The NFL Five Weeks In: An Eye Over the Divisions

Alexander McCrystal, Reporting Journalist

NFC East

The NFC East is a little more competitive than years prior. The Eagles and Cowboys are tied for first and the Giants are in third. The Redskins are in complete shambles and are a distant​ fourth place at 0-5. The Redskins have fired their head coach Jay Gruden only five weeks into the season! The Giants (2-3) are figuring out their identity after benching Eli Manning, losing Saquon Barkley, and starting their controversial 1st round pick QB Daniel Jones. The Cowboys have had an easy schedule but have lost their last two games, so they may not be as good as they seemed. The Eagles have some games up ahead to prove they’re a playoff contender and that they can live without their injured players. Right now it’s all up for grabs with the top two teams locked at 3-2 and the Giants trailing close behind.

Prediction to win NFC East: Eagles

NFC North

The most competitive division by far, every team is over five hundred. The first-place team, the Green Bay Packers, are 4-1 with Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones at the helm of their offense. The Detroit Lions are in second place at 2-1-1 and are coming off of a bye week. The overall quality of the defense and Matthew Stafford’s offense is still to be determined. The Bears and Vikings are both at 3-2 for the last spots in the division and are both seeking to shake off disappointing seasons from last year and improve deep playoff runs this year. The NFC North is largely up in the air and can go to anybody at this point.

Prediction to win NFC North: Packers

NFC South

The NFC South has always had one or two super contenders every year and this year is no different. The first-place New Orleans Saints, who are 4-1, are eager to get to the Super Bowl. This comes after the disappointing and downright frustrating loss in last year’s NFC Championship Game. The second-place team of the Carolina Panthers are in hot water because of Cam Newton being out with shoulder problems, which he lied about not having during preseason, and their backup QB’s struggling to live up to the expectations. The silver lining for the Panthers is RB Christian McCaffrey, who might even be an MVP with his outstanding performance so far this year. At the bottom of the division are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) and the Atlanta Falcons (1-4). The Buccaneers have yet to find a real star in Jameis Winston, and this may be his last season for him to prove himself as NFL material. The Falcons have amazing talent in Julio Jones and Matt Ryan but they can neither stay healthy nor find ways to win. This division is largely ruled by the Saints and mostly likely will stay that way.

Prediction to win NFC South: Saints

NFC West

The NFC West is very competitive division ​if​ you are counting the top three teams. The San Francisco 49ers are undefeated, making them kings of the division. All of this dominance is headed by their incredible defense lead by Nick Bosa. The Seattle Seahawks (4-1) are second and a serious playoff contender at that. This is largely because of the immense talent of Russel Wilson, who’s MVP talent has never failed to bail the Seahawks out and let them win in tight situations. The defending NFC Champions L.A Rams (3-2) have gotten off to an undesirable start after their Super Bowl appearance last year. The Rams have just not been able to put the game away in key situations. For example, last game for the Rams was lost on a missed 44-yard game-winning field goal attempt. This cost them their second loss in a row. The Arizona Cardinals (1-3-1) have been horrible and are in the process of rebuilding. They really can’t find anything the spark a playoff run, and so the Cardinals continue to lurk at the bottom of the standings. This division is very competitive and at this point in the season, with all of the top three teams having a pretty solid chance at the title.

Prediction to win NFC West: Seahawks

AFC East

This is a division long ruled by one evil empire: The New England Patriots. The Patriots are sitting comfortably on their throne, but a white knight is looking to dethrone them: The Buffalo Bills. In all seriousness, the AFC East is once again a division ruled by the Patriots as they’re undefeated (5-0). Almost everyone knows who the Pats are and what they’re about. There’s no point in going into details because their continued success is a given at this point. This year the Buffalo Bills (4-1) seek to make use of the inferior divisional competition and the “free wins” Pats have. The only loss for the Bills this year was against the Patriots and it was a close game. The Bills have a ​remarkably e​asy schedule going forward so they may get a wild card spot if they don’t choke. If Josh Allen can play up to the high expectations given to him and continue to show flashes of greatness, the Bills may be a good bet for a playoff spot. The inferior competition and “free wins” aforementioned above just so happen to be the New York Jets and Miami dolphins. Both of these teams stare the following: horrific, 0-4, set to play the Pats and Bills ​twice ​every season, perpetually bad every year, and was it mentioned that they play the Pats and Bills twice every year? These teams give the Pats an ​easy d​ivision title every year simply because they play them so often. All the games against them are just free wins for one of the best dynasties in all of football. This is why the AFC East constantly regarded as the worst division to watch because it is so incredibly one-sided.

Prediction to win AFC East: Patriots

AFC North

This division had teams with a lot of hype going into this season but ended up having only one competent team with an over .500 win percentage. The honor of the only competent team in the division goes to the Baltimore Ravens (3-2). After getting rid of Joe Flacco and bringing in Lamar Jackson this year, the Ravens are looking much better than years prior with one of the best kickers in Justin Tucker as the cherry on top. The Cleveland Browns (2-3) had incredible hype going into the season. They were telling everyone that they were going all the way. So far, they’ve been remarkably mediocre. Baker Mayfield is still incredibly talented but couldn’t manage to score more than three points against the 49ers. The defense is nothing special either. All that hype is gone, and all that’s left is mutters and sighs. The Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4) have been a massive disappointment after getting rid of Antonio Brown and starting with a clean slate. When their mainstay QB Ben Roethlesboger got injured, everything seemed to just fall apart around them. The Steelers realized they no longer have the talent of the early 2010s and are left with players that can’t measure up to the teams they previously had. They aren’t winning in key situations because they simply don’t have the talent or skill to do so. At the bottom of the division is the familiar face of the last spot, and that’s the Cincinnati Bengals (0-5). They’re winless, and not even their own city appears to care. There’s a reason their own city calls them the Bunguls and that’s because time after time their team has always failed to win or do something remotely exciting. The AFC North is most-likely the Ravens division to win, but the Browns could still find a way to take the title.

AFC South

The AFC South is a fairly competitive yet mediocre division. Tied for first place are the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts. The Houston Texans (3-2) are the defending champions of the division and are predicted by most analysts in the media to win it again. The Texans have stars like Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, and DeAndre Hopkins, all having the talent to go far. Underperforming is what has cost them in the playoffs and years past. The ability to beat big teams will determine their ability to contend. The Indianapolis Colts (3-2) seem to be finding an identity. After losing Andrew Luck, all seemed lost for their hopes of a speedy rebuild. But after finding out Jacoby Brisset was much better than he let on in 2017, their offense seemed to find a groove. The defense remains to be a major problem. But after an incredible win against the Chiefs by stopping the seemingly unstoppable Patrick Mahomes, their defense looked incredible. If anything, the Colts have been incredibly resilient and may be the ones to dethrone the Texans. The Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3) are a team that has a chance at contention, but raises a lot of questions. Some players’ levels of skill are questionable and so is some players’ level of motivation. Overall, this team needs to address these questions that are all over their team so they can consider themselves real contenders. The Tennessee Titans (2-3) are a week-to-week team. One week they will absolutely obliterate their opponents and Marcus Marriota will be elite. However, the next week they’ll get blown out by over 20 points. The unpredictability of this team makes it hard to call them a contender. This division can be won by anybody at this point, but it doesn’t look like anybody will run away with it.

Prediction to win AFC South: Colts

AFC West

The AFC West has the Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) sitting at the top and seem to be what highlights this division. The Chiefs have an explosive offense led by Patrick Mahomes and LeSean McCoy. The Chiefs are top Super Bowl contenders and are looking to get back to the AFC championship game after last year’s frustration. Holding the second spot are the Oakland Raiders (3-2). They always seem to have some games where they dominate and others where they underperform or make it closer than it has to be. The LA Chargers (2-3) are in the third spot in the division. They’ve been a disappointment so far this year. This comes after both their amazing season and postseason last year. Phillip Rivers and Melvin Gordon have not been playing up to their potential, which can be said for most of the team as a whole. The Denver Broncos (1-4) are in last place and can’t seem to get anywhere. Joe Flacco isn’t producing many results and can’t do much to get the offense going. The defense really can’t clamp down and hold a lead when they need it most. Overall, they really need to find ways to win and make that a priority. Most of the division is definitely overshadowed by the dominance of the Chiefs and it’s really hard to see any other team taking their title.

Prediction to win AFC West: Chiefs