1. Green Bay Packers 10-6, first in the NFC North, Lost in NFC Championship Game.
Key Additions: TE Martellus Bennett, CB Kevin King (R), DL Ricky Jean-Francois, G Jahri Evans
Key Losses: TE Jared Cook, G T.J. Lang, LB Julius Peppers, RB Eddie Lacy, CB Sam Shields.
Coach McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers are teaming up for their 10th season together in which they have won 5 out of the past 6 NFC north titles. Bearing and injury to Rodgers it is hard to pick against him. The packers have owned the division lately going 13-5 in the division over the past three years and Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota know that the North runs through Green Bay. Although they did struggle last year they ran off six wins in a row to end the season and even beat the Dallas cowboys in the playoffs who held the NFL’s best record during the regular season. Ty Montgomery showed strong flashes at running back last year being a dual threat out of the backfield and Jordy Nelson had a strong bounce back season after missing the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL. Martellus Bennett was signed this offseason and is an immediate threat on this offense. I look for Bennett and Rodgers to hook up a lot this year especially in the red zone. The defense is always the concern for the Packers who lost a key leader in Julius Peppers this offseason but if the packers can stay healthy especially on the back-end of the defense all they need to do is be average and let number 12 do the rest.
Best W-L record: 13-3
Worst W-L record: 9-7
2. Detroit Lions 9-7, 2nd in NFC North, Lost In Wild Card Round.
Key Additions: G T.J. Lang , LB Paul Worrilow , LB Jarrad Davis (R), CB DJ Hayden, DT Akeem Spence.
Key Losses: LB DeAndre Levy, G Larry Warford, T Riley Reiff.
The Detroit Lions came oh so close last year to winning their first NFC North title since 1993. Let me say that again…1993. That is over two decades without winning the division and last year they had the Green Bay Packers at home in the final game of the season and couldn’t get it done. There is not much change in Detroit this offseason but they still have no answer to an unbearable run game. The defense has few superstars but was held together by defensive coordinator Teryl Austin with some glue and scissors.Everything with this team resides on the shoulders of number 9 Matthew Stafford. He threw a career low 10 interceptions last season. He was having his best season yet before being injured on his throwing hand. The Lions offense struggled down the stretch and that cost them the division and an early exit in the postseason. A dominant passing attack and a healthier Ziggy Ansah and Darius Slay should see the lions competing for the division but coming up short once again.
Best W-L record: 10-6
Worst W-L record: 7-9
3. Minnesota Vikings 8-8, 3rd in the NFC North, Missed Playoffs
Key Additions: RB Latavius Murray , RB Dalvin Cook (R), RT Mike Remmers , WR Michael Floyd, T Riley Reiff
Key Losses: RB Adrian Peterson, CB Captain Munnerlyn, LT Matt Kalil, WR Cordarrelle Paterson.
It’s been a rough couple of years for the Minnesota Vikings. A missed 27-yard field goal in the playoffs to win the game and a training camp set back when starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a brutal knee injury. His future is still not clear and even with a return in the 2017 no one can know if he will return to the player he was before the injury. What is even harder to imagine is a backfield without Adrian Peterson in it. However, there was not much other change this offseason. The Vikings will have to rely on their top-tier defense who led them out of the gate last year to a 5-0 start. A dominant D-line and a great line-backing core with young stars Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr can keep this team in any game but I am not sure if the offense has enough firepower to win enough games. It is certainly possible for the Vikings to win the division if the defense plays like they did towards the beginning of last season. Rookie Dalvin Cook and free agent signee Latavius Murray will have a big hole to fill in the backfield and receivers Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph will have to continue their success for the Vikings to have success.
Best W-L record: 11-5
Worst W-L record: 8-8
4. Chicago Bears 3-13, 4th in the NFC North, Missed Playoffs.
Key Additions: QB Mike Glennon , QB Mitchell Trubisky (R), CB Prince Amukamara, WR Markus Wheaton , WR Kendall Wright , S Quintin Demps.
Key Losses: WR Alshon Jeffery, QB Jay Cutler, DB Tracy Porter, WR Eddie Royal.
The Chicago Bears were sneaky good last year. Although they only had 3 wins to show for it they played in 7 one score games last year and played the division really tough. They took Detroit and Green Bay down to the wire towards the end of the season and they made a huge splash in the NFL draft. All eyes will be on Mitchell Trubisky this training camp to see when his first NFL start will come. Coach John Fox is a proven winner in this league with a 128-112 record and that includes the past two season with the bears in which he hasn’t had much to work with. Losing Alshon Jeffery hurts a lot especially with a rookie QB but RB Jordan Howard had a terrific rookie season and there is still some talent with Cameron Meredith and Kevin White on the outside. The Bears shouldn’t expect to win the division this year but I do like them to compete under coach Fox and see some positive things from Trubisky.
Best W-L record: 7-9
Worst W-L record: 4-12