The NFC North is arguably the best division in the NFL on paper. The race for first place will be hotly-contested, mainly by the Packers and Vikings. However, there could be a dark horse amongst the pack. Looking at you, Detroit Lions.
The Vikings played a fairytale playoff campaign last season. Despite being defeated by the Eagles in the Divisional Round, the Vikings looked dangerous. The defence remains the best asset up north, with Pro-Bowlers Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes and Anthony Barr returning to the lineup. Furthermore, arguably the best safety in the league, Harrison Smith, returns with his sights set on taking his team to the promised land.Embed from Getty Images
There have been huge changes on offence this year. Both Case Keemun and Teddy Bridgewater were shipped out of Minnesota, making room for the ever-reliable Kirk Cousins. This change is certain to ruffle feathers up north, but when Cousins brings his A-game, he can be dynamite in and out of the pocket.
The Packers were bereft of their most vital player last year, which saw them end an eight-year streak of reaching the playoffs. However, two-time NFL MVP award winner Aaron Rodgers is fit this year.Embed from Getty Images
In addition, the signing of Jimmy Graham from the Seahawks will significantly bolsters the offence. Davante Adams is also a large contributor offensively, who looks to have a breakout year which will see him mentioned in the same breath as Antonio Brown and Julio Jones.
On the other hand, Rodgers’ most favoured target and friend, Jordy Nelson, was released and joined the Raiders this year. This may have a negative effect on chemistry at Lambeau Field.
However, the departure of Morgan Burnett leaves them lacking veteran leadership. Moreover, there is a lack of pass rush on this defence, which may hamper their attempts to snag first place.
The Detroit Lions are the dark horse of the division.
The hiring of Matt Patricia from the Patriots is a significant acquisition. His New England experience stands him in good stead to succeed.
The Lions have some great players on the roster. On offence they have Matt Stafford, Legarette Blount, Golden Tate III and Marvin Jones and on defence they have special pieces like Ezekiel Ansah and Glover Quinn. The most important player on defence is, Darius Slay Jr. The star corner accumulated 8 interceptions last year alone.Embed from Getty Images
The biggest issue surrounding the Lions is their schedule. Ranking in the top 2 toughest schedules, the Lions will face the Patriots, Cowboys, Panthers, Vikings, Seahawks and the Packers twice along the way.
For the simple reason of their fixture list, the Lions’ hopes of reaching the playoffs are slim.
“The Chicago Bears will finish last in the division.” A phrase that is said all too often, but will once again prove to be true.Embed from Getty Images
Mitchell Trubisky looks like he might have a breakout year. Paired with new head coach, Matt Nagy, the Bears looks to be gearing for a big future. In addition, the signing of Allen Robinson provides another fantastic wideout option.
In spite of that, the Bears too suffer from being surrounded by great teams in their division. Their schedule also does not do the team any favours whatsoever.