July 22, 2024

Ranking NFC teams from most to least pressure for 2024

With training camps set to begin in earnest at the end of July, NFL teams will start to hyperfocus on the season ahead.

Some teams face far greater expectations — and therefore pressure — than others. The white-hot spotlight is on you, Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons. What other teams face pressure-packed seasons?

We asked Yardbarker NFL writers to rank which teams face the most pressure in each division in the NFC, from most to least. (Season records from last season are in parentheses.)

NFC East

1. DALLAS COWBOYS (12-5) | Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hasn’t hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy since 1996. Now, star wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who wants a new contract, is likely to skip the team’s training camp. Like Lamb, quarterback Dak Prescott remains unsigned beyond next season, putting even more pressure on “America’s Team” to win this season.

2. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (11-6) | One year removed from an appearance in Super Bowl LVII, Philadelphia stumbled through a 1-5 finish to the 2023 regular season before losing 32-9 to the Buccaneers in the NFC wild-card game. Unlike the team’s offensive and defensive coordinators, head coach Nick Sirianni kept his job, but without a fast start, the win-now Eagles won’t hesitate to make big changes.

3. NEW YORK GIANTS (6-11) | The Giants are tied with Carolina with the second-worst odds to win Super Bowl LIX, per ESPN Bet, so their fans might be happy if their team simply protects its quarterback and rookie WR Malik Nabers plays well. New York allowed 85 sacks last season, second most in NFL history, and the sixth pick in the 2024 NFL Draft has a chance to become the team’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Odell Beckham in 2018.

4. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS (4-13) | With a new general manager (Adam Peters), a new head coach (Dan Quinn) and a Heisman Trophy-winning rookie quarterback (Jayden Daniels) running the offense, the Commanders have little pressure to do anything but get better in 2024. No team had a worse point differential (-189) than Washington last season, leaving it nowhere to go but up. — Bruce Ewing

NFC West

1. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (12-5) | It feels like it might be now or never when it comes to HC Kyle Shanahan and this 49ers team winning it all. It is really difficult to keep getting so close without actually winning a title, and the salary cap is going to start causing problems in keeping the talent on this team together, especially when QB Brock Purdy gets his new (and highly lucrative) contract.

2. LOS ANGELES RAMS (10-7) | The Rams have a limited window to win as starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, a 15-year veteran, gets closer to the end of his career. They have the skill-position players on offense to contend, but the Rams must hope their secondary additions were the right ones and that they can adequately replace future Hall of Fame defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

3. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9-8) | After three straight years of mediocrity, the Seahawks hit the reset button this offseason, replacing Pete Carroll (137-89-1 with Seattle) with rookie HC Mike Macdonald. There is some pressure to break the cycle of mediocrity and fix a defense that has been one of the worst in the league, but growing pains for a first-year coach should be expected.

4. ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-13) | Several Arizona players, namely QB Kyler Murray (3-5 as starter last season), face pressure. But few expect this rebuilding team to contend this season, especially not in this division and after back-to-back 4-13 seasons. — Adam Gretz

NFC North

1. DETROIT LIONS (12-5) | Per ESPN Bet, the Lions enter the season as the favorite to repeat as division champion and are among the short list of Super Bowl contenders. The pressure to live up to those expectations is tough to top, especially considering how quickly the title window can slam shut, even for a team as well-equipped as Detroit.

2. CHICAGO BEARS (7-10) | It’s hard to put high expectations on a team starting this year’s No. 1 pick, Caleb Williams, at quarterback. But the Bears are seemingly in win-now mode after significantly bolstering the cast around him. Considering the team’s offseason improvements and the hype surrounding Williams and others, Chicago could face changes at the top, starting with head coach Matt Eberflus, without a significant jump from last season’s finish.

3. GREEN BAY PACKERS (9-8) | Following a disappointing 8-9 finish in 2022, the Packers returned to the NFC North discussion ahead of schedule following quarterback Jordan Love’s breakout campaign (4,159 yards passing, 32 TD passes in 2023) and a run to the divisional round of the playoffs last season. Now, 2024 will be more pivotal than previously thought for Green Bay as it looks to prove that last season wasn’t a mirage.

4. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (7-10) | The Vikings added former Packers star running back Aaron Jones to one of the more potent offenses, but they apparently will start journeyman Sam Darnold at QB, which is hardly exciting. If anything, that should take pressure off Minnesota, especially while the franchise seems content to play the waiting game with its first-round pick, QB J.J. McCarthy. — Mike Santa Barbara

NFC South

1. ATLANTA FALCONS (7-10) | Over the past two offseasons, the Falcons have spent big in free agency, signing safety Jessie Bates III in 2023 and, more recently, quarterback Kirk Cousins. With ascending offensive weapons, including wide receiver Drake London, tight end Kyle Pitts and running back Bijan Robinson, Atlanta must end its six-year playoff drought.

2. CAROLINA PANTHERS (2-15) | Despite only entering his second year in the league, Bryce Young (59.8 completion percentage, 2,877 yards in 2023) has arguably more pressure on him than any quarterback this season. If the Panthers repeat their 2023 season and are at the top of the draft order in 2025, it’s difficult imagining them not selecting his replacement.

3. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (9-8) | Can Dennis Allen survive a third consecutive season without leading the Saints to the playoffs? Per Action Network, New Orleans (+350) is only ahead of the Panthers (+1100) in odds to win the NFC South this season.

4. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (9-8) | While the Bucs are facing the least pressure entering 2024, they should still have a sense of urgency. The best team in the NFC South for the past four seasons, Tampa Bay must take advantage of the division while it’s the worst in the NFL. — Eric Smithling