NFC predictions: How each team will finish in its division this season

Rams coach Sean McVay, right, speaks with quarterback Matthew Stafford during practice.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford and coach Sean McVay led the Rams to a championship in their first season together.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Rams coach is 5-0 to start seasons, a record as pristine as his haircut. Sean McVay opened the last five seasons with wins over Indianapolis, Oakland, Carolina, Dallas and Chicago, averaging 32.6 points in those victories.

The stiffest challenge comes Thursday night in the “Kickoff Opener” when the Rams play host to Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, the first time the NFL has lifted the curtain on the season in Los Angeles.

McVay, whose team is defending its Super Bowl title, has the NFC’s longest winning streak in openers, but the longest overall streak belongs to Kansas City’s Andy Reid, whose teams have won seven consecutive openers. The Chiefs begin the season at Arizona.

New England’s Bill Belichick has the most season-opening victories among active coaches, although the Patriots’ 18-9 record in those is not reflective of their enormous overall success.


Five coaches are making their debuts: Chicago’s Matt Eberflus, Denver’s Nathaniel Hackett, Miami’s Mike McDaniel, Minnesota’s Kevin O’Connell and the New York Giants’ Brian Daboll.

Five more will be coaching their first game with a new club: Houston’s Lovie Smith, Jacksonville’s Doug Pederson, Las Vegas’ Josh McDaniels, New Orleans’ Dennis Allen and Tampa Bay’s Todd Bowles.

A division-by-division look at NFC teams in their predicted order of finish:


NFC West

Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner directs the defense during practice.
Bobby Wagner will be directing the Rams defense from his linebacker position.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

1. RAMS: As long as Matthew Stafford isn’t badly hampered by elbow issues, they should be fine. The addition of Bobby Wagner bolsters an already strong defense.

2. San Francisco 49ers: They have the Rams’ number, but there are unanswered questions about Trey Lance and whether he can step in as the quarterback without a hiccup.

3. Arizona Cardinals: They have gotten better each season under coach Kliff Kingsbury, so this division could be tightly knotted. The bad news: Receiver DeAndre Hopkins is suspended the first six games.

4. Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson was the heart of this franchise for a decade. It’s difficult to imagine them recapturing that with Geno Smith or Drew Lock at quarterback. The defense is rebuilding.

Ask the L.A. Times’ football team your questions about Los Angeles’ local teams and we will try to answer them.

Aug. 14, 2022


NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) takes part in throwing drills.
The Eagles are expecting quarterback Jalen Hurts to make huge strides in his second season as a starter.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)


1. Philadelphia Eagles: So much of this depends on the development of quarterback Jalen Hurts, but he has a lot of weapons and this team has made major strides on defense.

2. Dallas Cowboys: Talent-wise, the Cowboys and Eagles are comparable. Quarterback Dak Prescott can be exceptional, but there are a lot of question marks in that receiving corps.

3. New York Giants: Quarterback Daniel Jones is better than the team’s 12-25 record with him as the starter. The Giants will win some they shouldn’t and lose some they shouldn’t.

4. Washington Commanders: Carson Wentz feels like an 8-8 quarterback and now they won’t have pass rusher Chase Young for September. They could be underwater quickly.


NFC North

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers warms up before the start of a preseason game.
Does Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers need a star receiver or does he create them?
(Ed Zurga / Associated Press)

1. Green Bay Packers: Once again they are the class of this division and will contend for the NFC crown. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will miss receiver Davante Adams but make a star of someone else.

2. Minnesota Vikings: Here’s a change: They have an offensive-minded coach in Kevin O’Connell. Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen … the Vikings have weapons.


3. Detroit Lions: They play hard for coach Dan Campbell and won three of their last six games. They always seem to be in a rebuild. Aidan Hutchinson will help that defense.

4. Chicago Bears: Justin Fields is up and down, so the Bears don’t really know whether they’ve finally found a quarterback. The team has missed the playoffs in nine of 11 seasons.


NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady gets set for their preseason finale against the Indianapolis Colts.
This division could not have been thrilled to see Tom Brady come back from retirement.
(Zach Bolinger / Associated Press)

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: They might be the class of this division but can’t have any more injuries along the offensive line. Even at 45, quarterback Tom Brady can put up MVP numbers.

2. New Orleans Saints: Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees are gone, replaced by Dennis Allen and Jameis Winston. There still are playmakers on offense, but defense drives this team.


3. Atlanta Falcons: Coach Arthur Smith could breathe life back into quarterback Marcus Mariota’s career, and the Falcons will be better and gamble more on defense with coordinator Dean Peas at the helm.

4. Carolina Panthers: If running back Christian McCaffrey can stay healthy, and quarterback Baker Mayfield can rediscover some of that early potential, the Panthers could surprise some people.

A team-by-team look at how the division races in the AFC could play out during the 2022 NFL season.

Sept. 5, 2022