It’s almost that time again, on September 8th, there will be a Super Bowl 50 rematch to kick off the new NFL season. This series is being used to go through each division to do a preview of each team and where each team is going to place within each of their divisions.
This division should be another good two team race between Green Bay and Minnesota. Last year Minnesota surprised some people and jumped to the top of the NFC North. Adrian Peterson is still a premier running back, but they lost their starting quarterback and the Packers still have Aaron Rodgers who can lead them to a win against any team in the league. The Lions are going down with some key losses in the offseason and the Bears are going up, but they aren’t good enough to compete with the Packers this season.
The Chicago Bears have had some really serious issues over the last few years, but made some strides to be better last year and they should be better this season as well. Jay Cutler looked more like the quarterback that Chicago fans thought they were getting when he was traded from Denver. The receivers are good, but were injury plagued last season. Alshon Jeffrey has the ability to be one of the best receivers in the league, but only played in nine games last year because he couldn’t stay healthy. It will be interesting to see how Kelvin White adjusts to the NFL on the other side after missing his entire rookie season because of an injury. Eddie Royal missed seven games last year and didn’t really build good chemistry with Cutler. Hopefully, he can build a better rapport with Cutler this season and become a solid number three receiver. Tight end Zach Miller broke out a little bit last season and became a good security blanket for Cutler.
It will be interesting to see if Jeremy Langford can take the lead running back role for a full sixteen games this season with Matt Forte now in New York. Their offensive line was average last season and should be roughly the same this season. They were good at run blocking, but had some issues in the pass blocking. The weakness of the line is the center position when they lost Hroniss Grasu for the season with a torn ACL and need to find someone that can be productive to be successful.
The weakest part of this team is the secondary. Kyle Fuller is a really good cornerback that major strides from his rookie to his sophomore season, but the rest of the secondary is troubling. Tracy Porter is not the corner that he once was and can be a bit of a liability on the left side and Bryce Callahan is a troubling corner from the slot. Adrian Amos is an average safety that can help in coverage, but Harold Jones-Quartey isn’t very good in the other safety role.
Even though the secondary isn’t that good, the front seven is pretty good. Jonathan Bullard was a steal for the Bears in the third round in this year’s draft. He is a defensive lineman that has good instincts, vision, hands, and the versatility to be moved all over Chicago’s line. Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks are both solid pieces along the line as well that should make it pretty good. Pernell McPhee was an excellent pick up for the Bears last season and should be even better this season. They also brought in Leonard Floyd in the first round of the NFL draft who has the athleticism to become a really good outside linebacker in this league.
The Detroit Lions were a team that went to the playoffs two years ago then fell off last year and could fall off even more this year. Matthew Stafford is still a good quarterback, but he lost one of the best weapons in the league with Calvin Johnson retiring. They still have Golden Tate and brought in Anquan Boldin to try to make up for Johnson being gone. Boldin has been a solid receiver everywhere he has gone and will probably be Stafford’s number one receiver. Ameer Abdullah is a good running back to make the passing game a little bit better. Their offensive line took a step back last year and it doesn’t look like they will be much better this season, with the exception of first round pick Taylor Decker. Decker has good size and strength and should eventually be a good tackle in this league.
Detroit has a troubling secondary and an average front seven. Their line was one of the worst against the run, but they were pretty good against the pass. Haloti Ngata couldn’t find his form after being traded from the Ravens, but should be better adjusted going into this season. Ezekiel Ansah is very good coming off of the end, but Devin Taylor and Tyrunn Walker are that good an have trouble on the other side. It will be interesting if A’Shawn Robinson can carve a bit of a niche on this team and become a cog on this defense going forward either at the one or three technique defensive tackle spot. The Lions linebacker unit has the chance to be pretty good and make up for the deficiencies of the line if DeAndre Levy can stay healthy. Tahir Whitehead and Kyle Van Noy are both good, but there was a noticeable difference last season with Levy out. Unfortunately for this defense, the secondary isn’t really good. Cornerbacks Nevin Lawson and Quandre Diggs, and safety Rafael Bush are all average to below average players that could easily get exposed. Glover Quin is a good safety and Darius Slay is a really good corner, but they don’t make up for the rest of the deficiencies around the defense.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers still have the best quarterback in the league with Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers had the misfortune of losing his number one target last year when Jordy Nelson got injured in the preseason, but he should come back healthy this year. Nelson is one of the best receivers in the league and his return should be able to help both Davonte Adams and Randall Cobb. Cobb can move back to the slot and give Rodgers one of the best inside targets in the game. The biggest x-factor of this offense is running back Eddie Lacy. In 2015, he got out of shape entering the season and it clearly affected him on the field. He claims that he lost at least fifteen pounds in the offseason, and if that is the case then he should be able to be an effective back again. Their offensive line has two really good guards with TJ Lang and Josh Sitton and the unit as a whole is one of the better ones in the league. They should be able to help Lacy return to form and allow the Packers one of the elite teams in the NFL.
This defense is really good as well. Clay Matthews is still a really good linebacker that can play almost anywhere in the front seven, but should be able to play at his best position and rush from the outside. Julius Peppers may have lost a step, but he is still a really good outside linebackers in the league. Mike Daniels is a really good defensive tackle that should be able to make an impact on opposing offenses. They did take a blow when they lost starting nose tackle BJ Raji, but possibly found his replacement with their first round pick Kenny Clark. Clark was a former amateur wrestler that has the athleticism and initial quickness to cause headaches for other offenses in the league. Although their defensive front seven is good, their secondary might be just as good. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a very underrated safety that is above average in coverage, can help stop the run, and is only going to be better entering his third season. Morgan Burnett is a good compliment for Clinton-Dix, but he needs to stay healthy this season. Sam Shields, Demarious Randall and Quinten Rollins are all above average corners that should complement this defense very well.
The Minnesota Vikings surprised a lot of people and took a division that everyone thought belonged to Green Bay. Part of the reason they were so good is because still have potentially the best running back in the league with Adrian Peterson. He came back from his suspension last year and seemed to not even miss a step. The biggest misfortune of this team is that they lost Teddy Bridgewater for the entire season with a serious knee injury. They did trade for Sam Bradford, but he will have to learn the offense and that could take some time. The Vikings receivers squad is young and inexperienced, but there is potential for them to be really good. Stephon Diggs showed last season that he is a really good receiver and their first round pick, Laquon Treadwell, has a similar skillset to Julio Jones or Dez Bryant, but needs time to develop to become nearly that good. Tight end Kyle Rudolph needs to step up this season to give Bradford a good safety blanket and make the offense better. Their offensive line is above average and should be able to improve going into this season.
Mike Zimmer has done a really great job revamping this defense and if the Vikings want to win a lot of games then this defense has to play up to their potential. Their front seven and secondary are both really good that compliment themselves really nicely. Cornerback Terence Williams has revitalized his career since following Mike Zimmer to Cincinnati and Minnesota thereafter. Xavier Rhodes was a solid corner last season and their second round pick, Mackensie Alexander, has really good speed and physical ability to play in coverage and help in run support. Those cornerbacks combined with one of the best safeties in the league Harrison Smith make for a top secondary in the league.
This defense’s front seven is just as strong as the secondary. Linval Joseph, Sharrif Floyd, Everson Griffen, and Brian Robinson make for one of the best lines in the league and have good depth behind them with second year player Danielle Hunter becoming a better player. Anthony Barr is one of the best outside linebackers in the league that has really good speed and one of the best cover linebackers in the league. Eric Kendricks and Chad Greenway fill out a solid linebacker corps to make this defense really good.
4th Place: Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions had a devastating offseason and lost their best player, Calvin Johnson. Although Anquan Bolden has always been a consistently good receiver in this league, he isn’t on that level. The weakened offense combined with a subpar defense makes this season look fairly bad for the Lions. They will probably win around five or six games and hopefully start rebuilding for the future around Matthew Stafford.
3rd Place: Chicago Bears
This Bears team isn’t the best in the league, but they could be back in the mix for this division in the next year or two when their defense comes into form. The offense has some talent as well, but none of their playmakers have really been healthy in the last couple of seasons, they need to change that if they want to be competitive this season. The Chicago secondary will hold this team back a bit, but they should win either seven or eight games.
2nd Place: Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings had a really good chance of winning this division, but the loss of Teddy Bridgewater might be to big to overcome. Hopefully, Bradford can learn the system quickly and allow them to maybe make a run. They still have Adrian Peterson and a fairly good set of receivers so no matter who starts at quarterback should be able to get a couple of wins. They also have a really good defense that only seems to be getting better and they should get them to nine or ten wins and possibly a playoff spot.
1st Place: Green Bay Packers
The Packers still have the best quarterback on one of the best offenses with a really good defense and should be able to take advantage of this division and conference. No team benefited from the unfortunate Teddy Bridgewater injury than the Green Bay Packers. They now have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL and should win thirteen or fourteen games and enter the postseason as the number one seed in the NFC.
My name is Sean, I have been a fan of the NFL for at least 25 years and want to get my thoughts out to the public. Please visit the main site for more posts