2021 NFL Divisional Energy Rankings: NFC West flexes muscle as No. 1; Eagles, Cowboys catapult NFC East


Week 1 of the NFL season is the proper time of the yr for overreactions. The Buffalo Payments and the Baltimore Ravens suffered crushing kickoff weekend defeats whereas the Houston Texans stand alone in first place of their division. Will these outcomes finally show meaningless?

Not one of the victories and defeats in Week 1 are an indicator of how a workforce will carry out this upcoming season, however it’s truthful to marvel if groups will carry their opening-week success and failures for a number of weeks, and even a whole yr. The identical rings true with a division.

What we thought we all know concerning the eight divisions within the NFL heading into the yr — nicely, Week 1 threw us a curveball. In our first version of the NFL divisional energy rankings for the 2021 common season, we’re fairly sure we’ve got a grasp on the hierarchy of the league.

That’s … at the least till subsequent week. 

8. NFC North

This division going into the yr was carried by the Inexperienced Bay Packers, the convention runner-up in consecutive seasons. In Week 1,  Aaron Rodgers had the fourth-worst sport of his profession by way of passer score (36.8) as Inexperienced Bay might solely muster up three factors in a 38-3 blowout loss to New Orleans Saints. Not a banner day for the heavyweights of the division.

The Chicago Bears had been embarrassed by the Los Angeles Rams on “Sunday Evening Soccer,” and proceed to make use of Andy Dalton as their beginning quarterback. The Minnesota Vikings misplaced to the Cincinnati Bengals, a workforce that has received simply six video games over the past two seasons. 

The Detroit Lions arguably had the division’s finest efficiency, rallying within the fourth quarter towards the San Francisco 49ers earlier than falling 41-33 — and having a possibility to tie the sport with beneath two minutes remaining. Nonetheless, Detroit trailed 41-17 with 9:53 left within the sport earlier than the 49ers took their foot off the gasoline pedal. 

Each workforce within the division gave up at the least 27 factors and Detroit was the one workforce to attain greater than 24. The division was outscored 130-70. The NFC North is the primary division to complete 0-4 in Week 1 for the reason that AFC North in 2013. For Week 1, they’re the worst division in soccer. 

7. AFC South

Let’s give a spherical of applause to the Houston Texans for sitting alone atop of this division after Week 1. Sadly, that is not a very good indicator of how this division fared as an entire. The Jaguars have misplaced 16 consecutive video games, together with Sunday’s defeat to a Houston workforce which will have the worst roster within the NFL. Jacksonville has given up 24 factors or extra in 16 consecutive video games –the longest streak in NFL historical past — and gave up 37 to Tyrod Taylor and Houston. 

The Indianapolis Colts might have had a worse day than the Jaguars, getting blown out by the Seattle Seahawks at residence. Carson Wentz had one other fumble within the loss (his 20 giveaways for the reason that begin of the 2020 season are essentially the most within the NFL) and the protection might solely get Russell Wilson to throw 5 incompletions. 

Tennessee was run out of the constructing by the Arizona Cardinals — at residence. They solely had 248 yards of offense and dedicated three turnovers, whereas the offensive line allowed six sacks (5 to Chandler Jones). Each workforce within the division allowed 28 factors or extra aside from the Texans — and so they performed the Jaguars.

If it wasn’t for the Texans, this division would have had an embarrassing Week 1 throughout the board. 

6. NFC East

Because of the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, this division is not the worst in soccer. The Cowboys did lose to the defending Tremendous Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, however Dak Prescott threw for 403 yards and three touchdowns and the defensive compelled 4 turnovers. Dallas in all probability should not have misplaced this sport, because the Cowboys had been the primary workforce for the reason that 1996 St. Louis Rams to place up 450 yards of offense and 4 turnovers on the highway — and lose. 

The Eagles had been the lone winner within the division, blowing out the Atlanta Falcons by 26 factors. Philadelphia’s protection held Atlanta to 113 yards on its remaining 9 possessions, permitting simply 3.05 yards per play. Jalen Hurts was glorious and the Eagles rushed for 173 yards behind a wholesome offensive line. 

Washington misplaced Ryan Fitzpatrick to harm, however nonetheless put up a valiant effort towards the Los Angeles Chargers in a 20-16 loss — regardless of Rashawn Slater dominating the Soccer Group’s ferocious move rush. The Giants appeared just like the worst workforce within the division, as Daniel Jones had one other essential fumble and the protection allowed Teddy Bridgewater and the Denver Broncos to amass 420 yards of offense. 

The NFC East is improved from final yr, however nonetheless has hassle beating groups from outdoors the division. 

5. AFC East

The Miami Dolphins sit atop of this division, incomes an enormous highway win in Foxborough towards the New England Patriots. Two essential New England fumbles price the Patriots within the opener, the ultimate one by Damien Harris on the Dolphins 9 yard line trailing by a degree with 3:31 to play. Mac Jones had a very good debut, throwing for 281 yards and a landing — and the Patriots did maintain the Dolphins to 259 yards of offense. 

The Dolphins arguably have one of the best protection within the division, forcing two Patriots’ fumbles and holding New England to only 1 of 4 within the crimson zone. Tua Tagovailoa and the run sport wants to enhance, however that is a tough activity towards New England anyway. The Dolphins nonetheless earned an important highway win towards the workforce that owned the AFC East for the reason that divisions realigned in 2002. 

There isn’t any must panic over the Payments dropping to the Pittsburgh Steelers at residence, however Josh Allen throwing the ball 51 instances is not best. Buffalo solely scored 16 factors and completed 1 of 4 within the crimson zone. Regardless, the Payments are nonetheless one of many high groups within the AFC. 

The Jets are rebuilding, and so they weren’t anticipated to beat the Carolina Panthers. Zach Wilson had a strong sport regardless of a nonexistent speeding assault and an offensive line that misplaced Mekhi Becton for 4-6 weeks. 

The AFC East has a variety of gifted younger quarterbacks and they’re going to beat one another up over the course of the yr. The Payments beating the Steelers would have them increased within the rankings. 

4. NFC South

 

Swiftly this division appears significantly better than it did per week in the past, due to the New Orleans Saints. Jameis Winston threw for 5 touchdowns because the Saints dominated the Inexperienced Bay Packers at a short lived residence in Jacksonville. The victory was a press release for New Orleans, who allowed simply three factors and 229 yards to the reigning league MVP and one of many NFL’s high offenses. The Saints could also be difficult the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for division supremacy in spite of everything. 

The Buccaneers nonetheless have Tom Brady and all 22 starters again from their Tremendous Bowl championship workforce. Dallas gave Tampa Bay its finest shot, however Brady rallied the Buccaneers to victory. The Carolina Panthers are a significantly better workforce with Christian McCaffrey again, and earned a troublesome victory over a younger Jets workforce. Whether or not they can compete within the division stays to be seen. 

The Atlanta Falcons had a disastrous efficiency towards the Eagles, scoring simply six factors as Matt Ryan was hit 9 instances. Arthur Smith had an embarrassing debut as Atlanta could be one of many worst groups within the NFL. 

Tampa Bay and New Orleans can carry this division, however Carolina and Atlanta have to be higher. 

3. AFC North

A powerful efficiency for this division in Week 1. The Cleveland Browns had the decide’s choice heading into the twelfth spherical of the heavyweight combat towards the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, however a botched punt and a Baker Mayfield interception on a poor choice with beneath two minutes to play took away Cleveland’s possibilities at pulling off the upset. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a powerful win in Buffalo, forcing loads of errors by the Payments and holding one of many league’s finest offenses to 16 factors. Particular groups had been additionally spectacular within the win, as a Ulysses Gilbert blocked punt led to the deciding rating. Cleveland and Pittsburgh look like the favorites on this gifted division.

Cincinnati earned an enormous additional time win over Minnesota, as Joe Burrow’s return sparked the Bengals offense. The Bengals might play spoiler within the division if Burrow stays wholesome all 17 video games. Accidents have damage the Baltimore Ravens, however their protection blew a possibility to place away the Las Vegas Raiders, permitting a game-tying subject aim and the game-winning landing in additional time. Lamar Jackson’s two fumbles had been expensive, however Baltimore ought to nonetheless be an element within the division race. 

If the Ravens had crushed the Raiders, this division strikes up a spot. 

2. AFC West

The AFC West does not have to be carried by the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, the five-time defending division champions. Kansas Metropolis is one of the best workforce within the division, incomes a wonderful comeback victory over an excellent Browns workforce. The Chiefs are 9-2 of their final 11 video games which they trailed by double digits, all quarterbacked by Patrick Mahomes

The Los Angeles Chargers earned an enormous highway victory over Washington, led by 424 yards of offense towards a gifted WFT protection. Los Angeles went 14 of 19 on third down towards the defending NFC East champions, because the Chargers received their fifth sport in a row. The Denver Broncos additionally picked on an NFC East workforce, embarrassing the New York Giants protection by speeding for 165 yards and 5.9 yards per carry. Denver additionally held New York to 314 yards, 64 of which got here on the ultimate possession, when the sport was out of hand. 

Vegas earned a wonderful comeback victory over Baltimore, a sport wherein the Raiders appeared they had been going to get blown out within the first half. David Carr introduced the Raiders again twice within the fourth quarter and additional time, giving the AFC West an ideal document in Week 1. 

We’ll see how subsequent week performs out, however the Chiefs might have a problem for the division this yr. High to backside, the AFC West is among the deepest divisions within the NFL. 

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1. NFC West

Speak about a division that flexed its muscle in Week 1. Each workforce within the NFC West received and the division outscored its opposition 141-76. Three of the 4 video games had been received by double digits — and within the fourth sport, the San Francisco 49ers had been up 24 factors within the fourth quarter earlier than the Lions mounted a livid comeback. 

The Arizona Cardinals received 4 move touchdowns and a rush landing from Kyler Murray in a runaway victory over Tennessee. The workforce projected to complete final within the division destroyed the defending AFC South champions. The Seattle Seahawks did the identical to the opposite AFC South contender, as Russell Wilson threw 4 touchdowns in a beatdown of Indianapolis. 

The Los Angeles Rams unleashed Matthew Stafford and their offense towards the Bears. Stafford’s 156.1 passer score is the best (minimal 20 makes an attempt) by any participant in NFL historical past of their debut with a brand new workforce. Los Angeles held Chicago to only 14 factors and 0 for 4 on fourth down. 

San Francisco dominated Detroit, regardless of dropping Raheem Mostert for the yr and never even that includes Brandon Aiyuk resulting from a hamstring harm. The 49ers’ cornerback state of affairs is an issue with Jason Verrett struggling a torn ACL, however the offensive line allowed the fewest pressures in Week 1 and the defensive position generated essentially the most pressures. 

After one week of soccer, we nonetheless do not know who the workforce to beat is within the NFC West. The puzzle might have gotten rather a lot more durable after this week of video games, which demonstrates the NFC West’s energy.

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