Over the last week the latest round of FanPulse questions — sign up here if you also want to participate —was sent out across SB Nation’s network of NFL team sites such as Pats Pulpit. One part of the survey was asking fans about how they viewed the divisional races unfolding at this point in time, with free agency in the rear-view mirror and the draft straight ahead. Without further ado, let’s dig into the numbers.
The two divisions projected as the most lopsided ones in the league next year are both in the AFC: the AFC East and the AFC West. 77% of fans project the reigning world champion New England Patriots to win the conference’s eastern division, while 78% think that the Kansas City Chiefs — last year’s conference finalist and top seed in the playoffs — will take the division crown for the fourth straight season:
Both the Patriots and the Chiefs are 67% ahead of their closest rivals, the Buffalo Bills and the Los Angeles Chargers, respectively. The reasons for that are easily found: New England, winners of an all-time best ten straight division championships, is still the best-run organization in the division despite some recent personnel losses. Kansas City, meanwhile, has a star quarterback supported by an experienced coaching staff.
The other two races in the AFC are not quite as lopsided, especially in the AFC North: the Cleveland Browns, one of the most active teams this offseason, is seen as the favorite to win its first title since 1989 by 53% of polled fans — leading the Pittsburgh Steelers by 27%. In the AFC South, meanwhile, 58% project that the Indianapolis Colts will win the division for the first time since 2014. Last year’s winner, the Houston Texans, are 40% behind.
The NFC as a whole might be even more lopsided than the AFC: in only one of the four divisions — the NFC East — are top two teams closer than 50% together. Everywhere else, the reigning champions are seen as the clear-cut favorites to successfully defend their titles:
The Los Angeles Rams, runners-up in Super Bowl 53 against the Patriots, have a 60% lead over their next closest rivals in the NFC West. The New Orleans Saints are 58% ahead of the Carolina Panthers in the conference’s southern division, with the northern being led by the Chicago Bears’ 66% — 50% better than the Minnesota Vikings, who finished in second place in the NFC North last year as well.
As mentioned above, only the NFC East is seen as somewhat competitive: the Philadelphia Eagles (64%) are projected to dethrone the Dallas Cowboys (30%) — all while the other two teams are tied with the Arizona Cardinals for the weakest results of all the 32 clubs in the league.