Eagles have very limited cap space all pointing to a down year in my opinion.
2) Minnesota Vikings
- The Vikings are stuck up the creak without a paddle right now with no quarterback signed on their roster for next year. In what I think, is a major oversight done by Rick Spielman who is an otherwise great GM. I do think this team will take a step back as they try to solve that issue, but not only that their division should get tougher. With a healthy Rodgers back and an expected rise from the Bears they should face stiffer competition. They also face off against a first place schedule next year and again without a top quarterback will be tough to pull off. Even if they did bring back Keenum or even Bridewater I still think they would be in a tough spot. They have good cap space to solve some issues, but I just think they come back to the pack in a more even division. I also, think team's started to figure out their defense down the stretch and if they fail to solve their defensive tackle issue and corner spot across from Xavier Rhodes they could be outmatched.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars
- This one is easy in my opinion. With a healthy Luck, Watson, and Mariota with a better offense I think the Jags officially have the fourth best quarterback in their own division. They have some cap space to solve some issues, but since they pick so late in the draft they will be forced to dabble in the free agency market more than they should. They also again, are going to be facing off against a first place schedule with Blake Bortles who will probably be the underwhelming worst quarterback in most of his match ups. The Jags were also very fortunate to not sustain any major injuries to any of their key players last season. Very rarely can you pull that off two seasons in a row. I can see this team taking a major nose dive and being closer to a bottom tier team than one quarterback away from being a real contender.
4) Seattle Seahawks
- I love Russell Wilson and think the Seahawks have done him a disservice by never getting him a good o-line or true top receivers or a running back to work with. Their best linemen Max Unger and JR Sweezy were let go to succeed else where along with others throughout the years. They always put an emphasis on drafting defenders or paying their veteran defenders. However, they were able to pay guys thanks to Wilson being on a rookie wage scale and now with him commanding a bigger contract they need to start drafting better and letting go some overpriced players. In my opinion, guys like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, and others are all great players who now care more about themselves than the team. Being in a division with the Rams and 49ers who all have great young players are now surpassing the Seahawks in talent in my opinion. A reshuffle of the decks is not out of the question. I also think this may or may not be the last year for Pete Carroll who is surprisingly the oldest coach in the league who I doubt wants to be around for a rebuild. The window for this team is closed in my opinion.
5) Arizona Cardinals
- I know the only had an 8-8 season, but a lot of that has to do with the injury to Carson Palmer. However, this team's defense is solid, but they are like the Vikings with no quarterback on the roster this year and with a defensive head coach at the helm. I think this is going to a be big lame duck year for this team. Especially, since they pick at 15 and unless they trade up for a top quarterback they may be stuck picking from the likes of Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, or someone else to be their prom date. I also think their top defensive players like Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson, and Tyrann Mathieu are getting older every year, which worries me on when the decline begins with them. Plus, they are one retirement from Larry Fitzgerald from having basically no passing game with one of the worst offensive lines in the league. All in all I think this team will be in the running for the first overall pick come next season.