The balance of power in the NFL keeps shifting to the AFC.
The trade of Matt Ryan from Atlanta to Indianapolis becomes the latest move involving a highly talented veteran player leaving an NFC team for an AFC team.
In the past week, Russell Wilson was traded by Seattle to Denver, Davante Adams was shipped by the Packers to the Raiders, Amari Cooper‘s contract was dumped by the Cowboys to the Browns, Khalil Mack was dealt by the Bears to the Chargers, and now Ryan goes from the Falcons to the Colts.
In free agency, Brandon Scherff left Washington for Jacksonville, Von Miller migrated from Southern California to Western New York, Chandler Jones made the quick trip from Phoenix to Vegas, and Randy Gregory ditched Dallas for Denver.
Even Deshaun Watson sort of bailed on the NFC for the AFC, with his two final teams (Atlanta and New Orleans) losing out at the eleventh hour to the Browns.
It’s arguably the biggest imbalance of veteran talent since the merger. It will make it excruciatingly difficult for the AFC representative to earn a spot in Super Bowl LVII. In turn, it becomes a lot easier to navigate the NFC field. Then, when it’s time to play the Super Bowl, the AFC team may have nothing left, after running a gauntlet of great teams to get there.
Consider the current AFC: Cincinnati, Buffalo, Kansas City, Tennessee, Cleveland, Baltimore, New England, L.A., Las Vegas, Denver. That’s nine significant contenders, but only seven playoff spots. Throw in Miami, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis, and that’s 13 extremely viable contenders.
Too bad for the Jets, Jaguars, and Texans.
In the NFC, the Buccaneers get the biggest boost. They’ve unexpectedly kept Tom Brady, and they’ve otherwise retained key players and beefed up elsewhere. The Rams also should be in good shape. The 49ers will contend, if Trey Lance is ready. And the Packers will be viable, although perhaps not quite as strong without Adams.