Super Bowl series 2017: NFC North
Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl Series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl Series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the third edition, Super Bowl Series: NFC North.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay was awfully close to winning the Super Bowl last season but lost in the NFC Championship game. Atlanta completely dominated the game and won 44-21. The Packers offense is good enough to propel the team to consistent runs at the Super Bowl but if the Packers want to recapture the magic of 2011, the defense must improve.
Calling the Packers offense good is somewhat of an understatement. Green Bay was fourth is scoring last season averaging 27 points per game. The Packers offense scored a lot of points but was very one-dimensional. The passing attack ranked seventh (262.4 yards per game) and the running game ranked 20th (106.3 yards per game). Packer fans can thank Aaron Rodgers for how much he has carried this franchise.
Rodgers has been historically amazing. He has the best touchdown to interception ratio of all time at 4.12. The next closest is Tom Brady with 3.0. He also had 4,428 yards, 40 touchdowns and just seven interceptions last season.
If the Packers want to win Super Bowl LII, Aaron Rodgers must continue to put up these gaudy numbers. The impressive stats include 4,000 or more yards in six of the past nine seasons, 30 or more touchdowns in six of the last eight seasons and a career record of 90-45. If you take out 2013 in which Rodgers missed seven games due to a broken collarbone, it looks even more magnificent.
There is consistent evidence that the passing attack in Green Bay will flourish and the Packers added tight end Martellus Bennett to help Rodgers even more. Last season Green Bay’s tight ends combined for 64 receptions, 683 yards and three touchdowns.
Bennett had 55 receptions, 701 yards and seven touchdowns with the Patriots, and that was while sharing time with Rob Gronkowski. Bennett is a major upgrade that can help the Packers in the middle of the field and in the red zone.
Improving the running game will also be key in the Packers winning Super Bowl LII. Green Bay was ranked 20th, as mentioned earlier, and they lost two starting offensive lineman from last season, TJ.. Lang and JC Tretter. Losing Lang may not be as a big of a blow as most would think. The Packers struggled running to the right and ranked 25th in the NFL with 18 negative run plays to his side.
Green Bay also drafted running back Jamaal Williams out of BYU. Williams had a quietly outstanding senior season, rushing for 1,375 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 234 carries. If the right side of the line improves at run blocking and Jamaal Williams can make an immediate impact, then the offense can become unpredictable and lead the Packers to a Super Bowl victory.
The Packers offense can’t do it completely alone. Green Bay was really good at stopping the run and getting sacks last season. The run defense ranked eighth, allowing 91.7 yards per game and sixth in sacks with 40.
Green Bay’s ability to stop the run is a bit deceiving though. Opposing teams only ran the ball 39.7 percent of the time on Green Bay because it was so easy to pass on them. The Packers ranked 31st in pass defense giving up 269.2 yards per game. This must improve if the Packers want to get to the Super Bowl.
Let’s face it, with Aaron Rodgers on your team a Super Bowl is always within reach. If Green Bay can have an unpredictable offense and improve its pass defense, then the Packers can get over the hump and win Super Bowl LII.
Detroit had what most would say was a surprising season last year. They finished 9-7 but had they beat Green Bay in week 17, then the Lions would have won the division.
The Lions got bounced out of the playoffs by Seattle 26-6. Matthew Stafford has yet to win a playoff game in his career but there is a small possibility they could win their first ever Super Bowl this season.
The Detroit defense was nothing spectacular but not horrible either last season. They ranked 13th in points allowed per game (22.4), 19th in passing yards allowed per game (269.2) and 18th in rushing yards allowed (106.3). If the Lions want to contend for a Super Bowl title, they must win the division and earn home playoff games.
Accomplishing a division title means beating Green Bay and shutting down Aaron Rodgers. Detroit needs to become a top-five pass defense and improve on their 10 interceptions from last season in order to become the kings of the North. Creating turnovers will make it easier for Matthew Stafford and the offense. Detroit should embrace bringing back the pain of the black and blue division.
Offensively, the Lions struggled to finish with points. They had the 11th ranked passing attack with 259.9 yards per game but ranked 20th in points scored per game (21.6). Stafford threw for 4,327 yards and 24 touchdowns but it wasn’t enough scoring. The running game held the team back averaging 81.9 yards per game, which was third-worst in the NFL.
Similar to Green Bay, Detroit needs to stop being one-dimensional. The additions of Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang should provide some assistance to the running game but Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick must also step up. If these two backs can combine for a minimum of 1,500 yards, there is a good chance the Lions will be good enough to win the division.
With the 18th-easiest strength of schedule heading into the season, the Lions can steal a few wins on the shoulders of Matthew Stafford. If they want to really become Super Bowl contenders, they must stop the pass and create more turnovers. Along with improving defensively, the Lions need to run their way to a division title.
Minnesota was looking like a serious Super Bowl contender through five games last season. The Vikings started 5-0 before the wheels eventually flew off. Minnesota then went 3-8 to stumble to an 8-8 record. Interestingly enough, the Vikings are much closer to winning a Super Bowl than most would care to admit.
The Vikings are a true defensive beast in the black and blue division behind defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer. Despite having a historically bad offense, the Vikings defense still had an impressive 2016-17 campaign.
Minnesota ranked sixth in points allowed per game (19.2), third in pass yards allowed (207.9), fifth in sacks (41) and third in total yards allowed despite ranking 20th in rush defense (106.9).
There isn’t much the Vikings need to improve on defensively. Replacing nickel corner Captain Munnerlyn is the biggest concern. Mike Zimmer has a long history of success with secondaries, so Vikes fans need not to worry on who Zimmer chooses. The Vikings could improve their run defense as well, but most of the issues come from defensive tackles like Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joesph dealing with on and off injuries.
The offensive side of the ball is where the Vikings need to step up. The offensive line was one of the most injured in the NFL and the Vikings lost both Matt Kalil and Andre Smith in free agency. Minnesota signed Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to compensate for those losses. The running game was the worst in the NFL at 75.3 yards per game. The Vikings didn’t have a single run go for over 40 yards.
Minnesota wasn’t that great passing the ball either. The Vikings ranked 18th with 239.8 passing yards per game. Due to the bad offensive production, the Vikings struggled to put up points averaging just 20.4 per game.
Not everything about the Vikings offense was miserable. There was flashes of greatness last season. Sam Bradford broke the NFL record for completion percentage in a single season by completing 71.6 percent of his passes.
The offense also improved after Norv Turner resigned midseason. Before Turner resigned as offensive coordinator, the Vikings were averaging 221.4 passing yards and 71.8 rushing yards per game. In the nine games with Pat Shurmur in charge of the offense, the Vikings averaged 254 passing yards and 78 rushing yards per game. Shurmur knows how to play to Sam Bradford’s strength and that bodes well for the Vikings moving forward.
Minnesota already has a championship-caliber defense. The defense can carry them to a lot of victories but to get to a Super Bowl the Vikings must improve their offense in all phases. If the Vikings can break the top 15 in both rushing and passing, along with staying healthy, then not only can the Vikings win their first Super Bowl, but they can win it in their home stadium.
The 2016-17 Chicago Bears lost 13 games for the first time since 1969 when they went 1-13. It was a nightmare year in which the Bears were ravaged by injuries. Chicago placed 19 players on injured reserve which was the most in the NFL.
The Bears also were 1-7 in games decided by seven points or less. The 3-13 record didn’t truly reflect the team’s talent.
John Fox is ready to take the Bears to the next level. In his second season with Carolina, he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl. In his third season with Denver, he led the Broncos to the Super Bowl. As he enters his third season with the Bears, he could do the same.
The Bears can’t win a Super Bowl behind Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky. They can, however, win a Super Bowl behind their defense and running game. With an entirely new roster of quarterbacks, it will be hard to predict how good the Bears offense can be.
The running game should be their bread and butter. Jordan Howard ran for 1,313 yards on 252 carries in just 12 starts as a rookie. The Bears are projected to have the fifth-best offensive line this season according to Pro Football Focus. If it pans out, the Bears will be able to run the ball with success thus taking the pressure off whoever ends up playing under center.
The passing game will remain a mystery. Mike Glennon has only started 18 games in his three-year career and has a record of 5-13 in those games. Rookie quarterback and second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky is likely to see some action this season as well.
The receiving corp is full of potential with Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, Markus Wheaton, Rueben Randle, Victor Cruz and Kendell Wright. It is unlikely all of them make the roster but aside from Kevin White, all have shown optimistic flashes of skill throughout their career.
If the Bears want to win Super Bowl LII, it is going to be because of their defense. Akiem Hicks, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and Leonard Floyd will create havoc for opposing quarterbacks. The secondary should improve with the additions of Quinton Demps and Prince Amukamara. Amukamara loves to play aggressively and in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense he will be able to.
It is going to take a lot for the Bears to make the Super Bowl. The chances are small but there is always a chance. Chicago’s defense needs to become a Monsters of the Midway defense again for them to get there. They also need Jordan Howard to improve his performance from last season. Lastly, Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky need to be spectacular. If the Bears can do all of this, they can win Super Bowl LII.
Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl Series: NFC North. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series.
Featured image courtesy of http://www.steelcityunderground.com/2016/09/10/2016-nfl-predictions-nfc-north/