With rosters in place and training camps inching closer, it is time to evaluate what we know about each team. In this series, TGH will predict where each team will land in their division, and whether or not they will be in contention for the playoffs.
Today, the NFC North is evaluated.
First Place – Green Bay Packers
Much has been made about the Packers’ baffling decision to not address the wide receiver position in the 2020 NFL Draft. It was easily the weakest position on the team in 2019, and apart from the signing of Devin Funchess, the front office did nothing to bolster it. This decision makes even less sense considering this draft was one of the deepest wide receiver drafts in recent memory.
To add insult to injury, Green Bay drafted Aaron Rodgers’ potential replacement with their first round pick, Jordan Love. But, the focus needs to be shifted to what they did do, rather than what they did not.
The draft included three lineman and a blocking tight end, along with a bruiser of a running back. Given the Packers’ success running the ball in 2019, it makes sense the team would lean into that success. Aaron Jones will be back and hungrier than ever, and Rodgers will be playing with a chip on his shoulder to prove the doubters- both inside and outside of the organization- wrong.
Green Bay won 13 games last year and were one game away from a Super Bowl appearance. While they probably will not reach that high again, they can absolutely repeat as NFC North champions, being the most complete team in the division.
Second Place – Chicago Bears
The Bears’ regression last season was shocking to many NFL fans. The step backwards was mostly on the offensive side of the ball, as Mitch Trubisky disappointed and the running game did not rise to even it out.
On the defensive side of the ball, they failed to reach the highs of 2018, but that was to be expected to a certain extent. Chicago’s 2018 defense was historically good, and could match up with any team in the entire league. While it was still good in 2019, and will likely continue to be well above average in 2020, it is unrealistic to expect 2018 numbers again, if for no other reason than the sheer amount of tape teams have on them now.
The biggest story of the offseason for Chicago was the signing of Nick Foles. Foles, after winning a Super Bowl for the Eagles, secured a huge contract with Jacksonville before 2019 began. He could not stay healthy, and, frankly, did not impress as a Jaguar. The Bears saw an opportunity to snag him to create a quarterback competition with Trubisky. This is a tactic they are surely hoping will bring out the best in both players.
In short, the Bears offense will be better, the defense will still be stout, and a return to form is close to inevitable. Second place is more than doable for the team. Look for them to be in contention for a Wild Card slot.
Third Place – Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota had one of the roughest offseasons of any team in the entire NFL.
Their defense was absolutely gutted. Two starting cornerbacks, Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes left in free agency. Along with that, two defensive linemen Everson Griffen and and Linval Joseph also left town. That is nine Pro Bowls between those four players alone.
On top of those departures, they lost number one receiver Stefon Diggs. Granted, he was ready to leave and the Vikings got a first rounder for a player who wanted out. Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski also became the head coach of the Cleveland Browns ahead of the 2020 season.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Vikings also extended Kirk Cousins, who was already on one of the most unprecedented contracts in NFL history. He was very good last year, and Minnesota clearly likes what they have, but whether the contracts reflect the production is up for debate.
A step back is very likely for the team, regardless of their success last year. The race for the Wild Card spots will be close, but if Chicago is resurgent, the Vikings will be on the outside looking in.
Fourth Place – Detroit Lions
Detroit had a collapse after a good start to the season. Going 2-0-1 in their first three games, the season unraveled to find them second-worst in the league, finishing 3-12-1.
Unfortunately, the offseason was not much kinder to the Lions. They lost their best player, Darius Slay to a trade with the Eagles. They also lost an offensive lineman, Graham Glasgow, to the Broncos, Damon “Snacks” Harrison and running back J.D. McKissic.
The good news is, the bad record led to a fantastic pick, in Chase Young. Some people touted Young as the best player in the entire draft. Also, Matthew Stafford will be healthy, and veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant will try and take Slay’s place.
This will be a make-or-break year for head coach Matt Patricia, and a fourth place finish will probably not inspire enough confidence to re-sign him. But, if they can overcome an objectively less-talented roster than the other teams in the North, he may just earn his spot back.
Featured Image courtesy of USA TODAY Sports
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