In 2015 the NFC North had two representatives in the NFC playoff picture. Coming into the 2016 season, the North looks to build on the success.
This division is full of youth and it’s time the young-guns start taking over.
Each team has it’s flaws, however don’t underestimate what these organizations will bring to the field each and every week.
So in the words of HBO’s famous television series ‘Game of Thrones,’ who really is “The King of the North.”
2016 NFC North preview:
Green Bay Packers:
Early in the 2015 season the Packers lost their go-to playmaker, Jordy Nelson, too a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). From the start, the offense found themselves in a hole.
However, never doubt Aaron Rodgers. He and the rest of the Packers where able to make the best of the season even though they ultimately were a shell of themselves.
The Packers will look to build on a season that ended in the division round and it all starts with Mr. Rodgers.
By the way…
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) July 31, 2016
It’s no secret that Rodgers is a top-3 quarterback in the NFL and when his weapons are healthy around him, he’s even better. He will have a strong season without question.
But if you are looking for questions to ask about this team it starts with the receiving corps.
Can Jordy Nelson return to form after a missed 2015? Can Randall Cobb continue to be the Robin to Nelson’s Batman? Also, can new target Jared Cook revitalize the tight end position for the Packers?
The Packers offensive line is one of the best in the league and they should return to stature. The line should help slimmed-down Eddie Lacy return to the Lacy of old.
Defensively, this team is in the middle of the pack (no pun intended). Their defensive line lead by Mike Daniels and Julius Peppers need to be consistent if the Packers want to be the best in the NFC. Clay Matthews, making a position switch back to an edge rushing OLB, will only help this defense more.
In the secondary this team is young but very talented. Second year players Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins will look to build on solid rookie seasons. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the leader of this secondary and his production will explain why.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) July 31, 2016
The 2015 Bears, finishing a poor 6-10, were not very competitive. However, this team didn’t have much luck from the start. Losing first-round pick Kevin White for the season was a huge blow to an offense that was expecting to be strong.
Moving into the 2016 season, the Bears may not be a contender but they won’t be an automatic win for teams either.
Losing offensive coordinator Adam Gase is a big loss, besides that the Bears didn’t lose much in the offseason. The number one question that surrounds the Bears is whether or not Jay Cutler can be consistent.
When Cutler plays to his potential very few quarterbacks can match his production. The problem that clouds Cutler is his inability to limit mistakes. His turnovers and poor play come in bunches to the point where the team can’t dig themselves out of a hole.
Looking at the team in its entirety they don’t have many players that will jump out at you. They will have a strong one-two combination of Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White. Their running back position will feature Jeremy Langford, however Langford can’t carry the entire load for this position group.
The offensive line is young and will have frustrating moments but having Kyle Long leading this unit should help for the long haul.
The defensive line and linebacking corps are solid units. The signing of former Denver Bronco Danny Trevathan will help the entire front-seven become stronger. The secondary is weak and will be the main reason why this team loses games. Kyle Fuller is a nice young up and coming cornerback but he won’t be enough to stop teams from airing it out.
This will be a transition year for the Windy City.
.@teddyb_h2o has been impressed with how the guys up front are protecting him.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) July 31, 2016
In 2015 the Vikings dethroned the Packers as NFC North champs but they came up short in the Wild Card round, 27-yards short to be exact.
How does a team that was so close come back an build on a year that brought so much success?
It all starts with signal caller Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater has been strong in his first couple seasons in the NFL but now it’s time for him to grow even more. He’s proven to be the quarterback the Vikings can depend on game after game but he needs to be more of a threat. It’s easy to drop back and hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson but when teams don’t fear your passing game, your team will become exposed.
Bridgewater needs to become a quarterback that can win a game with his arm. Stefon Diggs had a strong season, which ultimately bumped him up the Vikings’ wide receiver depth chart to become the No.1 guy. Drafting Laquon Treadwell should give the offense the ability to stretch the field, which they haven’t been able to do in recent years.
We know the running game is going to be dominant again and reason being Adrian Peterson. He speaks for himself.
The offensive line finds themselves being an average unit. They have a lot of players who have performed to an All-Pro level however their inconsistency is the reason why many question their overall ability.
There is no doubt that this defense will be top-10 ranked. Head Coach Mike Zimmer has built this unit to be a feared one. The defensive line highlighted by Everson Griffen and the strong duo of Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd will put pressure on opposing offensive lines. The linebacking corps features Anthony Barr, who is a young star in the making. The secondary is also a very strong unit that’s lead by arguably the leagues best safety, Harrison Smith.
There is one question that surrounds this defense. Can the ageless Terrance Newman and the savvy Captain Munnerlyn post strong seasons once again?
The Vikings will remain a strong pick to repeat as NFC North champs and I’m sure they’d love to host a playoff game in their new stadium.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) July 31, 2016
It may not come to a surprise for some but this season looks like a transition period for the Lions.
Calvin Johnson’s retirement will be hard enough for this team to overcome and that means more pressure on quarterback Matt Stafford’s shoulders.
Stafford is coming off a season where he under performed once again. If the Lions want to be competitive in a strong NFC than Stafford has to be close to elite.
It doesn’t help that this team has little to no running attack. Ameer Abdullah will look to build on a rookie season that brought some success but many see him as more of a pass-catching threat.
Which brings up the ultimate question. Who will fill the Calvin Johnson void on offense?
A team that has no running game and is limited on it’s receiving options, the answer to that question doesn’t look so obvious. Golden Tate, who had a decent season in 2015, will have to carry most of the load. The Lions did sign former Cincinnati Bengal Marvin Jones to become their No. 2 guy but that still won’t be enough. Eric Ebron needs to show why he was selected No. 10 overall. He has done very little to prove why he was a first-round section.
Stafford has his hands full.
Defensively this team has some pieces. Ezekiel Ansah has proven to be one of the better young pass-rushers in the game and the return of DeAndre Levy will help keep this unit at bay.
Besides Darius Slay, this secondary doesn’t have much. As of right now, they don’t have a No. 2 cornerback. Glover Quinn played the safety position well in 2015 but relying on him to perform strong again is a gamble.
Overall this Lions team has more downside than upside. If they outperform their projections, many will be shocked.
Final 2016 NFC North predictions:
Green Bay Packers (12-4)
Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
Chicago Bears (6-10)
Detroit Lions (6-10)