NFL: NFC Divisional Worst to First – Can each division’s 4th placed team turn their fortunes around and finish top in 2022?

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Published on 28 Apr 2022 6:44 am (UK Time)

NFC East – New York Giants

New York football fans will want to completely erase the 2021 season from memory. A 4-13 record does mean the Giants matched the Jets’ record in 2021, however, in this case, it doesn’t necessarily mean they played at a similar standard. For most of the campaign, the Giants were uncompetitive, typified by a 6 game losing streak to close the curtain on 2021.

They finished the season with the lowest number of total touchdowns (24) and did not manage to put together a single winning streak, all whilst housing one of the most expensive wide receiver rooms in the NFL.

So, with Eli Manning long gone, no winning season since 2016, and salary cap issues about to transpire, things had to seriously change at big blue. And they did, with the recruitment of Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll to the General Manager and Head Coach positions respectively. Without wriggle room in the salary cap, Schoen and Daboll have struggled to impact the free agency or trade market, however, with two top ten picks in the 2022 draft, they have a chance to acquire some serious talent. Shopping list – A few offensive linemen to protect 4th-year QB Daniel Jones, who has had an underwhelming career thus far. Divisional Worst to First? – It’s highly unlikely. I just don’t think Danny Dimes is it, and I can’t see the Giants making huge gains on last year’s performances on either side of the ball.

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NFC North – Detroit Lions

I like the Lions. I thought their 2021 season was plucky and courageous, even if they finished with a 3-13-1 record. It was brilliant to watch HC Dan Campbell’s first win come in a dramatic fashion by beating the Vikings 29-27 with a touchdown as the clock expired (watch the highlights, you won’t be disappointed). But the facts are still as follows.

Detroit hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2016 and they haven’t won their division since 1993, back when it was called “NFC Central”, a mere 28 years ago. They also started the 2021 campaign with a 0-8 record, allowed the most passing touchdowns (185), and had the worst overall PFF defensive grade.

Nevertheless, there is still hope for the 2022 season – the draft. With 9 picks in 2022, 2 of which are in the first round, Detroit has an opportunity to carry on rebuilding their squad under 2nd year Head Coach Dan Campbell. Unfortunately, they are faced with a dilemma in the most important position in football.

Do they stick with unspectacular but steady QB Jared Goff or do they twist in a major way and take the best QB off the board at 2nd overall pick? It’ll be an interesting draft for the Lions. Divisional Worst to First? – Aaron Rodgers has decided that he will return to the Green Bay Packers in 2022, so no, I don’t see Jared Goff or a rookie QB outmuscling the four-time league MVP to the top spot.

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NFC South – Carolina Panthers

Carolina’s 2021 season started with promise (3-0 start) and ended with a seven-game losing streak. It isn’t difficult to see where the Panthers biggest problem lies. They ranked last in passer rating (68.5), completion percentage (58.1%), and interceptions (21). They NEED a new Quarterback. Time is running out for third-year HC Matt Rhule, and if he doesn’t manage to better a personal best 5-win season, the hourglass could be up.

Carolina hasn’t won the NFC South since 2015 and hasn’t been back to the playoffs since 2017. They do, however, have talent on the roster. Injury-plagued pass-catching running back Christian McCaffrey should be back to full health in 2022, along with Jaycee Horn, the talented defensive back picked 8th overall in the 2021 draft.

Also, with the right QB, 5th year star wide receiver DJ Moore could be transformed into one of the league’s greats. So, who is the right QB? Garoppolo, Mayfield and even Kyler Murray are some of the names that have floated around these past two months. Or, do they look to the draft? With the sixth overall pick they could secure the best QB on the board, dependant on how aggressive the Lions are at second.

Divisional Worst to First? – Unlikely. Tom Brady’s un-retirement unsurprisingly inspired high profile Bucs to extend their contracts, so Tampa Bay might run the South for a little while longer.

NFC West – Seattle Seahawks

This year was a strange for Seattle, and probably a bitter pill to swallow, considering that they haven’t been at the bottom of the NFC West since 2000. The 7-10 record Seattle managed in 2021 was the first and now only losing season in the Russell Wilson era.

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For the Seahawks, the last campaign really signified the end of an era, as Russ and Bobby Wagner, the last remaining members from Seattle’s 2013 Superbowl victory, moved onto pastures new in the offseason.

However, Seahawks fans needn’t worry. There are comprehensible explanations as to why Seattle has found itself on my list of losers. Firstly, Russ missed the first three games of his career with a finger injury, incredible when you realise that the guy started 149 games straight before that. Secondly, the division was highly competitive, as all three opponents made the playoffs in 2021.

So, as one era ends, another starts, but starts with a few serious questions. Is Drew Lock their franchise QB? Will they keep hold of star wide receiver DK Metcalf? Can the Defense be fixed? I’m sure that GM John Schneider will use their 8 picks in the 2022 draft to answer the latter query.

Divisional Worst to First? – Unlikely. The NFC West will be strong again in 2022, but if they get the draft right and Drew Lock can unlock the offensive potential, I could see the Seahawks challenging the reigning Superbowl champions for the top spot.

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