2018 NFC North Preview

1. Minnesota Vikings– What a season they had in 2017. After Aaron Rodgers went down with his collarbone injury, they were the class of this division. They finished the year with a 13-3 record, the two seed in the NFC Playoffs, won a thrilling game in the playoffs against the Saints and were a game away from playing in the Super Bowl at their stadium. Mike Zimmer has done a fantastic job with the Vikings since he was hired. The team moved on from Case Keenum and won the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes and signed him to a three year deal. The Vikings have a large portion of their team from last year returning this season. Dalvin Cook will be ready to go after tearing his ACL, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph give Cousins weapons to work with and the defense remains intact and they were one of the best all-around units in the NFL last season. They enter as the favorites to win the division once again.

2. Detroit Lions– This is a football team that has the potential to really make noise in the league, but they struggle and show too many inconsistencies. What’s always concerned me with the Detroit Lions has been their lack of balance offensively. There’s no way that all the pressure in the world should be on Matt Stafford and no quarterback should have to throw the ball 45-50 times a game (but when you don’t have a ground game to lean on, you have too). That can all change in 2018. The Lions signed LeGarrette Blount to a free agent contract and this is a guy with veteran experience and championship pedigree and his presence will help this offense in a great way. Defensively, I see them taking a step especially with new head coach Matt Patricia who’s a defensive minded guy. They finished in second place last year in the division and just like every other team in the north, they have made some moves.

3. Green Bay Packers– The minute Aaron Rodgers went down with his collarbone injury, their season went with him. I don’t think any player means more to their team than #12 does to the Packers and you saw just how much their offense struggled without him on the field. Nothing went right for the Packers in 2017. The offense was stale, the running game was up and down and the defense as always struggled once again. No team is more eager to get back on the field in 2018 than the Green Bay Packers. With Aaron back under center, you have to like their chances to reestablish themselves in the NFC. The Packers shocked many people this off-season when they decided to release Jordy Nelson. However, the team was active in free agency and signed Jimmy Graham possibly giving Aaron Rodgers the best offensive weapon of his career. The Packers also added defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson and the potential tandem of Wilkerson and Mike Daniels could be a lot for offensive lines to handle. 2017 is in the rearview mirror and 2018 is here.

4. Chicago Bears– They are heading in the right direction as a franchise. A lot of people questioned Ryan Pace and his decision to trade up last draft and select Mitchell Tribusky. When he got his chance to start, he didn’t disappoint and the future is bright. The Bears fired John Fox and hired former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy as their new head coach. They signed free agent wide receiver Allen Robinson giving Mitchell a nice target on the outside. When you think of the Bears, defense comes to mind and they’ve really struggled on that side of the football, but they really hit a home run when they drafted Roquan Smith out of Georgia, the best linebacker in this draft class. They always played tough last season, but just couldn’t come away with wins.

2018 Predictions

1. Packers (12-4)

2. Vikings (10-6)

3. Lions (8-8)

4. Bears (6-10)

I like the Packers to get back to the top of the north and claim the division crown once again and with Aaron Rodgers under center, the chances of them doing this looking really good. He returns with Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham. This offense could be a scary one. Things will ultimately come down to what the defense does and they have always come in the way of the Packers’ chances of returning to another Super Bowl.