Projected NFL Standings: NFC NORTH EDITION
The NFC North will go down to the wire this season. I think it will be a two-team race, but part of me thinks the Bears could get involved as well. The Packers finished 13-3 last season and ran away with the division, but I expect the Packers to regress a little. To me, the Packers missed an opportunity this offseason to really put themselves above the pack. The NFC North will be a tight race.
Green Bay Packers: (10-6)
The Packers decided to spend the offseason looking ahead to the future, rather than building what they have now. I can't blame them though. The Packers did the same thing in Brett Favre's final years and ended up getting Aaron Rodgers and a Super Bowl win. With that being said, there's no denying the Packers didn't address any win-now needs this offseason. The most questionable thing the Packers did this offseason was not adding a legitimate weapon for Rodgers. In fact, the Packers didn't draft a single wide receiver in one of the strongest wide receiver classes in NFL history. Instead, the Packers spent their first three draft picks on quarterback Jordan Love, running back A.J. Dillon, and tight end Josiah Deguara. The Packers lack weapons minus Davante Adams and Aaron Jones. With Rodgers getting older, the Packers really need to invest in some weapons. Even with a solid offensive line, the offense will have some struggles this season.
The Packers' defense should be able to repeat another solid season. I like the defensive front, led by Za'darius Smith and Kenny Clark. I'm also a fan of the young secondary the Packers have built through the draft over the last three seasons. Linebacker is the one shaky position on the defense. The Packers signed Christian Kirksey in free agency. The Packers are going to regress this season because of the lack of weapons on offense, but they'll have just enough to win the division.
On paper, the Vikings have a good shot to win the division this season. The Vikings lost one of the best wide receivers in the NFL when they traded Stefon Diggs, but they helped replace him with Justin Jefferson, one of the steals of the draft. The Vikings also signed Tajae Sharpe. In my eyes, the Vikings will go as far as Kirk Cousins takes them. Cousins needs to perform better in big moments. If he can do that, watch out for the Vikings. The Vikings are set across on the board, but could still use some help on the offensive line. I'm not sure where they plan on playing second-round selection, Ezra Cleveland. It would be ideal if Cleveland could kick inside to guard.
The Vikings had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season. The Vikings' only weakness on defense came at the cornerback position. The position was addressed quickly in the draft. Jeff Gladney was added in the first round and Cameron Dantzler in the third round. Both should expect to have a role in year one. They'll also get help over the top with star safeties, Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith. If the young corners can play, the Vikings will challenge for best defense in the NFL. There are some ifs when it comes to the Vikings, but the talent is there to compete for the NFC North.
I'm a bit lower on the Bears then most. The main reason for a 6-10 record is their offense and a tough schedule. I just don't see Nick Foles coming in and fixing an offense that lacks talent. It was a short stint for Foles last season with the Jaguars so we don't really know how he'll perform. Even if Foles plays great, the Bears have problems on the offense. For starters, I don't like their offensive line. They struggled last year, and I don't see any real reinforcements coming in. At tight end, the Bears will be relying on an older Jimmy Graham and rookie Cole Kmet. At wide receiver, the Bears have Allen Robinson II and Anthony Miller. but lack any depth outside of that. In my opinion, the Bears will struggle to score points again this season.
The Bears' defense is the polar opposite of their offense. The defense carried the Bears to an 8-8 record last season. The Bears defensive front will once again wreak havoc on opposing NFL quarterbacks. Led by Khalil Mack, the Bears also added edge rusher, Robert Quinn in free agency. The pass rush will help a good but not great secondary. The Bears added cornerback, Jaylon Johnson, in the second round of the draft. Johnson was one of my favorite corners in the draft. The Bears' defense will once again be held back by a struggling offense. Until the Bears overhaul the offense, the Bears will be stuck in limbo.
I believe this is the last year for Matt Patrica in Detriot. I just don't think Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, which sucks because this Lions defense has a lot of weapons. The Lions have good wide receivers in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr., they drafted De'Andre Swift to join Kerryon Johnson for a nice 1-2 punch in the backfield. On top of all that, the Lions have a promising tight end T.J. Hockenson paired with a solid offensive line. The health of Stafford leads me to believe another disappointing season is in store for the Lions.
The Lions defense is by far the weakest defense in the division. The selection of Jeffery Okudah with the third overall pick should cover for the loss of Darius Slay. The rest of the offseason consisted of the Lions adding a bunch of former Patriots to their defense. Jamie Collins Sr., Duron Harmon, and Danny Shelton were all added to the defense. I do question how productive they will be out of the Patriots defensive scheme but Patrica is obviously familiar with how they operate. The Lions should still be looking to add an off-ball linebacker later this offseason. The Lions should be improved on defense, but enough to beat the Packers, Vikings, and Bears? I don't see it.
Let me know your NFC South predictions!