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Is this the season for Carolina to get themselves back in the hunt?
  1. NFL

NFL - US Sports: Which NFL division looks the strongest at this stage?

Training camps are under way and, as teams integrate new players and coaches get to know them, we can really start to assess where the power lies in the NFL.

The NFC West sent two teams to the conference championship game last season, but an animated period of free agency has probably seen it surpassed as the best division in football.

Here's our take on where each division ranks going into the 2022 season.

1. AFC West

The sun may be setting on the NFC West, but in the AFC West all four teams are on the rise after loading up on top-tier talent this past spring.

They are expected to exceed their combined tally of 38 regular season wins in 2021 with the Denver Broncos, +130 to have over 10.5, and the Los Angeles Chargers, +110 for over 10.5, strengthening significantly in a bid to knock the six-time division champions Kansas City off their perch.

The Chiefs lost Tyreek Hill but managed to improve the defense substantially and provide receiving options for the immensely-talented Patrick Mahomes. They will also return all five starters from an offensive line that ranked among the league's best.

Spare a thought for the Las Vegas Raiders, who would be considered serious playoff contenders in any other division - and still might be here. Silver and Black, -115 to record more than 8.5 wins, acquired one of the premier receivers in football in the Davante Adams trade and improved aspects of their defense in free agency too.

2. AFC East

The AFC East should be more competitive than last year when the Buffalo Bills, +600 to win Super Bowl LVII, reigned supreme for a second straight Tom Brady-less season.

The Bills won five of six against their intra-division rivals - their only loss coming in a bizarre Monday night game affected by winds greater than 40 miles per hour when New England ran the ball 46 times and only threw three passes.

The Patriots will need all the tricks left in Bill Belichick's book just to remain in second place given how much improvement is expected from the Miami Dolphins and, to a lesser extent, the New York Jets.

The Fins, +140 to make the playoffs, have the roster to make a run for a wild card berth and an exciting young coach at the helm in Yale graduate Mike McDaniel.

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If the Bills, with Von Miller adding to their defensive weapons, rule again they could potentially earn the AFC's top seed for the playoffs and ensure there's no return to trip to Arrowhead Stadium to negotiate in the postseason.

3. NFC West

The four teams combined for 40 regular season wins last season, the most of any division, sent two teams to the conference title game and provided the Super Bowl winner.

Statistically, it was the NFL's true power in 2021 - but there's been a significant talent drain this offseason and a couple of teams now have question marks hanging over them.

The Rams, +1000 to repeat their Super Bowl success, are still a class act stacked with talent on both sides of the ball. General manager Les Snead kept almost all of their playmakers happy with new contracts and enticed Bobby Wagner over from Seattle to replace Miller.

Now it falls on Sean McVay to keep those stars hungry enough to chase another ring. They were only 3-3 within their division last year, so there's some scope to improve there and all three of their NFC West rivals have been diminished in some way or other.

The Cardinals, who will be without star wideout DeAndre Hopkins for the first six weeks because of a suspension, lost veteran linebacker Chandler Jones in free agency and didn't address a worrying weakness in their secondary.

The 49ers are giving up on Jimmy Garoppolo and pushing all their chips behind second-year QB Trey Lance, which is a gamble that could go either way.

4. AFC North

This division, +600 in Division of Super Bowl winner, could be turned on its head from the 2021 final standings with both the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns looking stronger going into the new season.

But none of the protagonists are among the first nine in Super Bowl odds.

5. NFC South

Will things heat up in the south? Most believe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who racked up 13 wins last season, will hold all the power again and the other three will struggle to make it to double-digit win totals.

6. NFC North

Only the Green Bay Packers, +1200 for the Super Bowl win, produced a winning record in 2021 and it's likely to be much the same again this year.

7. NFC East

Dominated by the Dallas Cowboys, who were the only team to win all six divisional matchups last year, the NFC East remains lopsided and that hasn't benefitted the winner when they have moved into the postseason.

8. AFC South

Still the worst division in football. The AFC South quartet of Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans are not expected to make much impact in the postseason.

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