Ranking of NFL divisions by their competitiveness ahead of the 2023 draft

The only surefire way to make the NFL playoffs is to win the division. As such, teams should be battling for the top of their division rather than praying for a wildcard spot. Eighteen of the last 23 Super Bowl winners have also won their division, including 11 since 2010.

But not all departments are the same. Some are top heavy, with one clear favorite followed by three mediocre teams. However, others are more competitive with most if not all four teams battling for the top spot.

As the NFL calendar nears the draft, we took a look at each of the eight divisions and ranked them from least competitive to most based on a composite score. To calculate this, we looked at each team’s odds to win their respective divisions (from BetMGM) as well as their projected overall wins. Then we created six crucial data points:

  • The odds difference between the lowest odds and each of the other three teams.

  • The overall win difference between the teams with the highest totals and each of the other three teams.

  • The average odds of winning the division.

From there we were able to determine which divisions are really up for grabs and which seem locked out months before the start of the season. This is all subject to change, of course, depending on how the rest of spring and summer leads into week one.

Which NFL division seems to be the most competitive when it comes to the draft next season? (Moe Haidar/Yahoo Sports)

Which NFL division seems to be the most competitive when it comes to the draft next season? (Moe Haidar/Yahoo Sports)

8. NFC West

All things considered, the San Francisco 49ers are easily the best team in their division compared to the rest of the NFL. While the 49ers’ quarterback situation is somewhat unclear, the 49ers (-155 to win the NFC West) still have the best collection of skill position players and their defense is still elite.

The rest of the division remains uncertain. The Seahawks have returned most of their core but aren’t ready to return to the postseason. The Los Angeles Rams are a shell of their 2021 version of the championship, and the Arizona Cardinals, dragging the average odds of winning the division way down at +2200, could be the worst team in the league going into the 2023 season.

7. AFC South

There is no other team in the division that could or should match the Jacksonville Jaguars (-150) this season. Trevor Lawrence is the division’s best quarterback and the Jags added receiver Calvin Ridley to his pass-catching options.

The Tennessee Titans are expected to be the second-best team to win the AFC South at +325, but fell flat in the back half of the 2022 season and lost more talent than they’ve gained this offseason. The Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, on the other hand, both have poor defense and will start either a rookie or a mediocre quarterback under center.

6.AFC West

That should come as no surprise given the utter dominance of the Kansas City Chiefs, who have won the division for seven straight seasons and do so again as the NFL’s best 160. While the Los Angeles Chargers should be better in 2023 and the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders could hit back, neither poses a real threat to the Chiefs as long as Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid are there.

The Chargers are the only team that could push the Chiefs, but they need to stay healthy. Justin Herbert has played 2-4 against the Chiefs in his career, losing those four games by an average of just 3.75 points. The Broncos could do better with Sean Payton as their coach, too. The Raiders… who knows with Jimmy Garoppolo.

5. AFC North

Joe Burrow and the Bengals are still on the rise and AFC North's odds reflect that. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
Joe Burrow and the Bengals are still on the rise and AFC North’s odds reflect that. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

The rise of the Cincinnati Bengals (+110 to win) puts them squarely in the driver’s seat of the division with little competition behind them. Joe Burrow is reaching his ceiling as a quarterback and should be strengthened on the offensive line with the addition of tackle Orlando Brown. Defense could be an issue, but the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers have plenty of questions going into 2023.

The Browns are second favorites at +300, but there’s no guarantee they’ll improve even with a full season from Deshaun Watson after his uninspiring six-game streak came to an end last year. The Ravens could look very different if Lamar Jackson leaves. And the Steelers are trying hard to get along with Kenny Pickett in the middle.

4. NFC East

It’s still the Philadelphia Eagles division to lose, but the gap could narrow if the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants continue to advance. The Washington Commanders hardly missed the playoffs last season either.

The difference between the Eagles (+110) and the Cowboys (+175) is the smallest among division rivals this season, according to BetMGM odds. The giants have also added weapons and the commanders still have good defenses. But while the numbers suggest the NFC East should be competitive, the Eagles remain the clear favorite to repeat the division’s title.

3. NFC South

That division was only available last season and became wide open following the retirement of Tom Brady. All four teams will start a new quarterback in Week 1 — the first time for a single division since 1973. That alone is enough to make the NFC South one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL.

The problem is that neither of these teams is very good, so it wouldn’t be hard for one to pull away from a division win early on. But the gap between the Derek Carr-led New Orleans Saints (the favorite at +125) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who have the longest odds at +500) is one of the smallest in the league. The Carolina Panthers could also shake things up with a No. 1 rookie quarterback and a team that almost stole the division from the Buccaneers just a year ago.

2. AFC East

Assuming they’re acting for Aaron Rodgers, there’s a serious three-team race between the New York Jets (currently +210), the Miami Dolphins (+360) and two-time reigning AFC East champions Buffalo Bills (+125 ). And you can never really count Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, even if they haven’t shown any signs of improvement through 2023.

The Bills look like favorites after criss-crossing through the division last season, but the Dolphins should be better in the secondary with a healthy Tua Tagovailoa and a Vic Fangio-led defense with cornerback Jalen Ramsey. A surprise team in 2022 with a youthful offense and strong defense, the Jets could be contenders with Rodgers in the group.

1. NFC North

The Detroit Lions are favored to win the division at +135, but the other teams aren’t far behind. Regardless, the Lions are trending up after a loud finish to the 2023 season while typical frontrunners, the Vikings and Packers, are trending down. The Vikings have been one of the happiest teams in the league, while the Packers have no idea how Jordan Love will fare in his first season as a starter (assuming Rodgers is traded). The Bears also lost the most one-score games in 2022.

It’s hard to have faith in the Lions thanks to the team’s history of failure, but Dan Campbell has made many believers and now the Lions could win the NFC North for the first time since 1993, the league’s toughest division in 2023.


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