Way-Too-Early NFC North Projections

NFC North Projections
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 16: Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster (95) and Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Blake Martinez (50) tackles Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) in action during an NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears on December 16, 2018 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

NFC North projections in July? Okay, it may be way too early to begin thinking about the NFL season, but who else can’t wait until fall? In this way-too-early series, I will give my take on each of the NFL divisions and how I believe they will shape up. Who is going to finish the season atop the historic NFC North division?

Way-Too-Early NFC North Projections

Detroit Lions (3-13)(1-5)

Wins: New York Giants (week 8), Tampa Bay Buccanneers (week 15), Green Bay Packers (week 17)

Losses: at Arizona Cardinals (week 1), Los Angeles Chargers (week 2), at Philadelphia Eagles (week 3), Kansas City Chiefs (week 4), at Green Bay Packers (week 6), Minnesota Vikings (week 7), at Oakland Raiders (week 9), at Chicago Bears (week 10), Dallas Cowboys (week 11), at Washington Redskins (week 12), Chicago Bears (week 13), at Minnesota Vikings (week 14), at Denver Broncos (week 16)

The Lions have made some offseason rumblings recently where it was reported that they could bring back Calvin Johnson if they were to pay back the money that they had returned to them. In the 2019 draft, the Lions decided to use five of their nine picks on the defensive side of the ball. While they picked some solid players like Jahlani Tavai and Amani Oruwariye, the youth will provide headaches. Offensively, they will be lead by grizzled veteran Matthew Stafford. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are a respectable one-two punch outside, but the star of the offense should be their first-round pick, T.J. Hockenson. I am also expecting a true break out year from Kerryon Johnson. One thing may be for sure: all NFC North Projections will probably be unanimous in thinking the Lions will finish last in the division.

On paper, the Detroit offense can be special. On the field, however, they will probably go the way of the last few years. The NFC North has to go through the AFC West and the NFC East. If the Lions were to shock the world and content for a playoff spot, they will be heavily fatigued due to the fact that their bye week is week 5. As much as I enjoy watching Stafford play, the Lions will join in on the search for the next franchise quarterback. Tom Savage nor David Fales are the future.

Minnesota Vikings (7-9)(2-4)

Wins: Oakland Raiders (week 3), at New York Giants (week 5), at Detroit Lions (week 7), Washington Redskins (week 8), Denver Broncos (week 11), Detroit Lions (week 14), Green Bay Packers (week 16)

Losses: Atlanta Falcons (week 1), at Green Bay Packers (week 2), at Chicago Bears (week 4), Philadelphia Eagles (week 6), at Kansas City Chiefs (week 9), at Dallas Cowboys (week 10), at Seattle Seahawks (week 13), Los Angeles Chargers (week 15), Chicago Bears (week 17)

The best wide receiver in the NFC North plays his games in Minnesota: Stefon Diggs. Diggs is perfectly complemented by Adam Thielen as well as (hopefully) Laquon Treadwell. If Treadwell fails to live up to his first-round expectations, watch for the Oregon alumnus Dillon Mitchell. The Vikings were reported to be trying to part ways with tight end Kyle Rudolph so they used a second-round pick on Irv Smith Jr. Look for both to make plays and garner respect from defensive play-callers. Coach Mike Zimmer takes pride in his defense. The Viking defense, lead by Xavier Rhodes and Anthony Barr, will continue to stifle offenses. The question will be: can Kirk Cousins lead the Vikings to the promised land, or is he just another average quarterback?

The Vikings are enigmatic. Their floor is 3-13, but I think they can be as good as 10-6. The divisional games and the game against the NFC South teams will make or break the season. Minnesota has the talent to squeak into the playoffs again. Their bye is week 12, so if they can get to the bye with 6 or 7 wins, they have a great chance of making some noise.  If the playoffs are to feature the Vikings, they will have to survive trips to Seattle and Los Angeles and late matchups against Green Bay and Chicago.

Green Bay Packers (8-8)(3-3)

Wins: Minnesota Vikings (week 2), Denver Broncos (week 3), Philadelphia Eagles (week 4), Detroit Lions (week 6), Oakland Raiders (week 7), at New York Giants (week 13), Washington Redskins (week 14), Chicago Bears (week 15)

Losses: at Chicago Bears (week 1), at Dallas Cowboys (week 5), at Kansas City Chiefs (week 8), at Los Angeles Chargers (week 9), Carolina Panthers (week 10), at San Francisco 49ers (week 12), at Minnesota Vikings (week 16), at Detroit Lions (week 17)

I don’t care what anyone says, Aaron Rodgers is the most talented quarterback in the NFL. What is the weakness of this team? Defense. The front office was able to recognize this and subsequently used two first-round picks on Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage, Jr. Will this be enough? Rodgers’ offense will feature an Aaron Jones/Jamaal Williams backfield as well as Davante Adams out wide, not to mention the tight end tandem of Jimmy Graham and rookie Jace Sternberger. The Packers will be better this year. Unfortunately for the cheese heads, their hated rival is just better.

What better way to open the season than Green Bay vs. Chicago? In terms of talent, the Packers are good for 12 wins. The issue is that in recent years, the Packers have managed to fall to lesser opponents. This year, they will split with both Detroit and Minnesota as well as drop games to Carolina and San Francisco. I thoroughly enjoy watching the Packers and would love to see AR12 get another ring, so I am more than willing to be wrong on this front.

Chicago Bears (12-4)(5-1)

Wins: Green Bay Packers (week 1), at Denver Broncos (week 2), Minnesota Vikings (week 4), Oakland Raiders (week 5 in London), Los Angeles Chargers (week 8), at Philadelphia Eagles (week 9), Detroit Lions (week 10), at Los Angeles Rams (week 11), New York Giants (week 12), at Detroit Lions (week 13), Dallas Cowboys (week 14), at Minnesota Vikings (week 17)

Losses: at Washington Redskins (week 3), New Orleans (week 7), at Green Bay Packers (week 15), Kansas City Chiefs (week 16)

Daaaaaaaa Bears! These Chicago Bears are just too good to have reputable NFC North projections without them on top. Mitchell Trubisky has grown into his own and their third-round running back David Montgomery will emerge as the workhorse. Last year, Trubisky thrived. In the draft, the Bears elected to go out and give him another weapon in Riley Ridley. Add in Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen and the Bears offense is going to be exciting. Even though he resides in the same division as Aaron Rodgers, if Trubisky can be available for the full season, don’t be surprised if you hear his name in the MVP discussion. On defense, Khalil Mack will continue to show that he’s the top linebacker in the league. Add in guys like Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and Eddie Jackson and this Bears defense could become the new “Monsters of the Midway.”

If you were the Bears, could you imagine a better scenario than getting to play in London…against the Raiders? The Bears’ schedule shaped up to be favorable, considering they get New Orleans, Los Angeles Chargers and KC at home. You can’t ask for a better gift from the schedulers. Expect the season to start off strong against their oldest rivals, followed by week after week of great football.

The Kings of the North

The Bears should dominate their division much like the New England Patriots do in the AFC East. What NFC North projections would be more exciting than the Bears running through the north? Will it be like the AFC North with three good teams or the AFC West and South with two who are above and beyond the rest? In terms of pure talent, the Bears will field a very good football team. Don’t be surprised if the NFC comes down to Chicago and New Orleans.

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