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NFL division rankings: Best NFL divisions in 2022

Matt Johnson
NFL division rankings
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

What is the best division in the NFL? Unsurprisingly, the AFC West looks like it could be historically good in 2022 with four playoff-caliber teams and arguably multiple Super Bowl contenders. Beyond the brutal AFC West, things shake out interestingly in our 2022 NFL division rankings.

Many view the AFC as the best conference in the NFL and that should come as no surprise. Thanks to so many elite quarterbacks and some of the best NFL defenses in 2022, many of the greatest football teams today reside in one conference.

That’s not to knock the NFC. Home of the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams and a few franchises hoping to hoist the Lombardi Trophy – Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – this is going to be a competitive conference. As for how the best NFL divisions break down, let’s examine where things stand.

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Let’s dive into our NFL division rankings for the upcoming 2022 season.

1. AFC West

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
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  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Los Angeles Chargers
  3. Denver Broncos
  4. Las Vegas Raiders

When Derek Carr is the worst quarterback in the division, that should tell you why the AFC West is atop the NFL division rankings. All four teams made aggressive moves this offseason, either swinging blockbuster trades or strengthening their rosters through the NFL Draft and free agency.

Incredibly, three teams within the division rank in the top-eight for the highest Super Bowl odds. Even with Las Vegas in a distant fourth, there’s an argument to be made for any of these clubs winning the division. All four teams are going to boast electrifying offenses in 2022 and there at least three NFL MVP candidates. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if all four AFC West teams make the playoffs this season.

2. NFC West

NFL: NFC Championship-San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
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  1. Los Angeles Rams
  2. San Francisco 49ers
  3. Arizona Cardinals
  4. Seattle Seahawks

If not for the rebuilding Seattle Seahawks, there’s a good chance the NFC West is atop our NFL divisional rankings. However, we can’t ignore the club that will likely finish near the bottom of the NFL standings. Once they are removed from the equation, the three-headed monster out west grabs the No. 2 spot.

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Naturally, it starts with the defending champions. While they lost Von Miller this offseason and Odell Beckham Jr’s return isn’t guaranteed, this team looks as strong as ever. Adding Allen Robinson to the receiving corps is a huge boost and Bobby Wagner fills a dire need in the middle of this defense. Repeating is an extraordinary challenge, but the Rams have the talent and coaching staff to do it.

Things are just as interesting for San Francisco and Arizona. The 49ers are committed to quarterback Trey Lance as their starter and he lifts the ceiling of this offense. Of course, the danger comes from Lance being an untested quarterback behind a troublesome offensive line. As for the Cardinals, they’ll need Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury to really solve their second-half issues for this team to win the NFC West. Even if they fall short, Arizona can make the playoffs.

3. AFC North

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  1. Baltimore Ravens
  2. Cincinnati Bengals
  3. Cleveland Browns
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers

No one expected the Cincinnati Bengals to win the AFC last season and the accomplishment is a testament to quarterback Joe Burrow. The Bengals adequately improved their offensive line this offseason and they should be among the best teams in the conference.

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However, the nod goes to the Baltimore Ravens. Injuries decimated the roster in 2021, yet this team club still challenged Cincinnati for a majority of the season until Lamar Jackson went down. Thanks to heavy investment on the defensive side, this should be a more well-rounded team. As for the Cleveland Browns, the availability of Deshaun Watson matters. If he can play 10-plus games, there’s a strong case to be made for the AFC South and NFC West to be tied in the NFL division rankings.

As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, head coach Mike Tomlin is going to be challenged to keep this team at or above the .500 mark. The defense is miles off from the elite unit it used to be, Pittsburgh’s offensive line is concerning and there is no safe bet at quarterback. So, this is clearly the worst team in the division.

4. AFC East

NFL: AFC Wild Card Playoffs-New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Buffalo Bills
  2. Miami Dolphins
  3. New England Patriots
  4. New York Jets

We’ll start with the Buffalo Bills, they are carrying a lot of the weight for the AFC East to be ranked fourth among the best NFL divisions. After finishing in the cellar for six consecutive years (2008-’13), Josh Allen and Co. are now kings of this place. Buffalo is an overwhelming favorite to win the AFC South and anything short of playing in the Super Bowl should be viewed as a disappointment.

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The Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots feel very different right now. Outside of the quarterback position, everyone loves the roster in Miami. It’s a confidence that didn’t exist before splurging in free agency and swinging big trades. It all comes down to Tua Tagovailoa, who could be replaced if the Dolphins miss the postseason.

As for the Patriots, the reasons to worry have nothing to do with quarterback Mac Jones. He generated massive buzz this summer and has firmly established himself as the franchise quarterback. Unfortunately, everything beyond him feels iffy and could result in an underwhelming season.

There isn’t a lot to say about the New York Jets right now. It feels like the front office finally took the right steps in a rebuild, it just took far too long to happen. The Jets might not be as bad this year as seasons prior, but they certainly don’t help the AFC East rank higher among the best NFL divisions.

5. NFC North

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MARK HOFFMAN/MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL / USA TODAY NETWORK
  1. Green Bay Packers
  2. Minnesota Vikings
  3. Detroit Lions
  4. Chicago Bears

Even without Davante Adams and possibly David Bakhtiari, the Green Bay Packers will be kings of the NFC North again. Aaron Rodgers won’t win a third consecutive MVP award, but his team also might fare better in the playoffs thanks to changes to the coaching staff and a wildly underrated defense.

Behind Green Bay, quarterback Kirk Cousins might prove crucial in our NFL division rankings. We love the new Minnesota Vikings coaches and this offense could make a significant leap forward in 2022. Whether or not the Vikings are competing in January comes down to how Cousins performs with a great scheme and excellent talent around him.

Of all the rebuilding NFL teams, we love what the Detroit Lions are putting together. A great offensive line, long-term cap flexibility and a culture that is being established the right way. It’s just going to take at least two years before this team is relevant in the NFC North. As for the Chicago Bears, it’s going to take at least a calendar year before anyone sees the first sign of the new regime’s plan working.

6. NFC South

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Carolina Panthers
  4. Atlanta Falcons

Similar to the AFC East, one team is carrying the NFC South’s placement in our NFL division rankings. Even before signing Julio Jones, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked like the best team in the NFC. While no one should be expecting Jones to be a top-20 wideout, he allows the team to bring Chris Godwin along slowly after the torn ACL. Combine the best quarterback in NFL history with an outstanding defense and a cohesive, talented offense to give you a Super Bowl favorite.

Many will be higher on the New Orleans Saints, citing the team’s track record of performing. The truth is we can’t look past a looming Alvin Kamara suspension, red flags on the left side of the offensive line and worries about Jameis Winston in an offense not coached by Sean Payton.

There isn’t much to say about the Carolina Panthers or Atlanta Falcons. Neither team is particularly good, outside of a few bright spots on each side of the ball. They are the anchor really keeping the NFC South from being viewed as one of the best NFL divisions in 2022.

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7. NFC East

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
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  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Dallas Cowboys
  3. Washington Commanders
  4. New York Giants

It’s a two-team race in the NFC East. The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are going to be in a neck-and-neck battle for an automatic playoff spot and a mid-January home game in front of their raucous crowd. Strong arguments can be made for the Eagles, boasting a better and deeper roster. With that said, hesitancy on quarterback Jalen Hurts and his ceiling as a passer works against them.

The Cowboys also find themselves in an interesting position. If Dak Prescott stays healthy and plays to the form we saw early in 2021, Dallas wins the NFC East and Prescott might win his first NFL MVP. Unfortunately, the defense is set to take a step backward this fall and there are some noteworthy concerns offensively (offensive line, receiving corps). It might all come down to health and coaching.

Viewing the NFC East as one of the worst divisions in the NFL is about the Washington Commanders and New York Giants. Both teams are, quite frankly, a mess at quarterback. Trusting either team to approach the .500 mark is a gamble not worth even thinking about. These should be two of the worst NFC teams in 2022.

8. AFC South

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts
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  1. Indianapolis Colts
  2. Tennessee Titans
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Houston Texans

There wasn’t much question about the AFC South belonging at the bottom of the NFL division rankings. This has nothing to do with the Indianapolis Colts, a sleeper Super Bowl pick this fall. Indianapolis is well-positioned to take the crown and there might not be as much of a challenge from the Tennessee Titans as some expect.

The pessimism surrounding the Titans can be traced to worries on the offensive line, the departure of A.J. Brown and the signs of decline from Ryan Tannehill. Derrick Henry can be a dominant force, but age and years of a heavy workload are taking a toll on one of the most physical running backs in his era. As of now, it’s just hard to see the Titans as a real threat in the AFC.

Finally, we arrive at the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans. After finishing with the worst record in the NFL each of the past two seasons, the Jaguars could climb up a bit in 2022. It’s just not going to be nearly enough to be relevant. Pair them with a Houston Texans roster in the very early stages of a rebuild and it should be easy to see why the AFC South comes in last in our NFL division rankings. Will that change at the midseason point? Probably not.