By: Cory Vest
Two fearsome animals, a savage group of warriors, and cheese heads; the NFC North is home to a possible Super Bowl contender, two teams on the playoff brink, and a bottom dweller. If you have not identified the teams yet; the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, and Chicago Bears will all be vying to be king of the NFC North.
1. Green Bay Packers – Over/Under 10
There are few names in the NFL that conjure up thoughts of greatness and extraordinary talent, Aaron Rodgers is one of those names. With Rodgers at quarterback, your team is in the playoff conversation. A big arm, ability to extend plays, and a threat to pick up yards with his feet, Rodgers is gifted. The Green Bay offense is one of the best in the NFL. Jordy Nelson tops the list of a deep receiving corps. Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, and Martellus Bennett are the other mouths eager to be fed. An aerial attack is obviously Green Bay’s strong suit. In fact, even the Packers’ running back is a converted wide receiver. Ty Montgomery started 6 games for the Packers last year and will enter 2017 as the RB1. Montgomery impressed as he averaged 5.9 yards per carry and 7.9 yards per reception. Green Bay’s offense will be the main ingredient in their success, as it is every year.
It would just be plain unfair if the Packers fielded a top-notch defense. Although not one of the best, it certainly deserves respect. A ball hawking secondary had a knack for interceptions last year and should find its way into passing lanes again this year. The defensive line for the Pack can create pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Big plays and momentum will be this unit’s fuel. If this defense can weather the storm of a tough first half schedule, then the Packers could fight for the best record in football.
Mike McCarthy’s squad will finish the season at 11-5. Unfortunately for the Packers a divisional round playoff game will be their out. The Packers will meet their match as a beautiful battle between a powerhouse offense and superior defense unfolds.
2. Minnesota Vikings – Over/Under 8.5
Out with the old and in with the new for the Vikings’ backfield. Gone is Adrian Peterson, in is rookie Dalvin Cook. Cook will enter the season with high hopes and expectations as he is Florida State’s all-time leading rusher. Handing him the ball will be Sam Bradford. Bradford was signed by the Vikings last season to replace an injured Teddy Bridgewater. A hot start for the Vikings had fans excited for what could be. Hope quickly diminished however after their 5-0 start was matched with 4 straight defeats. The offense struggled to find its footing and points became difficult to come by. This year the offense should find their stride early and maintain it throughout the season. Adam Theilen and Kyle Rudolph both developed a good rapport with Bradford and should both put up higher end numbers. Stefon Diggs allows the offense to be creative as he brings a varied skillset to the table. Watch out for this offensive unit as it could surprise.
The Minnesota defense was stingy with both yards and points last season. The Vikings created turnovers and got to the quarterback. Look for that to continue. The 5-0 start last year displayed what this team is capable of when the offense produces like the defense. With the offense firing, expect the defense to feed off of the excitement and momentum. Expect the Vikings D to finish as one of the best in football.
With the Packers securing the top spot in the division, the Vikings will have to shoot for a wild card spot. Competition will be stiff and every win will be crucial for this team. Look out for a possible tie breaker scenario to take effect as the second wild card spot could be occupied by more than one team come season’s end. The Vikings have a good shot at being one of those teams as they will finish the season at 9-7.
3. Detroit Lions – Over/Under 8.0
The Lions, like the Vikings, are cursed with Green Bay as a division partner. Not only does playing the mighty Packers twice a year present a challenge, but the Lions must play some impressive ball throughout the season in order to up end the Pack from the throne. Big money was put into Matthew Stafford this offseason. Aside from Stafford, the names on offense may not jump off of the page, but they are effective. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. are Stafford’s one, two, at wide receiver. Tate can line up wide or in the slot and possesses speed and talent. Jones posted some impressive games last season but posted some busts as well. Eric Ebron presents a solid pass catcher out of the tight end position. The Lions will rely on a running back duo of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. Back-up running back Zach Zenner should see playing time as well. This offense has talent, it might not be flashy talent, but is has talent nonetheless. This crew will have their ups and downs however.
The defense struggled to produce turnovers last year but held their own in points and yards yielded. A middle of the road pack will not see much improvement from the previous year. The Lions defense must feast on weaker opponents, using that momentum to spring board their efforts against top tier offenses. Shutdown performances and great efforts will be rewarded with wins, but not enough to thrust this team into the playoffs.
The Lions will finish the season at 8-8. A tough start to the season will have the Lions in the cellar but a strong finish will bring them back to the 8-8 mark. The Lions will be no slouch but will drop some close games; making for an exciting, yet disappointing season.
4. Chicago Bears – Over/Under 5.5
The punching bag of this division has bid good riddance to Jay Cutler and will rely on Mike Glennon to get the job done. Chicago also drafted quarterback Mitchell Trubisky second overall. When and if Trubisky takes over at quarterback is yet to be seen. Whoever is delivering the ball will have to do so without Alshon Jeffery as he is no longer with the team either. Cameron Meredith will not be running routes for the Bears since he went down for the season with an injury. Second year player Kevin White and Kendall Wright will be the anchors of the receiving corps. Marcus Wheaton brings big play potential to the pass catchers. Running back is the Bears’ strongest position as Jordan Howard looks to post another impressive season. A lack of weapons and explosiveness leaves this Chicago offense bland and beatable.
The defense for ‘da Bears does not get much better than their offensive counterparts. A defensive unit that was once daunting and feared is now mediocre. This defensive squad may see the field more than they’d like as the offense is likely to punt more often than not. Wear and tear will take its toll. Chicago’s schedule is littered with offenses that are tough to prepare for and tough to handle.
The Bears will start slow and finish slow ending in a poorly played season. Blow out loses will not be good for the self-esteem or the record as the Bears will get embarrassed by top tier teams. The 5.5-win mark is the ceiling for the Bears as the finish the season a dismal 4-12.