Part 4 of our series covering each division and the final standings reviews the NFC North
The teams in the NFC North seem to be on a collision course for each other, but not really anyone else in the league. The only regularly competitive team in this division is the Green Bay Packers, who end up in the playoffs most years, but haven’t been able to close it out since 2011. The Packers aren’t the only team in the division, although that isn’t the story, depending on who you ask. There’s usually a clear winner and this year is shaping up to see Aaron Rodgers and the Packers run the table another time. But don’t count out the other teams just yet. Except maybe the Bears. You can probably count them out.
Green Bay Packers
As stated above, the Packers are likely to run the table again this year. With one of the top quarterbacks in the game and a seasoned coach who knows how to win, the team gets good reviews every year. This offseason, they added a monster tight end, luring Martellus Bennett away from the Patriots. They lost a decent tight end and added a Black Unicorn. His words, not mine. Although, he is a special player who most teams would give at least a pinkie finger to sign.
The team was relatively quiet otherwise, other than losing 7 free agents. Eddie Lacy left, which didn’t seem to hurt anyone’s feeling, but some of the others might hurt, including safety Micah Hyde, a dynamic young safety who moved on to join the Bills. They also lost right guard T.J. Lang to their division rivals, the Detroit Lions. As everyone knows, it’s never good to lose a lineman, especially when you lose your center as well. Speaking of which, center J.C. Tretter left as well. The Packers have some work to do to protect Aaron Rodgers. If they can, they’ll be solid as usual.
The Minnesota Vikings had a great start to their 2016 season, despite the loss of their starting QB Teddy Bridgewater, and addition of question mark-QB Sam Bradford. The questions were quickly answered, as Bradford took ownership of the team and ended up with the best year of his career, completing 71.6% for 3,877 yards.
Regardless of Bradford’s success, the Vikings just couldn’t break through to overcome the Detroit Lions and take second place in the division. If the defense can play up to their full potential, the Vikings can challenge for that number two spot, and possibly give the Packers dynasty a run for their money.
Last year, the Lions managed to finish second in the division, earning a wild card spot. They’re really trying to get rid of that tarnished image that has plagued them for decades. They finally have a franchise quarterback and a solid receiving corp. If they can find some solutions to the defensive inconsistency, they may actually silence some of those naysayers. Not all of them because they are the Lions, after all. You can never please all of the people all the time.
With Stafford’s record-setting 8 late-game comeback wins in 2016, the Lions looked like they were in prime pouncing position to make a solid run for first place. But unfortunately, the rest of the team couldn’t keep up. Common sense says that if your whole team plays to that level, you wouldn’t have to make late-game comebacks. This year, the Lions have some renewed hope, having picked up some skill players in several positions, not just focusing on one area of the field. With the new blood on the field and promising young running back Zack Zenner, the Lions are able to surprise people. If they choose to do it. If last year was any indication, head coach Jim Caldwell won’t refocus his attention appropriately to the run game. Maybe Jim Bob Cooter can talk some sense into him.
The bottom of the barrel, this once great football force has become anything but. The Bears had an 8-0 start not too long ago, but haven’t been able to return to that glory since. They drop another couple of games every year, the last couple of seasons looking miserable. They lost their best receiver, Alshon Jeffery, leaving them with, well, we’re not sure. They have a new QB in Mike Glennon, who spent the last few years sitting behind Jameis Winston in Tampa. Is he a starter? Who knows, the Bears haven’t had much luck in that area to speak of. Not for a few decades, anyway.
Given the strength of their division rivals, Da Bears will have another rough go of it this year. The outlook is grim for the foreseeable future, but you never know. Lightning might strike. We can count on them having another top 10 draft pick next year, that’s for sure.
First Place – Anyone would be hard-pressed to go against Aaron Rodger and the Packers. They have a big new tight end to target, but their secondary was an issue last year. Maybe the personnel changes will rejuvenate the team and bump them back to elite status. Right now, they’re good enough for the best in the north
Second Place – It is difficult to say whether the Lions can inch out the Vikings again, but I think they can. Matthew Stafford has shown that he is a closer, but the rest of the team has to help him out. Eric Ebron has guaranteed a good season and if he delivers and the Lions decide to give Stafford’s arm a break by handing the ball off, they a good chance to make it back to the post-season.
Third Place – Losing a dog fight with the Lions, the Vikings will take third again and narrowly miss the playoffs. As long as Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t step back in, the team might still surprise everyone and pull into second. If he’s back, it’s an easy fall to third. His only target, Adrian Peterson, is gone. So he won’t know what to do with the ball.
Fourth Place – Do we really need to beat up the Bears any more? It’ll be another season in the basement for Chicago. Maybe they’ll have better draft next year. Or maybe Mitchell Trubisky will make the 49ers regret trading down. After all, he could be the next Dak Prescott. Probably not.
For more NFL news and info, follow me on Twitter @fandria7