By: Mike Olesewski
Over the last three years the NFC North has seen three different division winners (’17 Minnesota, ’18 Chicago, ’19 Green Bay). Rivalries run deep and these teams often build with no other intention but to beat each other. Predicting winner vs loser doesn’t seem to get any easier, but this year may prove to be the most challenging yet. Training camps, OTA’s, and now even the preseason has been cancelled. Who knows if the NFL will even play 16 games this year? But you know what? I’m going to take a crack at some predictions for the NFC North and focus on a few key players that will need to exceed expectations for their respective teams to pull off a win.
Green Bay Packers: 12-4, Division Winner
A lot of the focus this offseason was on Green Bay’s draft and Jordan Love. Yeah, they didn’t address a need at WR, but Gutekunst has added enough depth at nearly every position to put this team in position to go deep in the playoffs again. They didn’t lose much to free agency and Christian Kirksey is an immediate improvement at ILB. Given Gute’s success with linebackers last season, I predict that Kirskey (if he can stay healthy) has a banner year and puts this defense in the top 10 in the NFL. The much-needed support in the middle may not come in the form of a superstar that many fans were hoping for, but this guy has a nose for the football and can make some plays when they count. Oh, and don’t worry too much about those WR’s; Donald Driver was in his fourth season before he even cracked the starting lineup.
Minnesota Vikings: 11-5, Wild Card
Minnesota lost some critical veteran talent during the 2020 offseason, but they may have had the best draft in the NFL. There is a lot of young talent on this roster and HC, Mike Zimmer, has a way of developing potential talent, particularly in the defensive backfield. Look for him to get the most out of this team’s weakest unit with Mike Hughes. Hughes is first round talent that’s in his third season and has had some trouble staying healthy. Under Zimmer’s guidance, this guy could be the difference between a good defense and a great one.
Chicago Bears: 7-9, miss the playoffs
I don’t know what’s left to say about this team that hasn’t already been said: Great defense, no offense, a bust at QB. I’d look for Nick Foles to take the starting role away from Mitch Trubisky somewhere around week 4 or 5. Without training camp or preseason, Chicago has limited opportunities to see these guys play with the starting offense. Trubisky just isn’t that good. No, that doesn’t mean that I think Nick Foles is the answer for the Bears- that guy is on a college campus somewhere- but at the very least Foles is a respectable passer that might clear some room for Chicago’s ground game and the defense will carry them to a few close wins.
Detroit Lions: 6-10, miss the playoffs
There are quite a few shortcomings for Detroit, but offense isn’t going to be one of them this season. On paper, Detroit fields a pretty decent unit that will give most teams a fit. Matthew Stafford has fallen off of some people’s radar as the last two seasons haven’t really been noteworthy. But with a revitalized ground game and the emergence of Kenny Golladay, he has arguably his best supporting cast to date. D’Andre Swift needs to be as productive as this team is hoping, and combined with Kerryon Johnson, this offense is poised to be one of the best in the league. However, the Lions didn’t do much to help themselves on defense and lost one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Darius Slay. As they say: “Offense wins games, defense wins championships”.
Who do you feel will make the biggest impact on your teams roster? Are Packers the division champs this year? Please comment below or on social media what you think the NFC North will look like for the upcoming season.