Rodgers and Cousins look for bounce-back seasons to top Chicago.

It’s been one of the busiest off-season’s in recent memory, following up on an NFL season for the ages. Contenders have been bolstering their rosters while the bottom of the league has committed to their rebuilding process’. 

So who is coming out on top this year in the NFC North? Let’s find out.

Chicago Bears

Last year the Chicago Bears got a taste of the postseason for the first time since 2010. Unfortunately, their trip to the playoffs was cut short after Philadelphia took advantage of a missed game-winning field goal attempt from the leg of Cody Parkey. 

The Bears did take a massive leap forward from 2017, enjoying a 12-4 record and the first NFC North title. Head coach Matt Nagy truly maximized what he was working with offensively, leading to Mitchell Trubisky’s first Pro Bowl appearance.

Although many wills, unfortunately, remember the 2018 season for how the Bears lost in the playoffs, the season should be remembered for the resurgence of glory that historically is Chicago’s defence. After trading for defensive game-changer Khalil Mack, It seems that the days of old have returned. 

Regardless of how long Mack’s stay is in the windy city, he will inevitably go down as one of the greats alongside the likes of legends such as Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus and Brian Urlacher. 

As remarkable of a pickup Mack was, the Bears were sellers rather than buyers during the 2019 off-season. Chicago traded away Jordan Howard and lost key offensive weapons Josh Bellamy and Kevin White to free agency. 

Veteran Tight End Zach Miller retired after his devastating knee injury bac in 2017, making Trey Burton’s stay as starter seemingly more permanent. 

The Chicago Bears did keep their defensive core mostly intact, but will it be enough to stay atop the NFC North? 

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings were a single game away from playing for the Lombardi Trophy in 2017. With an even more complete roster, including the addition of an upgrade at QB in the form of Kirk Cousins, the Vikings appeared to be ready to take the next leap.

Instead, after a disappointing rollercoaster of a season, Minnesota missed out on even making the playoffs. Their week 17 loss to a Chicago team resting many of their starters was the nail in the coffin for a team with all the talent and very little of the execution.

Cousins was statistically a top tier Quarterback, yet regressed as a player with the ability to step up in games that matter. That stigma has haunted Cousins for his entire career as a starter, one can only hope those issues are resolved this season.

The good news for the Vikings is that most of their important roster pieces are still in place. It will come down to consistency and staying healthy, from top to bottom.

Cousins should have a full season with running back Dalvin Cook. Outside weapons such as Thielen, Diggs, Treadwell and Randolph are all ready to take back the division from the Bears, but is Cousins? Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr and Xavier Rhodes will spearhead a defence looking to return to their dominating selves in 2017. 

Alongside a full season with new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, there are no excuses for Kirk Cousins, head coach Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings. They will be anticipated to do better than their 8-7-1 record from 2018. Expectations are certainly sky-high.

Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers will bolster quite a new looking squad this season from top to bottom. 

Like their rivals in Minnesota, 2018 was disheartening, to say the least. Complacency and not meeting expectations are a sure-fire way for a shakeup in this league, so the changes made in the organization shouldn’t come to anybody’s surprise.

Variation number one came at the expense of former Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike McCarthy. It was apparent that the relationship between coach and player was wearing thin, that player being Aaron Rodgers of course.

Matt LaFleur will be the new signal-caller in Green bay, as he will be joined by new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. It is nothing less of Omni-important for the Rodgers, LeFlaur and Hackett trio to hit the ground running when the season begins. 

The Packers had a number of areas where improvement was imperative. After taking care of the coaching situation, next was the defence. Green Bay believes the pieces are in places offensively, and after two consecutive defensive focused draftings, the packers should be an improved unit overall.

2018 and 2019 draftees Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Oren Burks, and Rashan Gary will all need to do their part alongside key free-agent acquisitions Adrian Amos, Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith. 

For the first time since the Packers were Super Bowl champions back in 2011, the Green Bay Packers roster feels as complete as it has on both sides on of the ball. Aaron Rodgers has seemingly carried the Packers along for a few years now, and it has cost him a number of nagging injuries.

 A healthy Rodgers, balance throughout the roster and fresh, capable faces on the coaching staff should do wonders for the organization as a whole. The Packers will be division favourites after finishing 6-9-1 in 2018.

Detroit Lions

It is a questionable time for the Detroit Lions. The Jim Schwartz and Jim Caldwell era’s seemed one and the same; rosters with all the talent in the world yet seemingly not good enough to win a playoff game. 

Now QB Matt Stafford is partnered up with yet another defensive-minded head coach, this time in the form of Bill Belicheck protege Matt Patricia. The first year the duo was together was anything but easy.

The 2018 Lions finished off regular season play at 6-10, with a roster riddled with injuries including Stafford. He played all 16 games, but similar to Rodgers in Green Bay played a sizable portion of the season hurt. 

However, even at 100%, Detroit lacks identity and not just in personnel but with what direction the organization is going. An amalgamation of young and old make up the bulk of the roster, and consistency is just as much of a question mark as health is.

The roster is improved offensively though. CJ Anderson makes for a solid feature back with Kerryon Johnson who showed much success in his rookie season. Danny Amendola should fit nicely in the slot next to Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, and the Lions are very high on their top 10 picks at tight end in TJ Hockenson. 

Trey Flowers and Damon “Snacks” Harrison will anchor the defensive front seven and are assuredly key additions on that side of the ball. It is a concrete roster, but can Patricia get the Lions out from the basement of the NFC North?

When observing this division, the Packers are greatly improved and the Bears and Vikings are evidently as able if not superior to their 2018 clubs. Where does that leave Detroit?

The Detroit Lions will look to Stafford, Patricia and upgrades offensively for a more consistent 2019 season. With any fortune at all, it will be a healthier season as well.

Predictions

Andre Dixon:

Chicago Bears 

Minnesota Vikings 

Green Bay Packers

Detroit Lions

 

Paulie Fiorentino:

Green Bay Packers 

Minnesota Vikings

Detroit Lions

Chicago Bears