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NFC West expected to be strongest division in football again

Could all 4 NFC West teams make the playoffs?

NFL: NOV 01 Colts at Lions Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As training camps open around the league and players start to FINALLY take the field, our minds can turn to important things like ...

Power Rankings.

Personally, I think it’s still a bit early for Power Rankings, but The Athletic released their “Training Camp Edition” on Monday and it purports to separate the Super Bowl contenders and pretenders so ...

Of course I clicked on it!

I have now read the entire list roughly 2-1/2 times and I have no clue where they transition from contenders to pretenders. C’est la vie.

That said, it was interesting enough to share with my fellow 12s.

Note: The Athletic is a pay site so you’ll hit a pay wall if you click the link without a subscription.


Agree or disagree, the top of their list follows a predictable form.

The NFC West enters the discussion at #5.

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Top 4: Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens ...

“best collective of skill position players” ... TB12 expected to improve rather than decline ... “built to become a long-term rival to the Chiefs in the AFC” ... interesting to see where the Ravens’ offense goes next ...

I cherry-picked and paraphrased their write-ups.

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#5: Los Angeles Rams

Another whirlwind offseason for the Rams, starting with the mega-trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford. His arrival and whatever changes Sean McVay will make to the offense after the move away from Jared Goff will be one of the most intriguing schematic storylines of the season.

The second paragraph was about their situation at running back ... Cam Akers got hurt; what will the #5 team on our list do? Yawn!

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#6: Green Bay Packers - with the assumption the prickly one would return.

Yes, he did. Yay Pack! Cheese-heads rejoice! (and whatever else Wisconsinites say through curdled lips in late-July)

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#7: Cleveland Browns

... there is no question they know who they are and who they want to be. And for a team that has gone through as much drama as Cleveland has over the past, oh, two decades, that’s encouraging.

I am not sold yet, but the Browns are sort of intriguing, so ... fine, give them a 2 or 3-spot bump out of pity. I would rank Seattle ahead of them, of course, but I am completely biased.

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#8: Seattle Seahawks

For now it seems Russell Wilson has quashed whatever drama was brewing this offseason, and that’s good news for a Seattle team that needs him to be at his best. Our collective belief in Wilson is the reason so many of our panelists picked the Seahawks as a top-10 team. But there are still plenty of questions left unanswered, from the composition and quality of the offensive line to defensive holes, particularly at cornerback after the departure of Shaquill Griffin in free agency.

What I’m watching in camp: The Seahawks made a major offensive change by hiring new coordinator and play-caller Shane Waldon away from the Rams. What will this change mean for Wilson, who is one of the NFL’s best deep-ball throwers and improvisational passers?

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#9: San Francisco 49ers

Our voters were all over the place with the 49ers. One picked them at No. 3; two others ranked them at No. 20.

(paraphrasing) Optimist: decimated by injuries last year ... finally healthy ... return to their 2019 form ... Pessimist: QB major question ... all eyes on QB at camp

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AFC South / AFC South

Colts and Titans good, rest of division bad; yeah, we know. (paraphrasing) Carson Wentz has question marks in Indy ... Julio Jones should elevate Tennessee ...

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#12: Arizona Cardinals

(paraphrasing) Kyler Murray ... Rodney Hudson ... Rondale Moore ...

Still, our voting panel picked Arizona last in the NFC West (even if all four division teams are ranked in the top 12), a reminder that even if the Cardinals are on the rise, they have a tough path to the postseason.

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THAT! That right there is what prompted me to write about a Power Rankings list.

In fact, that right there is a near-perfect encapsulation of what it is that makes me LOVE the NFC West (and also hate it too).

To recap:

The #5 Rams have a new QB (with a cannon arm).

The #8 Seahawks have a new OC (with a magic offense).

The #9ers are in denial about their imminent quarterback controversy (and pray to the football gods for abundant health).

Yet the Cardinals, who return both their QB and their OC (aka their HC) are (a) the consensus pick for 4th place in the NFC West, and (b) considered the 12th-best team in the entire league.


Two other things worth noting:

  1. The Dallas Cowboys are the first NFC East team on list at #16 overall
  2. The NFC South is the first non-West NFC division to have two teams on the list when the Saints show up at #17

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Anyone else feeling like the seven NFC playoff spots could go to the 4 division winners and the other 3 NFC West teams?

The Athletic would seem to think so.

I sorta do too.

Go Hawks!