Last season only two teams, the Patriots and Texans, managed to retain their divisional crowns from the previous season as the other six lost out and had to fight for wildcard spots. Looking forward to the 2017 season, I don't think they'll be as large a turnover as the previous year, however I can see their being four new divisions champs come January, two in each conference. Below are the four teams I expect to lose the top spot in their respective divisions in 2017.
Atlanta Falcons - NFC South
The laws of physics state "What goes up must come down" and this will be no more true than with the Atlanta Falcons in 2017. Kyle Shanahan's Falcons offence was electrifying last year as Matt Ryan claimed the NFL MVP award and Atlanta made their first Super Bowl since 1999, but they have one big problem coming into this season; Shanahan is gone!
I have no doubt that their young defence will be improved as many players return from injury and also I think Dontari Poe can make a huge impact on the defensive line, however I see a large regression on offence and, with the South looking strong this year, I don't think the Falcons will be able to retain their crown. Instead I see the number one spot in the division being owned by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come the end of the season as Jameis Winston and company become the new offensive powerhouses in the NFC. The Super Bowl hangover is set to strike once again!
Dallas Cowboys - NFC East
The Cowboys went from worst to first in the division last year as rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott led Dallas to the number one seed in the NFC. While many have the Cowboys tipped to repeat last season's success, I am not one jumping on the band waggon down in Dallas.
A big problem for Jerry Jones and his boys is the lack of talent on defence, in particular in the secondary. On top of this, Dallas lack pass rushers, a killer when you have weaknesses at both the cornerback and safety position. The scarcity of top players on defence will put even more pressure on the Cowboys offence and, as more teams workout ways to stop Dak, I can see them struggling to produce the same numbers as last year.
So while the Cowboys seem set to regress, I don't feel this can be said for either the Giants or the Eagles, two teams who have certainly strengthened this offseason. I expect Eli and all his shiny weapons and elite defence to win the East this year while the Cowboys and Eagles scrap for a potential wildcard spot.
Houston Texans - AFC South
The past two years the Texans defence has managed to carry the team to the number one spot in the division despite them continuing to have huge problems on offence, particularly in the quarterback department. Their divisional dominance has mainly been due to the poor records of their rivals as back to back 9-7 seasons have been enough to claim the South on both occasions. However, this year I'm expecting the Texans to lose their crown to the young and talented Titans as Tennessee aim to win their first division title since 2008.
The starting quarterback job still remains a huge question mark in Houston as the Texans must decide between backup Tom Savage and rookie DeShaun Watson and neither option is particularly inspiring. The Titans on the other hand have a potentially elite quarterback in Marcus Mariota, a top three offensive line and one of the most feared backfields in the NFL as well as an improved receiving corps in 2017 after the drafting of Corey Davis and the free agency signing of veteran Eric Decker.
As always in the NFL, there's a chance that injuries could wreck the Titans' year but if they manage to stay healthy I see them as the team to beat in AFC South.
Kansas City Chiefs - AFC West
I'd say KC were slightly lucky to win the division in 2016 as I feel the Raiders would have just edged their final game in Denver had Derek Carr not have broken his leg the previous week and that extra which win would have taken Oakland to 13-3 and given them the number two seed in the AFC.
This year, I fully expect the Raiders to overtake the Chiefs and claim the bragging rights in the West. This is mainly due to the fact that, as I look at the rosters, the Raiders are in an even stronger position than last year, whereas the Chiefs have lost a few key components. The loss of Dontari Poe will certainly be felt and although the releasing of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin has helped the Chiefs financially, it has left a large hole in the KC receiving corps. In contrast, the Raiders kept hold of almost all of their starters and the players they did let go, such as running back Latavius Murray, were replaced by those of equal, if not superior ability, including veteran Marshawn Lynch.
Not only do I think the Chiefs will lose the AFC West to the Oakland Raiders, I wouldn't be surprised if they got overtaken by the LA Chargers as well. The Chargers' roster is loaded with talent and, barring injuries, I can see them challenging for a playoff spot.
Mowlem is a sports writer from Reading, United Kingdom. All articles are written by Reece Mowlem (unless stated otherwise).