NFL Season Outlook: NFC North
Green Bay Packers –
Ceiling: Jordy Nelson is back! Does that make the Packers a Superbowl favorite? Not in my estimation, but I do think it helps them win the division at 11-5 and lock up the third seed in the playoffs. Beyond that, if Rodgers can pull a rabbit or two out of his hat, I can see a run to the NFC Championship game, but it will be a brutal road to get there.
Floor: Unless injuries plague the Packers (beyond just their offensive line, like last year) I can’t see the Packers falling below nine wins this year. Rodgers will pull out some late game magic a few times this year (maybe not as magical as the hail mary-fest of last year, but close) and the Packers will win some close games yet again.
Storyline: Is Green Bay a healthy Jordy Nelson away from title contention? Can the defense up their game to match the Vikings?
Best Game on the Schedule: It feels like this is an annual tradition now, but week fourteen against the Seahawks should be a great test for both teams.
Worst Game on the Schedule: With games against the Titans and Eagles on their schedule, there are a couple times this season where Rodgers can leave his late game superheroics at home.
2016-2017 finish: First in the North, Third Seed in the NFC Playoffs
Minnesota Vikings –
Ceiling: The Vikings should be right there with the Packers again this year in the North. In fact, I had the two teams with switched records of a year ago, thinking that the Vikings will squeak into the playoffs at 10-6 this year. The defense is great, the running game is solid as always. The question remains at quarterback and wide receiver. I believe in Mike Zimmer, I just don’t know if he has the weapons on offense for a deep playoff run.
Floor: The Vikings have a tough schedule this year, but should be in nearly every game thanks to their defense and clock-control running game. If the defense falters and they get into a shootout, that’s when they may falter, which will happen a few times this year. I can see the Vikings sinking back to 8-8 if Bridgewater takes a big step back.
Storyline: Is Teddy Bridgewater ready to grab the reigns? How much does Adrian Peterson have left in the tank? Will the wide receivers step up and give the offense a bit more balance.
Best Game on the Schedule: Yes, with two games against the Packers, as well as games against the Panthers and Cardinals this year, it should be an interesting time to be a Vikings fan, but I think the week 13 game against the Cowboys will be interesting. With both teams trying to run the ball and control the clock, who wins that battle? Will the Vikings be able to match pace if the Romo decides to go on one of his tears where he throws it all over the field and Witten has 120 yards and two touchdowns?
Worst Game on the Schedule: Week one against the Titans will be more interesting for Titans fans. Vikings fans should be able to just catch Adrian Peterson’s three touchdowns on the redzone channel.
2016-2017 finish: Second in the North, Sixth Seed in the NFC Playoffs
Detroit Lions –
Ceiling: I honestly don’t know what to think about Detroit. They went from good, to really bad, then their best player retired. They could bounce back this year and be, maybe, 8-8 or 9-7, but I feel like that is giving them a little too much credit. I don’t trust Caldwell as a coach, and until I see some consistency from the team, I can’t project anything more than middle of the road.
Floor: If the team decides Caldwell isn’t the answer, I can see the Lions going 3-13, easy. If they don’t get off to a good start, watch for Caldwell to be the first coach fired this season.
Storyline: Can Golden Tate be “the guy”? Can Matthew Stafford be “the guy”? Does Detroit have anyone that can be “the guy”?
Best Game on the Schedule: In terms of competition, week six against the rams or week eight against the Texans should be interesting matchups. I’m not sure if Detroit will be victorious, but I can see them being in those games at least.
Worst Game on the Schedule: The Lions have four games combined against the Packers and Vikings. That’s a rough way to look at your season.
2016-2017 finish: Third in the North
Chicago Bears –
Ceiling: I like Fox as a coach, and I don’t hate Cutler as much as most other people do, but I don’t know if the Bears are ready to contend for anything. I’ll go 5-11 for this year, but I feel like they will be able to put it together sooner rather than later.
Floor: 2-14. If Cutler goes into “F-You Cutler Mode” and the defense just sucks, they will be at the top of the draft next year.
Storyline: Which Cutler are we getting, and for how long? Can Alshon Jeffrey bounce back from last year’s injury? Will the defense be any better in the second year under John Fox?
Best Game on the Schedule: If you’re a Bears fan, week 13 against the 49ers gives you the best chance to win one!
Worst Game on the Schedule: If you’re not a Bears fan, week 13 against the 49ers gives you the best chance to catch up on the new season of “The Bachelor”
2016-2017 finish: Fourth in the North