For the past couple of years, the NFC North has been one of the better divisions in all of football. After this past offseason, the four teams that make up the division are aiming to maintain their relevancy in an attempt to capture the North crown. Over the last five seasons, there has been a different division winner each year. With the Green Bay Packers taking home the division title last year, they aim to win the North back-to-back years for the first time since 2014 when they won it four straight years from 2011-2014. Below are my 2020 NFC North predictions for the four teams in the division for the upcoming season and how they will fare.
2020 NFC North Predictions
1. Green Bay Packers; Record: 11-5
Overall, the reigning NFC North Champion Packers had a fairly mediocre offseason. In free agency, they added some positions of need like linebacker Christian Kirksey and wide receiver Devin Funchess. As for the losses in the Packers free agency, probably the biggest one came at right tackle with veteran Bryan Bulaga packing his bags and heading west to join the Los Angeles Chargers. This was a pretty significant blow to the Packers offensive line, however, they added another veteran tackle in Ricky Wagner to help out second-year Packer Jared Veldheer on the right side of the line.
When it comes to the 2020 Packers draft class, fans were not too thrilled with the selections the front office made. Outside of the first-round pick Jordan Love, I personally believe they made selections that will help boost the team for this upcoming season and going forward as well. Second-round pick running back AJ Dillon will help boost the run game even more than last year.
Compared to last year’s team that went 13-3 and was one game away from the super bowl, I don’t spot many differences. Many thought that the Packers will regret the decision to not take a receiver at all in the draft, but I don’t. I believe the addition of a veteran receiver in Funchess will be just enough for Aaron Rodgers and company to produce a winning team yet again. After all, head coach Matt LaFleur has made it clear he wants a run-first offense. I expect a slight decline from the Packers for this season, but I still see them taking the NFC North crown for the second straight year in these 2020 NFC North predictions.
2. Minnesota Vikings; Record: 9-7
As I watch and read through all of these experts’ predictions for the upcoming year, many believe that the Minnesota Vikings will be the team to beat in the NFC North. As you can tell by my prediction of their record, I don’t believe that to be the case. Last year, the Vikings went 10-6 and squeaked into the playoffs as the six seed. In the playoffs, they defeated the third-seeded New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card Round and then lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional. Since that loss, the Vikings are a very different looking team, especially on defense. During free agency, the Vikings lost many key pieces on the defensive side, including Xavier Rhodes, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, and many more. On the offensive side of the ball, they traded away star receiver Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills.
The Vikings did make some nice additions in the draft, however. For example, they drafted former LSU star wideout Justin Jefferson to replace Diggs. I believe Jefferson will eventually be a star in this league, just not in his rookie year. He will have big shoes to fill as quarterback Kirk Cousins has a new target to throw to. Another nice pick the Vikings made in the draft was former TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney. Gladney will help ease the losses of Xavier Rhodes and Mackensie Alexander. Both of these first-round draft picks will likely turn out well for the team in the future, I just don’t see either playing to the level of their predecessors; at least not this year. I expect the Vikings to have a very mediocre year and be on the borderline to make the playoffs come December.
3. Detroit Lions; Record: 7-9
After a rough 3-12-1 season and a fourth-place finish in the NFC North, the Detroit Lions couldn’t really get much worse. To have a bounce-back season, that has to start with a good draft, and that’s exactly what the Lions did. In my opinion, they had the best draft out of the four NFC North teams and one of the best in the whole NFL. After trading Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles, it was almost a guarantee as to who they would pick with the third overall pick. That was former Ohio State standout cornerback, Jeffrey Okudah. Okudah will be a great piece in Matt Patricia’s defense and has the ability to live up to Slay’s level.
Their second selection came in the second round when they took former Georgia running back D’Andre Swift. Swift joins Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough in a very talented running back room. Ever since the legend Barry Sanders retired from the game early, the Lions have searched day and night for their next franchise running back. Now, I believe they have two of them that have the potential to fill that role in Johnson and Swift.
For this upcoming season, I think the Lions will show the biggest signs of improvement out of these four teams, but it won’t be enough to make the playoffs in the NFC. However, they are setting themselves up very nicely for years to come with their recent draft picks.
4. Chicago Bears; Record: 6-10
Last, and in this case, least, we have the Chicago Bears. After a mediocre 8-8 season and finishing third in the NFC North last season, Bears fans were very disappointed with their team. And for good reason, they came off a 2018 season where they won the NFC North for the first time since 2010, only to lose to the Eagles in the Wild Card Game. That was due to the infamous “Double-Doink” missed field goal by Cody Parkey at the end of regulation.
Heading into this season, the expectations for the Bears are much different than they were during the 2019 offseason. After quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has proved to be a bust (so far), nobody is really expecting anything from the Bears this season. Although in my opinion, the expectations are fair, they shouldn’t be that way. They have a super bowl-caliber defense that includes a generational talent in Khalil Mack. Their obvious needs come on the offensive end and it starts at quarterback. In free agency, they added veteran quarterback Nick Foles to give Trubisky some competition. To me, this was the wrong move with Cam Newton still out t4here still looking for a place to call home. Apart from a miraculous Super Bowl run in the 2017-2018 season, what has Foles done? The short answer, not much.
Cam Newton or Nick Foles?
I think many would agree that they would rather have Newton on their team than Foles. Whether it’s about the price tag or talent, head coach Matt Nagy thinks otherwise. He is a very creative play-caller who could thrive with a mobile or even semi-mobile quarterback; and Foles is not that. Newton would fit better in the Bears system than Foles and, in my opinion, have a better shot at playoffs with him as well. However, they did choose Foles over Newton, and that is why I have the Bears finishing in last in these 2020 NFC North predictions to add yet another disappointing season on the resume for Chicago.
Division As A Whole
Overall, I believe the NFC North remains one of the better divisions in the NFC. Aside from my predictions, I really believe each team has a true shot to make the playoffs, and you can’t say that for many other divisions. None of these teams will be an easy win and don’t expect any of these four teams to go 6-0 in the division like the Packers did last season.
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