With the final edition of this series, we have one of the most exciting divisions in the league; the NFC North. These teams carry some of the most storied rivalries in NFL history, boasting as much glory and heartbreak as any other division in the league. Led by three very good quarterbacks and the best running back in football, these teams are primed for yet another season of mutual disdain.
Year in year out the AFC North boasts some of the stronger teams in the AFC. This is generally due to great management. Ravens Ozzie Newsome has been the NFL’s best GM of the last decade, and the Steelers have been well run under the Rooney’s for quite some time. The Bengals might be the thriftiest team in the league, never spending much money, but always scooping great value in the draft on players with “character concerns.” I use quotes because somehow these players seem to do just fine under Marvin Lewis, one of the best examples being LB Vontaze Burfict. Initially viewed as a high pick, Burfict went undrafted last year because teams were worried about his “character.” The Bengals scooped him up, and he immediately rewarded them with over 1100 high quality snaps against both the run and pass. The Browns have been the bottom feeder of this division for awhile, but their talented roster could change that in a hurry.
Finishing up the NFC West grades, I’ll address the offseason performance of the top teams in the NFL’s most competitive division. Before I start, I’ll take a minute to comment on the year-long suspension of Cardinals ILB Daryl Washington. When on the field, he is one of the best players in the league at his position, so it goes without saying that this is a massive loss for the Cardinals. It irks me quite a bit that this suspension is due to multiple failed drug tests for marijuana, while other players face no suspensions for behaviors such as assault and street racing. However, the NFLPA negotiated the terms of the current CBA, so they really have no one to blame for this but themselves. This is not the fault of the Cardinals, so it will not factor into their grade.
I had started doing the NFC West piece in traditional fashion, with the intention of doing all four teams at once. However my writeup on the Rams was so long (as long as some of the entire other divisions combined) and contained so many controversial topics, that I felt their offseason analysis deserved it’s own article.
I hope all our followers had a nice Memorial day weekend. We’ve been enduring the post-draft hangover, where the most interesting news is typically that a draft pick has signed. However, OTA’s have just begun for most teams, so we will start to see those rumors about how much teams love their draft picks. At this point, many guys will get talked up, but coaches will sound optimistic if they see any potential at all. Generally the rumors that are most accurate will come around training camp, so take what you hear now with a grain of salt.
We are now halfway through this “Hindisght” series, and next up is the AFC West. What was once one of the least competitive divisions in the league now has three teams legitimately contending for playoff spots. After the jump, let’s see how their offseasons tilted the balance.
Next up, lets take a look at one of the most competitive divisions in the league; the NFC South.
Sorry for the delay between posts, my sister just graduated from college and I’ve been busy with a few other things. In an attempt to rekindle interest, I’ll move onto the AFC South which has some of the more interesting off seasons to grade; three rebuilding teams with two of the top 3 draft picks, and a team that traded away its first round pick.