2020 NFL Preview: Ranking the 8 divisions, from easiest to toughest


There have been some terrible divisions in the NFL.

The AFC South was really bad for a few years. The NFC West was so bad one year that a 7-9 Seattle Seahawks team won it. The same goes for the NFC South and the 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers team that won it.

There’s no division that looks absolutely terrible on paper heading into this NFL season. That doesn’t mean all the divisions are equal. There are still divisions that are better than the rest, and that’s why we ranked all eight divisions from easiest to toughest.

(Yahoo Sports graphics by Albert Corona)
(Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

Here’s a look at why each division ranks where it does:

8. NFC East

The race between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys should be good, but last year those teams struggled to reach .500. The New York Giants have been bad for a while, and nobody knows if Joe Judge will be a good coach. The Washington Football Team might be the worst in the NFL. We’ll see a lot of this division on television, because we always do, but it might not be good football.

7. AFC East

If we knew more about the New England Patriots, maybe the AFC East would move up. If the Patriots have double-digit wins again, the race with them and the Buffalo Bills will be great. But the Patriots have lost a lot, the Miami Dolphins are improving but still have a long way to go and the New York Jets are a mess.

6. AFC South

Maybe this division should be higher. The Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans could all be playoff contenders. But there isn’t one team with a huge upside. We don’t know if Ryan Tannehill is for real for Tennessee, what Philip Rivers has left for the Colts or how the DeAndre Hopkins trade will affect Houston. What we do know is that the Jacksonville Jaguars should be terrible.

5. NFC North

This is probably the only division in which you can make a reasonable argument that any of the four teams can win it. The Green Bay Packers will take a step back from 13-3, but should still be pretty good. The Minnesota Vikings lost a lot, but still have a good core. The Chicago Bears were fantastic two seasons ago and could rebound. And if Matthew Stafford stays healthy, the Detroit Lions might have a really good offense.

4. AFC West

You can’t put a division with the defending champs and Patrick Mahomes too low. The Kansas City Chiefs have dominated this division for a while, but maybe there’s hope for another team to make a run. The Denver Broncos finished last season well and had a good offseason. The Los Angeles Chargers have a lot of talent; they just need adequate quarterback play. The Las Vegas Raiders might not be on the verge of competing for a division title, but they shouldn’t be a pushover either.

3. NFC West

If you wanted to say this is the other division in which all four teams have a realistic shot to win it, that’s fair. The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks battled for the NFC West down to the final seconds of the season, and will both be good again. The Los Angeles Rams have lost key players but still have plenty of stars. And the Arizona Cardinals could surprise if that Kyler Murray-to-DeAndre Hopkins connection finds early chemistry.

2. AFC North

This division is going to be fun. The Baltimore Ravens are loaded, led by MVP Lamar Jackson. The Pittsburgh Steelers will be very good too if Ben Roethlisberger is healthy. Just because the Cleveland Browns flopped last season doesn’t mean they don’t still have a talented roster. Maybe a coaching change is all they need to make the leap. And the Cincinnati Bengals will at least be more interesting to watch with top pick Joe Burrow at quarterback. If all this division gives us is another great Steelers-Ravens race, it deserves this ranking.

Lamar Jackson holds onto the ball before a throw as T.J. Watt makes a move toward the quarterback.
Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens could be challenged by T.J. Watt (90) and the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

1. NFC South

Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan in the same division. Brees and Brady are 1-2 all time in passing yards and touchdowns, and are Hall of Fame locks. Ryan is a former MVP and maybe closer to a Hall of Fame resume than anyone has given him credit for. The New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers each feel they’re Super Bowl contenders, and the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers each have intriguing offensive talent.

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