Oct 6, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) is pressured by New York Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (94) during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Division Champs And Their Top Challengers: NFC

The NFC division champions are hoping for a repeat in 2014.  Which NFL teams are their biggest challengers?

NFC East:  Philadelphia Eagles

Chip Kelly needed 17 weeks and a few breaks to win the NFC East in 2013 but his Philadelphia Eagles got it done.  His offense should return mostly intact and some off-season moves added some help on defense.  Philly is in good position to defend its crown barring injuries.

Challenger:  New York Giants

Dallas was the primary opponent last year but Philadelphia must be wary of their old nemesis the New York Giants.  After enduring a rough season last year, the G-Men spent big in free agency in order to upgrade.  The offensive line got some much needed help for Eli Manning, as did the draft of Odell Beckham Jr. at receiver.  Besides, under Tom Coughlin this team is never down long.

NFC South:  Carolina Panthers

Riding a dominant defense and the many talents of Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers won their first NFL division title since 2008 with a 12-4 record.  That same defense is back and so is Newton.  Hopes are that he’ll have better weapons in the passing game this time, but either way the Panthers are expected to compete.

Challenger:  New Orleans Saints

Carolina had to go through the New Orleans Saints to gain the NFC South last year and the same will be true in 2014.  In fact it may be even harder.  New Orleans spent the off-season upgrading their already talented roster.  They added Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd on defense and speedy weapon Brandin Cooks on offense.  It is a Super Bowl-caliber team that will test the very limits of the Panthers’ will.

NFC North:  Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers returned just in time to clinch the Green Bay Packers their third NFC North title in three years.  Not that it mattered since they were bounced from the playoffs right away.  However, after a pair of solid additions on defense and an influx of talent at receiver, the Pack are very much expected to repeat as champs for a fourth-straight time.

Challenger:  Detroit Lions

The Chicago Bears are also a very real threat but if any team should be expected to surge ahead of the Packers in the NFL playoff chase, it’s the Detroit Lions.  Their core of Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh is at its peak.  With solid complimentary pieces in place like Golden Tate, Eric Ebron and Ezekiel Ansah this team by all rights should be favorites.

NFC West:  Seattle Seahawks

The world champions have their core in place and most of it locked up long-term.  There is no reason not to see the Seattle Seahawks as instant favorites to repeat in the NFC West given their blend of powerful defense and efficient offense.  Everyone knows what Richard Sherman would say, but who is their biggest challenger?

Challenger:  St. Louis Rams

Say what?  How could the San Francisco 49ers not be the clear front-runner to unseat the Seahawks?  That is just how much improved the St. Louis Rams have become.  Their defense, particularly their pass rush, causes serious problems for Russell Wilson and his offense.  To think its gotten better with Aaron Donald is important to note.  Add in the fact the Rams will get back Sam Bradford who will have better protection and more weapons, St. Louis should be the surprise coup leader to the Seahawks’ crown.

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Tags: Detroit Lions Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints New York Giants NFL Philadelphia Eagles Seattle Seahawks St. Louis Rams

  • trinity

    Nice list. I agree about the giants. I think Eli will bounce back. no matter what, it can’t be as bad as last season. I like Washington as well.

    The lions are super talented. but remember everything I said about Cutler? It’s about the same for Stafford. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Caldwell can do with him, because he’s an awesome natural talent who is just reckless with the ball.

    Saints, of course :)! But I think that division will go down to the wire. there are no surprises in the NFC south, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the flacons took it. Julio is back.

    The rams, no. 49ers are a top 3 team in the league to me. The rams have some awesome pieces, but I’m not convinced that they have a quarterback. I think that division will come down to Seattle and San Francisco again, and I don’t know which way it’s going to go.

    • Erik Lambert

      A top 3 team that is 1-3 against Seattle with Kaepernick under center. I believe the addition of Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald are going to make huge differences up front for them. Also Bradford is returning to an arsenal that is bigger and more experienced than last season. Let’s also not forget the 49ers may not have NaVorro Bowman for a good part of the year, which is a huge loss. I believe it’s St. Louis’ time.

      Washington was my other pick for the East but I held off because of their uncertain coaching situation.

      • trinity

        The 9ers definitely have their hands full with the best team in the league, but I think the two teams are neck and neck, unless they are playing in Seattle. They’re very similar, and even though Seattle has the upper hand on them right now, San Fran is too elite to say they will definitely get beat. But even if they don’t get anything done against Seattle, I think they’re going to top st. Louis in that division. They had a good draft, but I’m not ready to say it’s time for anything at all. We’ll see.

        • TapDogsDad

          I think the Packers are going to shock Seattle on opening day! If I’m right, that could have repercussions through Seattle’s season – improving chances for SF & Rams.

          • trinity

            I don’t know if the packers will pull it off, but there’s always a chance if you have an elite quarterback.

    • TapDogsDad

      Most would agree with you – but that division should be a war!!

  • erick

    I’m a rams fan… having said that it will take a lot of things going the rams way to win the nfc west…. but hey here’s to that happening. … go rams

    • TapDogsDad

      Should be a fun division to watch. Would love to see the Packers and Rams in the NFC title game. Go Packers!

  • John Huey

    Are u kidding me?!?! The Lions for the north?? The Bears are MORE then primed for a run this year, that’s the same team from Detroit that couldn’t take the NFC North while Rodgers and Cutler (not to mention all the other Pro bowlers and key players on both team) choked losing something like 6 of the last 8 games and the season before going 0-8 to end the year. The Bears may have been bad, with injuries that can happen, with a great offense and the upgrades on defense 2014-2015 you can count on 2 things, the bears contending for the NFC north and the Lions choking AGAIN!

    • John Huey

      Then I reas an article by Erik asking if Chicago is a dark horse to challenge Seattle and why, but they won’t win the North?!?! Great article but Come on Erik…. you’re killing me…..LBVS

  • jj

    Im a die hard rams fan but considering the devision were in and the improvements weve made, i see us taking the wild card spot. Seattle and niners are no joke, cant say otherwise, and cards didnt make the playoffs with a freakn 10 win season, u kiddn me. Yet, stlouie was the best last place team in the league and improved through the draft and free agency better than any team in the league. So, heres what i expect
    1. Wild card spot
    2. Bradford resigns, his best season yet
    3. Top 5 defense, go g. williams
    4. Top 15 offense, way to go schotty
    5. Get talked about more on nfl network and espn


    My biggest question is how much crack does this author smoke on a daily basis? First two division analyses?…No signs of serious brain damage…LIONS?…(Said in the same tone as the old Jim Mora line, “PLAYOFFS”?). A team in desperate need of a disciplinarian goes and hires a “player’s coach” who couldn’t get the job done with Peyton Manning at QB…Nah…Counting out the 49ers? Harbaugh is less stable than Nancy Pelosi on her worst day…a bad attribute for a Congressman but a very useful one for a head coach…No one ever messed with Lombardi who was seen by many of his contemporaries as dealing with his own toys in the attic….As a lifelong Packers’ fan, I handicap San Fran tied or better than Seattle at every position except defensive backfield…plus they are hungrier. The Rams have lots of talent but a QB who has yet to establish himself and is the 4th best in the division. If the Rams win it, they’ll have to do it with defense….With a much worse offense in a division loaded with defense….Maybe, Stevie Wonder sees it that way…But, not me…