Best-Case Scenario: 12-4. Ezekiel Elliott lives up to the hype, rushing for over 1,500 yards while Tony Romo stays healthy and at Pro Bowl level. With the rushing attack keeping opposing defenses on the field, Dallas’ defense stays off the field.
Worst-Case Scenario: 4-12. Romo goes down with injury and the loss sinks the Cowboys’ season again.
Projection: 9-7. For the most part, Romo stays healthy and the Cowboys win their last three games, giving them the NFC East crown.
New York Giants
Best-Case Scenario: 11-5. With rookie Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham Jr. carving up defenses and the free agent acquisitions working out as planned, the Giants return to the postseason for the first time since 2011.
Worst-Case Scenario: 6-10. New York’s defense, which ranked as one of football’s worst in recent seasons, falters again.
Projection: 9-7. With new head coach Ben McAdoo at the helm, the Giants improve, but a late-season collapse, including losses to Philly and Washington, dooms the G-Men.
Best-Case Scenario: 12-4. Kirk Cousins shows that he is the definite answer at franchise quarterback while a bolstered secondary ranks as one of the league’s best.
Worst-Case Scenario: 5-11. The quarterback woes in Washington continue as Cousins flops and the rushing attack provides little to no support.
Projection: 6-10. Cousins returns to Earth and the Skins fall out of contention after a surprising playoff berth last year.
Best-Case Scenario: 9-7. Chip Kelly’s departure is addition by subtraction for the Eagles. Quarterback Sam Bradford stays on the field for all sixteen games and the defense is the best in the division.
Worst-Case Scenario: 2-14. With Bradford suffering yet another injury, Philly bounces between him, Chase Daniel, and rookie Carson Wentz.
Projection: 2-14. Philadelphia experiences a nightmarish 2016 by losing 12 of their first 13 games, but Wentz provides glimpses of greatness in the end of the season.
Best-Case Scenario: 14-2. Minnesota’s offensive line steadies and the Vikings establish themselves as a real Super Bowl contender. Teddy Bridgewater takes his game up a notch and merits conversation about him as an elite quarterback.
Worst-Case Scenario: 8-8. The Vikings take a step backward after last year’s division title, as Adrian Peterson catches the injury bug and the offense becomes stagnant.
Projection: 11-5. Minnesota starts out with four quality wins, but it takes a Week 16 win over Green Bay to seal their second straight division crown. Peterson captures another rushing title and the defense finishes as the best in the league.
Green Bay Packers
Best-Case Scenario: 14-2. Aaron Rodgers and the Pack get back on track. With receiver Jordy Nelson back on the field and Eddie Lacy in football shape, the offense is dynamic, while the underrated defense shuts down opponents.
Worst-Case Scenario: 9-7. A middling running game and drop off from the defense causes Green Bay fall under ten wins, but it is still good enough for a wild card bid.
Projection: 11-5. Rodgers has another stellar, MVP-type year, and while the offense doesn’t live up to its potential, the Packers finish neck and neck with the Vikings.
Best-Case Scenario: 10-6. Jay Cutler becomes a franchise quarterback and like coach John Fox’s previous two teams (Panthers and Broncos) the Bears jump into contention in Year 2. Chicago’s defense goes from mediocre to stingy and the receiving duo of Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White can’t be contained.
Worst-Case Scenario: 4-12. Cutler goes down with an injury and the Bears’ recent roster moves don’t pan out.
Projection: 9-7. Chicago surprises with a strong 2016, but in the toughest division in football the Bears miss out on the playoffs.
Best-Case Scenario: 9-7. Matthew Stafford leads the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns and Detroit’s defense, led by pass rusher Ziggy Ansah, is the best in the division.
Worst-Case Scenario: 2-14. Without Calvin Johnson snagging passes and Ndamukong Suh clogging up the middle on defense, along with an injury to Stafford, the Lions flat out stink.
Projection: 4-12. Life in the NFC North is tough and the Lions start out 3-9. Stafford is inconsistent and doesn’t get any help from the rushing attack or receivers.
Best-Case Scenario: 14-2. Carolina picks up right where it left off, regaining its position as the best team in the league. Cam Newton garners MVP consideration and gets a number one receiver in Kelvin Benjamin.
Worst-Case Scenario: 9-7. Without Josh Norman, the Panthers’ secondary is picked apart and Newton is alone on an island on offense.
Projection: 11-5. While it isn’t last year’s dominant campaign, Carolina’s 2016 season is respectable and the Panthers easily win the NFC South.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Best-Case Scenario: 10-6. Jameis Winston becomes the next Cam Newton and running back Doug Martin repeats his success from last season. Tampa’s defense, led by former Falcons coach Mike Smith, finishes in the top three of the NFL.
Worst-Case Scenario: 3-13. Tampa’s offensive line is in shambles and the defense never makes the leap from decent to elite.
Projection: 9-7. In head coach Dirk Koetter’s first season, the Buccaneers jump into the playoff conversation with Pro Bowl level play across the field.
New Orleans Saints
Best-Case Scenario: 9-7. Quarterback Drew Brees shows that he still has gas left in the tank and running back Mark Ingram stays healthy for a whole year.
Worst-Case Scenario: 4-12. New Orleans’ defense is one of the worst in the league, and regression from Brees spells a forgettable season by the Bayou.
Projection: 7-9. For the third straight year, the Saints finish a shade under .500. Brees produces eye-popping stats and Brandin Cooks finishes with over 1,200 receiving yards, but the defense can’t hold down opponents.
Best-Case Scenario: 10-6. Matt Ryan rebounds from a horrific 2015 and Devonta Freeman backs up his outstanding stats from last year with another stellar year.
Worst-Case Scenario: 2-14. The Falcons’ defense is again one of the league’s worst and Kyle Shanahan’s offense is a disaster once again.
Projection: 6-10. Atlanta is far from playoff contention as Ryan can’t regain his footing as an elite quarterback.
Best-Case Scenario: 15-1. The Cardinals produce a Panther-esque season and head into the NFC playoffs with home field advantage. Quarterback Carson Palmer stays healthy.
Worst-Case Scenario: 10-6. Palmer is on and off the field and safety Tyrann Mathieu also catches the injury bug.
Projection: 12-4. The Cardinals are the class of the NFC. Mathieu is the Defensive Player of the Year in his first full season and running back David Johnson gives the offense balance.
Best-Case Scenario: 12-4. Halfback Thomas Rawls does his best Marshawn Lynch impression and Seattle boasts one of the best offenses and defenses.
Worst-Case Scenario: 8-8. Injuries to the rushing attack put the burden on quarterback Russell Wilson and Seattle’s defense finally falls from grace.
Projection: 9-7. The Seahawks take another step back but swoop in to catch the final wild card spot in Week 17.
Los Angeles Rams
Best-Case Scenario: 10-6. Los Angeles finally breaks through. Todd Gurley leads the league in rushing and the defense, anchored by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Aaron Donald, is a force to be reckoned with. First overall pick Jared Goff lives up to the hype.
Worst-Case Scenario: 5-11. Even in a new city, the Rams can’t find a solution at quarterback and are again stuck in the mud.
Projection: 8-8. Goff shows promise and Gurley dominates, but the Rams aren’t good enough to top the Seahawks for the last Wild Card spot.
San Francisco 49ers
Best-Case Scenario: 7-9. New coach Chip Kelly rejuvenates the Niners and quarterback Colin Kaepernick finds his 2012 form.
Worst-Case Scenario: 1-15. A weak roster without any strengths finishes as one of the worst 49er teams ever and Kap and Blaine Gabbert struggle in a division loaded with top-notch defenses.
Projection: 2-14. It’s a rebuilding year in San Francisco. Kelly’s first season is a flop, but he gets another chance to right the ship in 2017 with a new franchise quarterback.