The beginning of training camp is just around the corner, so let’s take some time to explore where the most interesting storylines of the season will be. What we have here isn’t a list of the best divisions in the NFL, but rather a list of the most intriguing divisions that will be the most fun to watch and follow in 2013.
8. NFC South – The Falcons won this division with a six-game cushion last season, so even with a drop off there should be little doubt who’s going to be the division champion in 2013. Sean Payton’s return from his year-long suspension will be a big storyline, but only at the start of the season. Outside of Cam Newton, this division doesn’t have any of the young quarterbacks people are interested in watching, and even if he puts up great fantasy numbers, if Newton doesn’t lead the Panthers to some wins, there won’t be that much interest in watching him.
7. AFC South – There’s not a whole lot to be intrigued about in this division. The Texans are usually the favorites to win it, but they never become big players in the playoffs, and there’s no reason to think things will be any different this year. Andrew Luck should be a guy to watch, but for some reason he’s not as interesting as the other young quarterbacks in the league. At this point, the Jaguars are more pathetic than interesting, and when they have one win midway through the season, no one’s going to care. If Luck is real good and the Colts challenge the Texans there will be something to watch, but other than that there’s not too much going on in this division.
6. NFC North – This division had three teams last season with a double-digit win total, and it also has three quarterbacks with a lot to prove. On paper, the Packers should be a Super Bowl contender, but they’ve fallen short the past two years. The Vikings, Bears, and Lions all have the potential to put together a good season and challenge for a playoff spot, but all three could also fall flat and be non-factors this year.
5. AFC West – The Broncos should have this division all but locked up, but Peyton Manning is still someone that should be watched closely, as he tries to push for a second Super Bowl title. This division also has two new head coaches: Mike McCoy in San Diego, who is one of the bright young coaches in the NFL, and Andy Reid in Kansas City, who is a proven veteran and has raised expectations considerably, despite a two-win season for the Chiefs last year. The standings may not be so interesting this year, but between Manning and the two new coaches, there should be plenty to keep an eye on in the AFC West.
4. AFC North – It’s tough to know what exactly to expect from this division, which should keep things interesting. Cincinnati is expected to be the top team, but they’ve never been in that position before. Baltimore has a Super Bowl to defend, but a lot of pieces to replace, especially on defense. Pittsburgh still has a small window to make a Super Bowl run, but there are a lot of questions about their age and health. Finally, there are the Browns, who are hoping to make some progress in 2013. This could be one of the best divisions in football, and it could also be one of the more unpredictable, which should keep things interesting.
3. NFC East – There’s a whole lot going on in this division in 2013. First, there’s the health of Robert Griffin III and how that will affect Washington’s chances of repeating as division champions. The Giants are trying to quickly reload and get back to being a Super Bowl competitor. There’s always something news worthy going on with the Cowboys. Finally, the Eagles have the most intriguing first time head coach in the NFL, as well as a three-way quarterback competition that may not be settled by the time the season starts. This is usually one of the most competitive divisions in football, and even off the field there should be plenty to pay attention to in the NFC East this season.
2. AFC East – All eyes will be on the Patriots this season following the tumultuous offseason they’ve had, as well as the concerns they have at their potential lack of offensive playmakers. This could be the year that someone in this division challenges the Patriots, and it could be Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins. Even the bad teams in this division will be curious to watch. The New York Jets are usually a train wreck waiting to happen, and with Rex Ryan on the hot seat and a quarterback battle between two mediocre candidates, that should be the case again this season. Meanwhile, Buffalo has a new head coach in Doug Marrone and made a controversial first round pick at quarterback in E.J. Manuel, so it should interesting to see how those two storylines unfold. It’s not the best division in football, but all four teams should create interesting talking points throughout the season.
1. NFC West – Not only are San Francisco and Seattle two of the best teams in the NFC, but Collin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson are two of the most promising young quarterbacks in the NFL, and all of football will be curious to see how much progress each is going to make this year, Kaepernick in his first full season as a starter and Wilson in just his second NFL season. To make things a little more interesting, the St. Louis Rams have a revamped offense that will not only be exciting to watch, but it could also make them a factor in the division race. With three quality teams and three young and talented quarterbacks, the NFC West will be the best division to watch in the NFL this season.