Around The NFL has generated Divisional Power Rankings going back to the 2012 offseason. For the third consecutive year, the NFC West came out on top.
This year's vote was closer than ever, due in large part to the questions surrounding the San Francisco 49ers, formerly an NFC superpower. Buoyed by the Jimmy Graham blockbuster, the Seahawks are once again viewed as the league's strongest team.
When the votes were cast and the numbers tallied, the results came out as follows:
|1||NFC West||The Seahawks top our team rankings. Rams, 49ers could go either way.|
|2||AFC North||Three playoff squads. Browns could put up a fight.|
|3||NFC North||Packers are biggest threat to Seahawks. Lions, Vikings frisky.|
|4||AFC East||Patriots remain favorites, but other three teams hit big in free agency.|
|5||NFC East||House of cards. Each team could tumble with just one unfortunate injury.|
|6||AFC West||Broncos aren't quite as dominant. Raiders still a tomato can.|
|7||NFC South||Panthers, Saints better than advertised. Falcons, Bucs works in progress.|
|8||AFC South||Andrew Luck is the only proven quarterback in the division.|
» With Gregg Rosenthal as the lone exception, the voters believe there is a monster-sized gap between the top six divisions and the two "South" divisions. Rosenthal expects the NFC South to bounce back from last year's embarrassing showing. The AFC South carries the millstone of two perennial doormats and a third team with quarterback issues.
» While the NFC West and AFC North were the consensus top two divisions, there wasn't much distance separating No. 3 (NFC North) from No. 6 (AFC West). Ultimately, the voters believe the Broncos are no longer dominant, the Chargers and Chiefs remain mediocre and the Raiders are years away from relevancy.
» The AFC East has made the biggest jump from the end of the season, with the Bills, Jets and Dolphins all making dramatic impact moves. That said, nobody is buying talk of the Patriots falling back to the pack.
» I was surprised to see the NFC East above the AFC West. Despite the Cowboys' loss of DeMarco Murray and the Eagles' dramatic makeover, the voters believe those teams remain rock solid. There is also a belief that the Giants were the league's strongest six-win team in 2014.
» Even with the acknowledgment that the Lions and Vikings are potential wild-card teams, the NFC North's third-place ranking reflects respect for the Packers as the primary threat to the Seahawks' NFC hegemony. Nobody knows what to think of Chicago, mirroring the Bears' puzzlement at quarterback.
» As Rosenthal pointed out in the past, conventional wisdom in March often looks foolish by November. One of those top three divisions is going to take a tumble.