We’re officially in week one, and you can pretty much throw any NFC North prediction that has been made pre-Sam Bradford era in Minnesota in the trash. As of last week, this division became a whole lot more interesting. Most notably for Lions fans who no matter how punch drunk they got, still knew in their heart of hearts they were on the outside looking in from a competing in the division standpoint. Yes, Minnesota is still a good team. Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t the reason they made the playoffs last year, however he looked poised to take the next step through the preseason, and if he did, the Vikings were legit Super Bowl contenders.
Who else is excited that Sam Bradford is in this division now? I know Jay Cutler is, because now he isn’t the worst quarterback in the North anymore. Bradford has even less of a competitive drive than Cutler does, which is really saying something. The dude almost has sideline facial expressions worse than Eli Manning. It’s unfortunate the Lions don’t play the Vikings early on in the season, not even Peyton Manning in his prime could join a team on Sunday and have the offense looking like a well-oiled machine in a regular season NFL game just a week later. Once the Lions do play the Vikings though it’s likely Bradford will have a shoulder injury by then, and Shaun Hill can get the revenge game he’s always been dreaming of. The Vikings have a great defense, but the passing offense is below average. Stefon Diggs is nice, but I expect Adrian Peterson to get 350 touches this year. It’s AP, but he’s 31 so not exactly a spring chicken.
The Packers are still the cream of the crop. The Bridgewater injury only solidifies that they will come in first and be one of the top 3 teams in the entire NFC. They released Josh Sitton who the Bears promptly claimed, which was curious, but with a GM like Ted Thompson and his track record, it’s hard to really question anything he does. Rodgers had an off year for him last season, but reports are that he’s in the best shape of his life, and Jordy Nelson is back, so I fully expect the Packers offense to be in full swing again – just about any NFC North prediction would put the Packers first.
Oh the Bears. They were a media darling for about a month, but a few injuries knocked some sense into the general public and they realized this team just sucks. John Fox is meh. They lost all the good things on the 2015 team in Adam Gase, Forte, and Martellus; Kevin White isn’t good; Tracy Porter who has to be 70 years old by now is a starting DB; the guy calling your plays is named Dowell Loggains. Did I mention Jay Cutler is the quarterback? You’ll struggle to find an NFC North prediction with the Bears anywhere but last.
That brings us to our beloved Lions. You’re reading this, which means you’re likely familiar with all things Lions and don’t need for me to explain to you all the reasons they will or won’t be good because that’s all you’ve been listening to since April. With the easy schedule and overall talent on this team, if they don’t go 10-6 heads should roll.
Overall, division games carry a much higher importance this season than in past ones. The out of division opponents are the NFC East and AFC South, and if the Lions aren’t 6-2 with those 8 games it’s over. Especially since the Lions are competing for a wild card slot this season, and 5 of the 6 are essentially already locked up by the Panthers, Packers, Cardinals, Seahawks, and the NFC East winner it’s crucial that Detroit wins all of their toss-up games.
It’s a race for second in the NFC North between the Vikings and Lions, and here is why I believe the Lions will win: Since the Vikings finished in first last season they have to play the division winners of the NFC West and NFC South, the Cardinals and Panthers. The Lions have to play the 3rd place finishers, the Rams and Saints. I think the Vikings overall have a better team, but I think they lose both games to the Panthers and Cardinals, and I believe the Lions will beat the Rams and Saints. As for the rest of the fourteen games, I just don’t believe the Vikings are good enough to beat out the Lions by more than those two games. The Lions finish second, and hopefully their overall record is good enough to put them in the 6th playoff slot.
NFC North Prediction:
- Packers 14-2
- Lions 10-6
- Vikings 9-7
- Bears 4-12