The second round of four pre-season fixtures for each of the 32 franchises in the NFL was Bet365 NFL American footballcompleted over the weekend and the teams now enter the final two weeks of preparations before the start of the new season which begins on the 7th September with the Superbowl holders the Philadelphia Eagles beginning their defence of the title on the road at the Atlanta Falcons.

Once underway, the regular season will be contested over 17 weeks up until the end of the year, with each team playing 16 times, eight at home, eight on the road against a mixture of divisional opponents and others from both conferences.

The NFL is one of the most brutal and tough seasons in all of sport and each year the same 32 teams contest the eight divisional titles, with four teams in each division. We have outlined each division below in the AFC and the NFC and we will preview the latest odds on each of the AFC and NFC divisional titles (courtesy of bet365 Sport) before bringing you our lowdown on who to back in each division to win and whether any of the other teams stand a chance of making the playoffs.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the current odds for the AFC divisional titles.

*Odds correct as of 13.30 GMT on Monday August 20

AFC East

  • New England Patriots
  • Miami Dolphins
  • Buffalo Bills
  • New York Jets

There’s no surprises in the AFC East where once again Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots, with veteran quarterback Tom Brady still at the helm, will likely dominate the division once again. The Patriots record in this division is astonishing. Since 2001, they have only failed to win the division twice (once in 2002 when New York Jets won the division and once in 2008, when Miami Dolphins were the winners).

New England will likely dominate this division once again and they are undoubtedly the obvious pick here. That’s for two reasons, firstly, they are one of the best teams in the NFL and secondly, the AFC East has been perennially one of the poorest leagues in terms of team quality for several years.

Miami and Buffalo will be hoping to change that this season, but it is fair to say that neither have made the massive strides required to bridge the gap to the Patriots, while it would be a big surprise if the Jets didn’t finish bottom of this division,  given their problems in recent times.

  • AFC East Winner – The New England Patriots by a mile
  • AFC East Wildcards – None, Buffalo may go close but I think they’ll lose out in the end.

AFC North

  • Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Cincinnati Bengals
  • Cleveland Browns

If the AFC East should have an easy to pick winner, then I think the same is true of the AFC North where Pittsburgh with the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will be the clear favourites. They may not be as strong a defensive unit as in previous years but they should still have enough to get the job done.

They’ll face a big test from both the Ravens and the Bengals who have both enjoyed solid pre-season so far. Of the two, I think the Bengals are probably just about the better of the two teams, but they are a side that do struggle for consistency and lack experience of winning the big games.

Don’t rule out Cleveland though. With so many solid draft picks this year, the team that has been the laughing stock of the NFL for many years may well have a much bigger say in this division and I think they will win a lot more games than people are expecting.

  • AFC North Winner – Pittsburgh to win again, but this will be close. A 9-7 season may be enough to land the championship here.
  • AFC North Wildcards – None – Not convinced any of the other three teams will win enough games.

AFC South

  • Houston Texans
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Tennessee Titans
  • Indianapolis Colts

This could be a sparkling division with the Jaguars defence the best in the NFL against the Texans offence, which is one of the best in the NFL and an emerging Titans team that have one of the best balanced teams in the NFL.

The Colts are definitely fourth best here, but in Andrew Luck they have a quarterback who can produce sensational results against any team, so even they cannot be ruled out entirely.

I am expecting all four teams here to produce solid records and I would not be surprised if both Wild Card teams in the AFC herald from this division. It’ll be close but I reckon Jacksonville just about edge this, perhaps one game better than Houston who in turn may be just one game better than Tennessee.

  • AFC South Winner – This will be hugely close, but I’m backing Jacksonville to grab the win by the narrowest of margins.
  • AFC South Wildcards – I think both Wildcards in the AFC may come from the south with Houston and Tennessee likely to be pushing hard for them.

AFC West

  • Los Angeles Chargers
  • Oakland Raiders
  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Denver Broncos

I think of all the divisions in the AFC this is the weakest and perhaps the most open. You could make a case for any team to win this division and while the bookmakers favour the Chargers, I think Oakland are the best set of all four teams to take the win here.

I think Denver are still rebuilding while Kansas City are on the slide after having a decent season or two. The Chargers will improve but I don’t think they are consistent enough, especially on the road, to get enough wins to challenge at the top. Oakland to win a tight division for me.

  • AFC West Winner – I’m not on the Charger’s bandwagon, I think Oakland will take the win here.
  • AFC West Wildcards – Not sure any of the remaining three teams will win enough times to earn a playoff spot.

Let’s now take a look at the odds for the four divisions in the NFC

*Odds correct as of 13.30 GMT on Monday August 20

NFC East

  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Dallas Cowboys
  • New York Giants
  • Washington Redskins

I am expecting last year’s Superbowl winners, the Philadelphia Eagles, to land the NFC East once again, but I am expecting it to be a close run thing, I think all of the Cowboys, Giants and Redskins will improve on last season and I think the Eagles won’t have it all their own way.

Of the three teams to challenge the Eagles, I think the Cowboys will fade a little from last season and the Redkins were too far behind to make up in one year. The Giants though have a real chance of a Wildcard spot, if they can find their best form and improve on defense.

  • NFC East Winner – The Eagles won’t have it all their own way this season but they should still be good enough to win the NFC East.
  • NFC East Wildcards – I think the Giants will push hard this season and could be a surprise Wild Card team following a disappointing 2017.

NFC North

  • Minnesota Vikings
  • Green Bay Packers
  • Detroit Lions
  • Chicago Bears

There’s not much to discuss here in my view as we have two top quality teams in Minnesota and Green Bay with Detroit and Chicago lagging some way behind.

I can’t make a convincing case for the Lions or Bears to close the gap on the top two teams and similarly, I think the Vikings are still the class act here, although if the Packers can keep Aaron Rodgers fit for the 16-game season, they’ll push them close.

Expect the Vikings and Packers to dominate this division well clear of the Lions and Bears.

  • NFC North Winner – This will be tough but I think the Vikings will just edge out the Packers here.
  • NFC North Wildcards – I expect a real battle between the Vikings, Detroit and Green Bay and I think the Packers will claim a Wild Card spot.

NFC South

  • Atlanta Falcons
  • New Orleans Saints
  • Carolina Panthers
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This looks like being a hugely competitive division and you can make cases for any of the four teams winning the division, even Tampa who have been the perennial under-achievers in the NFC South for some time.

I think all three of the Falcons, Saints and Panthers are not quite as strong as they used to be, while Tampa have improved, but I think the Saints have slightly the stronger coach and a great quarterback in Drew Brees.

However, the Panthers have a great defence and in Cam Newton a quarterback who seems to drag his team to victory at times. In what could be a division that is won by a single game, I think the Panthers defence will be the crucial factor to edge them to the title. I also feel the Saints will make the playoffs, while Atlanta and Tampa could both go close.

  • NFC South Winner – I think this along with the AFC South is the most competitive of all the divisions. I’m backing Carolina to spring a surprise here and land the title.
  • NFC South Wildcards – Tampa and Atlanta will have their say but I think the Saints will be the Wildcard qualifier from this division.

NFC West

  • Los Angeles Rams
  • San Francisco 49ers
  • Seattle Seahawks
  • Arizona Cardinals

The NFC West is I think cut and dried for this season as I can’t see any team having the quality to challenge the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams are a young outfit who won this division last year and I only see them improving this time around, while both Seattle and Arizona are transitioning from older rosters and the 49ers have been dismal for the past five years or so.

Pete Carroll will always have his Seahawks up for a game and I think they will be the toughest test for the Rams here, but I can see the Rams winning all six of their divisional games and if they do, they could stand a great chance of securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

  • NFC West Winner – I think the LA Rams are the class act in this division and will take this comfortably.
  • NFC West Wildcards – Not convinced by the quality in this division and I don’t think any of the three other teams will earn a Wild Card spot.