In a division won by the 13-3 Minnesota Vikings in 2017, the injury riddled NFC North did see a lot of young up-and-coming stars showcase their talents last season. Wideouts such as Davante Adams, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs all had productive seasons, as did rookie running backs Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard, and Dalvin Cook (until he got injured). While 2017 seemed to be a changing of the guard, with the return of some familiar faces, will 2018 be a return to Earth for some teams? Or perhaps the beginning of a new power-structure in the NFC? Either way, this division will be star-studded and a must-watch.
Green Bay Packers
2017 Record: 7-9
2018 Prediction: 11-5
Aaron Rodgers has been called the best thrower of the football since Dan Marino. I never got to see a prime Marino play, so I’ll just go ahead and call it as it is: Aaron Rodgers is the most talented quarterback I’ve ever seen play. Before Elway, Montana, or Brady fans start rioting outside my apartment, let me be clear: simply having the most raw talent and athletic ability doesn’t equate to greatness, particularly with Quarterbacks. What makes Brady great (a man who runs like a wounded giraffe, and has average arm strength) is his preparation, knowledge of opposing defenses, and his timing when throwing to his receivers. Rodgers is quicker, stronger, and can throw on the run as well as anyone in the NFL. With his return, a stronger defense, and an easier schedule than they’ve had in the past few years, I think the Packers will reclaim the North, and be prepared to remind the NFC what Wisconsin is like in January.
2017 Record: 13-3
2018 Prediction: 8-8
Look, it’s not like the Vikings have regressed. They are still a competitive football team, and maybe 8-8 is a little conservative for a team that made it to the NFC title game. But 2017 was a perfect storm of luck. They only faced Aaron Rodgers for 15 minutes. Their defense was nearly injury-free (which is almost impossible in today’s NFL). Heck, their biggest play last year has been dubbed “The Minneapolis Miracle”. While all those things could happen again this year, I highly doubt it. A couple good things I do like: Dalvin Cook? He’s a stud, as are Thielen and Diggs. They are very well-coached, Mike Zimmer has been a steady presence for years, and while he’s there, it’s hard to see the Vikings having a losing season. Lastly, this may be the best defense in the conference. They don’t have any generational players per say, but top to bottom this a unit with good, tough players. If they can somehow win tough games on the road (New England, Philly, Los Angeles) maybe they can sneak into a playoff spot. But that’s not what I foresee happening.
2017 Record: 9-7
2018 Prediction: 6-10
I really do like the Detroit Lions, and I’ve got to say, it pains me to predict them having yet another losing season. But it really comes down to the trenches for me. Detroit had some issues with their offensive line last year, and that’s definitely an area that they’ve addressed in the offseason. I personally think that they are still too weak at left tackle for my liking, but that’s another story. What I’m talking about is on the defensive side of the ball. This defense is a far cry from the #2 ranked unit of a few years ago. They’re front seven is beaten up, and I think that teams will be able to run on them all day. And as we all know, when the offense establishes the run, it’s all over. I don’t have faith in Matt Patricia as a Head Coach. I’m hoping that he defies expectations and leads this squad to the promise land, but I doubt that will be the case in 2018.
2017 Record: 5-11
2018 Prediction: 4-12
Chicago is a funny situation. I don’t entirely trust their signal caller Mitch Trubisky, but I admire his arm strength and overall size. Jordan Howard had a promising rookie campaign, but I don’t know if he has the downhill prowess to burst through the line for all four quarters. With this Bears team, there are more questions than answers. I am excited to see how all the new pieces fit together, as they had a very busy offseason. New head coach Mike Nagy is hoping for a McVay-esque turnaround in the Windy City. While I don’t think this will amount to wins in the 2018, I think that potentially, the future is bright for Chicago.
Danny Lovell – Contributor – WTF Sports