Who wins a stacked NFC North this season?
1. Green Bay Packers (10-6)
As long as Aaron Rodgers is the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, it’s hard to pick against them. The big problem last season for Green Bay was their rushing attack, which could be better this season with rookie Eddie Lacy joining James Starks in the backfield. Rodgers lost WR Greg Jennings, but still has Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, and tight end Jermichael Finley. The Packers will be a much improved defense this year as well and could be the biggest reason for their success this season. They drafted defensive end Datone Jones and Jerel Worthy. With B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett patrolling the middle along with the A.J. Hawks and Clay Matthews at linebacker, this 3-4 Packers defense will be dangerous. Expect this team to win a tough NFC North this season with a 10-6 finish.
2. Minnesota Vikings (9-7)
Last season, Adrian Peterson carried the Vikings to a playoff berth with a year for the record books. Peterson fell just nine yards shy of the single season all-time rushing record. He can’t do it by himself, though. The Vikings lost Percy Harvin in the offseason, but still got better at wide receiver. They brought in veteran Greg Jennings and drafted Cordarrelle Patterson to join Jerome Simpson and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Christian Ponder has plenty of targets to throw to and he’s got Matt Cassel in his rear view mirror. Ponder will need to improve for the Vikings to have continued success. We know the Vikings have a solid pass rush, but this season their secondary will struggle mightily and be the main reason they miss out on the playoffs. The loss of Antoine Winfield will be huge and they will be throwing a lot of guys who don’t have the experience out there to be successful. Expect the Vikings to go 9-7, but miss out on a playoff spot in a very tough NFC this season.
3. Chicago Bears (9-7)
The Bears are one of the more intriguing teams in football this year that really is hard to predict on where exactly they will finish. They bring in new head coach Marc Trestman to lead this team that loses their star linebacker and leader, Brian Urlacher. They definitely get worse at linebacker with Urlacher gone and that looks to be their biggest question mark this season. The rest of the defense should be solid even with the loss of Love Smith and his defense-first style of coaching. Jay Cutler will lead the way behind center with a much improved offensive line that should allow him some time in the pocket to throw to Brandon Marshall Aishon Jeffrey, Earl Bennett, and his newest tight end Martellus Bennett. This team has playmakers outside along with their stud running back Matt Forte. There’s no question this team has plenty of talent, but the question marks remain on defense. This team also has a very tough schedule this year in a much-improved division. Look for the Bears to finish 9-7, but just miss out on a playoff spot.
4. Detroit Lions (8-8)
The Lions had a tough 2012 season that saw them lose nine games by single digits. This year, expect a major turnaround from their 4-12 record last year. They have plenty of talent and now a capable running back in Reggie Bush. Matthew Stafford now has another playmaker joining Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles, and Brandon Pettigrew. It’s hard to find a hole on this offense, which should put up a ton of points this season. The problem with the Lions will once again be their defense. Besides Ndamukong Suh, they don’t have much to work with in terms of a pass rush. Their secondary is also very shaky as they rely on a lot of rookies on defense. There is no question the Lions will be on the winning end of those close games that they lost last season, but it won’t be enough to get them to the playoffs with so much competition. Expect the Lions to finish 8-8 this season, which is good for last place in the NFC North.