Looking ahead to the second quarter of the 2018 season, a round up of the NFL’s divisional leaders, examining which teams are most likely to hold their high ground.
AFC East — Miami Dolphins Overall: 3-1; Division: 1-1
Best win: 27-20 Week 1 victory over Tennessee
Outlook: Aside from defeating the Titans in the now longest game in league history, the Dolphins have defeated weak teams in the Raiders and Jets. Coming off an embarrassing showing in Foxborough, the Patriots dominance over the AFC East will likely usurp Miami’s hot start. Still, Ryan Tannehill’s successful return from his ACL injury and the team’s league-high nine interceptions provide hope for a wild card berth.
AFC North — Cincinnati Bengals Overall: 3-1; Division: 1-0
Best win: 34-23 win over the Ravens in Week 2
Outlook: Baltimore’s Week 2 loss could prove pivotal down the stretch, but the Bengals have yet to face any other divisional opponents. If the Ravens can come away with another divisional road victory this week in Cleveland, the pressure will certainly build for the Bengals when they host the Steelers in Week 6. Still, the Bengals are known for their regular season proficiency, and Andy Dalton has already thrown for 1,197 yards in just four games.
AFC South — Tennessee Titans Overall: 3-1; Division: 2-0
Best win: 9-6 Week 3 triumph over the Jaguars
Outlook: With an ugly road win over Jacksonville in their pocket, the Titans provided themselves with some breathing room in the division. On a three game winning streak, Tennessee has proven to be a gritty team, most recently taking down the defending champs in overtime. Despite being largely lost in the national media, Marcus Mariota and the Titans are in a good spot to return to the playoffs.
AFC West — Kansas City Chiefs Overall: 4-0; Division: 2-0
Best win: 27-23 Week 4 comeback against the Broncos
Outlook: Even with the play-clock controversy from Kansas City’s Monday Night Football win over Denver, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense have been the storyline of the season thus far. Mahomes has a 126.5 passer rating, 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions, throwing for 1,200 yards in the first quarter of the year. With no other team in the division above .500, the undefeated Chiefs are sitting pretty. The real question is whether their defensive unit, which is dead last in the NFL for total defense, will eventually jeopardize their offensive fire power.
NFC East — Washington Redskins Overall: 2-1; Division (0-0)
Best win: 31-17 win over the Packers in Week 3
Outlook: Lost in the shuffle of Cowboys, Eagles and Giants headlines, is that Washington has taken the divisional lead. While they will not face a divisional opponent until Week 7 when they host Dallas, a 33-year-old Adrian Peterson rushed for 120 yards against Green Bay, Alex Smith has thrown just one pick this year and their defense is ranked third in the league behind Jacksonville and Baltimore. As the rest of the NFC East deals with ups and downs and media scrutiny, Washington may just sneak past them all to take the title.
NFC North — Chicago Bears Overall: 3-1; Division (0-1)
Best win: 48-10 smashing of the Buccaneers in Week 4
Outlook: Khalil Mack has been the toast of the NFL, recording five sacks, four forced fumbles, an interception and a defensive touchdown in 2018. Last week, Mitchell Trubisky delivered his best performance of his short career, throwing six touchdown passes, completing 73.1 percent of his passes and finishing the day with a 154.6 passer rating. If Trubisky can prove that Week 4 was not a fluke, then the Bears defense and an emerging sophomore quarterback could hold off the Packers and the Vikings, who will likely make runs down the stretch.
NFC South — New Orleans Saints Overall: 3-1; Division (1-1)
Best win: 43-37 Week 3 victory over the Falcons
Outlook: After being caught off guard by Ryan Fitzpatrick to the open the season, the Saints have a top five offense headlined by Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. While the defense is ranked 24th, Defensive end Cameron Jordan already has four sacks on the year. With the Atlanta Falcons sitting at a surprising 1-3 and FitzMagic extinguished in Tampa Bay, the Panthers may be the only viable competition for New Orleans.
NFC West— Los Angeles Rams Overall 4-0; Division (1-0)
Best win: 38-24 win over the Vikings in Week 4
Outlook: As the only undefeated NFC team, the Rams have the league’s number one ranked offense and a top ten defense to complement it. Through four games, Brandin Cooks has 452 receiving yards in his first season with the team, Todd Gurley has rushed for 338 yards and Jared Goff has thrown for 1,406 yards. Los Angeles matched up with inferior teams in Week 1 (Raiders) and Week 2 (Cardinals), but has played more formidable opponents in the last two weeks (Chargers and Vikings). With the Seahawks struggling to find an identity without their defensive star power, the 49ers losing Jimmy Garoppolo to an ACL injury and the Cardinals still searching for their first win of the season, the Rams are comfortable in the division and likely will be more concerned about chasing a playoff bye.