With the conclusion of the 2023 NFL Draft, we can begin to look at how NFL teams stack up in their divisions and how the divisions stack up against each other. Last year, one division sent a team with a losing record to the playoffs, while another sent three teams.
This year, a lot of that will likely change. But how those teams change is always difficult to figure out. This time last year, many expected the AFC West to be the division to beat before it petered out. This year, it’ll be someone else.
Let’s take a look at how the divisions rank in 2023.
Ranking the NFL Divisions
1) AFC East
Even without the addition of Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets, there are reasons to believe in the AFC East as one of the top three divisions in the NFL. The Jets might have the most complete roster in the NFL, which helps, but the fact that the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills both have MVP-quality quarterbacks brings the division over the top.
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Throw Rodgers back into the mix, and there’s a chance that all three quarterbacks could vie for MVP consideration. And the fourth team is nothing to scoff at; they have the best coach in the NFL and should be able to count on a real offensive coordinating staff getting more out of Mac Jones this year.
2) AFC North
The AFC North has the potential to be the best division, with the return of Lamar Jackson to the Ravens and the potential resurgence of Deshaun Watson in Cleveland. Right now, Joe Burrow rules the roost in the AFC North, and he and the Bengals are among the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Should Kenny Pickett develop, it will be a difficult division to wrangle with. But with Pickett and Watson as pretty big unknowns, so it’s hard to put them any further ahead.
3) NFC East
It’s hard to ignore a division that sent three teams to the playoffs. While it could be the case that Daniel Jones’ play was unsustainable, it’s similarly likely that a fully healthy Dak Prescott turns in an elite performance over the course of a full season. Dallas might enter the year with the best defense in the NFL, while the Eagles could sport the best offense in the conference.
The Giants are a bit of a wild card, given the likelihood of regression for Jones, but adding to that receiving corps and building out that defense will keep them competitive. Washington is a big unknown with Sam Howell, but like the Cowboys and Eagles, they have a remarkable receiving corps to work with.
4) AFC West
The best team in the NFL, with the best player in the NFL, is a good enough argument to place this division high. But only one other team — the perpetually underperforming Chargers — have any reasonable claim to being a threat to other high-level teams.
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Given how inconsistent the Chargers are and the extremely open questions about the Broncos and Raiders, it’s hard to place the AFC West higher.
5) NFC West
Seattle was able to retain Geno Smith and has a remarkable young roster to work with, and they’re not even the favorites in the division. The wild success of Brock Purdy has moved San Francisco to the top of the NFC charts in most eyes, and it only takes some positive steps from Kyler Murray and the Cardinals to make the division truly meaningful.
Without the Rams putting together the kind of roster that can compete, it’s tough for the NFC West to crack the top of the division power rankings, but it’s a good group.
6) NFC North
The best team in the division may not even be good — the 13-4 Vikings were close-game wizards, and that doesn’t tend to repeat from year to year. On top of that, they may have gotten worse with losses on the defensive side of the ball. They may come out ahead of where they were or be just as good, but the rest of the division is still worrisome. Without Aaron Rodgers, it’s unknown how good the Packers can be.
Justin Fields needs to develop further before pulling the Bears forward in the division, and Jared Goff was somewhat impressive last year, but the Lions also played an unsustainable style of football, reliant on explosive runs. Detroit will compete for the top spot in the division, but the fact that anyone could win the NFC North doesn’t mean it’s a good one.
7) AFC South
There’s some distance between the sixth and seventh-place divisions in this ranking. Last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars won the division with a 9-8 record, and though it’s reasonable to expect them to improve, they don’t have the kind of upside that screams a 13- or 14-win team. And after them, it might be the Titans.
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After such a disappointing 2022, it’s possible they bounce back and once again become threats in the AFC, but the odds are just as likely that they continue to spiral as they prepare for their quarterback of the future. And though the Indianapolis Colts also have promise, both the Colts and the Texans have quite an uphill battle ahead of them before they can be treated as contenders.
8) NFC South
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the division last year with a losing record, and there’s not much evidence that they have improved — downgrading at quarterback is an enormous concern. The worst team in the division is probably the Falcons, and though they may have grabbed the most electric player in the draft, it’s unlikely to lead to many more wins.
The Panthers may have a bright future with Bryce Young, and the Saints might be able to move towards a winning record with Derek Carr, but it’s hard to think of any team pulling more than 10 wins in this division.
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