Surveying the North:
This is probably one of the earliest futures columns that has surfaced, but with the draft still, a month away, and the first wave of free agency completed, I wanted to take a look at how the NFC North is shaping up after almost four weeks into the new NFL calendar year.
The Vikings paid a ton of cash to a talented quarterback that has never won a playoff game, the Bears have given second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky a receiving core to throw to, The Lions added a bulldozing running back in LeGarrette Blount and tagged one of the best pass Rushers in the league in Ezekiel Ansah, and the Packers have added solid contributors that fit their system like Jimmy Graham, Mohammed Wilkerson, and Tramon Williams. With all of this player movement, the NFC North could get back to earning its reputation as the black and blue division in the NFL.
Most prognosticators at this point in the offseason, probably have the Vikings winning between 12-13 games this season, and rightfully so. They are the defending NFC north champions and have improved their team by signing a front line defender and the most sought after quarterback on the market. However, as we all know, every team in the NFL is just one play away from having their season dramatically altered.
Who Will be Crowned King of the North?
NFC North Predictions:
I see Chicago being in a lot of close games this season, but with a young and inexperienced roster and a tough schedule that includes the AFC East (Patriots and Bills) and the NFC West (Rams, Niners, Seahawks) in addition to the much improved NFC North I just see them being a year away from making any noise in the divisional standings.
Green Bay: 11-5 NFC Wildcard
My reason for this prediction is simple, first, a healthy Aaron Rodgers will keep the Packers within striking distance against any team. Second, the upgrades on defense will improve the pass rush, pass defense, and run defense just enough to create more turnovers and make key stops in the red zone. Finally, the Packers have a relatively easy home schedule and could feasibly go 7-1 at Lambeau this season.
I see a lot of uncertainty with the Detroit Lions so I figure it best to play it safe and say that they stay unchanged with a 9-7 record. I think newly hired head coach Matt Patricia could experience some growing pains in his first season and their schedule at home is not as favorable with games against the Panthers, Rams, Patriots, Packers, Vikings, and Seahawks. The Lions, to this point, have done nothing to make me think that this is the year that they take the next step forward and win 12 games and advance in the playoffs.
Minnesota: 13-3 NFC North Champion
I still see the Vikings as the team to beat in the division. They have added a quarterback who can perennially throw for 4,000 yards that has a proven track record of regular season success and have provided him with a defense and a running game which will relieve the pressure of having to take ill-advised chances down the field and will allow him to play within himself.
In addition to the acquisition of Cousins, the Vikings have an easier home schedule and could feasibly win 7 or 8 games. The Vikings toughest challenges of the year all come on the road against the Patriots, Rams, Eagles, Seahawks, and Packers. I still see them winning at least three of these five games which already would put them at 10 or 11 wins.
Overall, I believe that the NFC North will be one of the tougher divisions in football this season, shifting the power away from the NFC West and NFC East. I look for the Vikings and the Packers both to be in the playoffs and for the Lions to be in playoff contention up until their final game.
Your 2018 NFC North Predictions
I want to hear from you, let me know your NFC North predictions based on how you think the offseason will play out in addition to who the Packers opponents and where they are playing the game.——————
David Michalski is a recent college graduate from Princeton New Jersey who has been a life long Green Bay Packers fan. Like the great Vince Lombardi, he values God, family, and the Green Bay Packers in that order. You can follow him on twitter at @kilbas27dave