I will begin my NFC preview with the NFC North. If you’re unsure on how I am breaking down each team check out my previous articles.
Chicago Bears: 2015 Record: 6-10
2016 Projected Record: 3-13
Key Additions: Danny Trevathan, Leonard Floyd (draft), Josh Sitton
Key Losses: Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett, Matt Slauson
Unfortunately for the Bears they still are stuck with Jay Cutler at the QB position. Cutler might have the worst contract in the league. Bears have him signed through 2020 & his average salary from 2016-2020 is $18.2 million so if Bears want to part ways with him they’re going to have to eat some money. Jay Cutler has only thrown over 4,000 yards only once in his 10 years in the NFL & has only made playoffs once. I also don’t like Cutler as the leader of my team. When he plays he seems like he’s just going through the motions. Don’t get me wrong we’ve seen how talented his arm is but I don’t think his mental ability & toughness ever caught up to his arm.
The Bears lost Matt Forte in the offseason which is a big hit to their offense. The Bears have Jeremy Langford & Kadeem Carey (plus Jordan Howard who I think will end up being the starter by the end of the year) to try & make up for Forte but I don’t see it happening. Langford was pretty good last year with 537 yards & 6 TDs but he’s not Matt Forte so the offense is already worse than last year in my opinion. The Bears are finally getting to see what they have in Kevin White after being injured his whole rookie season in 2015. They also have Alshon Jeffery still which if their receivers stay healthy they’re set at WR but the problem lies more in who’s throwing them the ball.
The defensive line of the Bears is very unproven with Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, & Mitch Unrein. None of those guys stand out as a potential great player in the making but who knows. The linebacking corp of the Bears definitely got improved with the addition of Danny Trevathan from the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. The guys rushing the edge for the Bears are Lamarr Houston & Willie Young.In 2015 Willie Young had a very sub-par year with just 6.5 sacks. On the other side Lamarr Houston is only in there until Pernell McPhee comes off the PUP list. The Bears also drafted Leonard Floyd in the 1st round to help their mediocre pass rush.
The Bears is also pretty average. At the corner spots they have Kyle Fuller & Tracy Porter which isn’t a terrible duo but last year the Bears only had 8 interceptions as a team which was tied for the 2nd worst in the NFL. At the safety positions the Bears have Adrian Amos & Harold Jones-Quartey. In 2015 Jones-Quartey only started in 4 games so he’s still a question while Amos looked solid in his rookie year in 2015. In my opinion the Bears are going to be in the running for the worst team in the NFL & I think they actually win that title (Yeah! they won something…)
Detroit Lions: 2015 Record: 7-9
2016 Projected Record: 6-10
Key Additions: Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin
Key Losses: Calvin Johnson, Stephen Tulloch
Matthew Stafford is yet another QB where I don’t understand the hate he gets from everyone. Stafford has put up at least 4,200 yards & 20 TDs in the last 5 years. Although he lost Megatron he still has a lot of weapons in Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin & Eric Ebron. Stafford also thrived in Jim Bob Cooter’s offense (you had to of known I couldn’t have done a Lions preview without mentioning his name at least once) when he was named the offensive coordinator in week 8 of last year & I see that continuing this year.
The Lions are hoping for a major improvement from Ameer Abdullah this season. Abdullah only had 597 yards & 2 TDs in 2015 which led the Lions into having the worst rush offense in the NFL with just 1,335 yards. Like Melvin Gordon it’d be hard not to have a better season. The Lions have a good receiving corp in Tate, Jones & Boldin. I could see 2 of the 3 getting 1,000 yards & 8+ TDs this year with Stafford throwing to them. The Lions are also expecting Eric Ebron to improve this year because he’s been very disappointing in his first 2 years.
The defensive line is pretty good for the Lions which is led by Ezekiel Ansah & Haloti Ngata. Ansah had his best year in 2015 with 14.5 sacks which made him the 3rd leading sack leader in the NFL only behind guys named J.J Watt & Khalil Mack. The linebacking corp is still led by Deandre Levy who was out the whole 2015 season with injury so hopefully he can come back healthy. At the other linebacker spots the Lions have unproven starters in Tahir Whitehead & Kyle Van Noy. Van Noy will be getting his first career start in week 1.
The secondary of the Lions is alright especially since they have Darius Slay & Glover Quin. Slay has shown signs of being an elite shutdown corner in his first few years in the NFL. At the other corner spot is Nevin Lawson who has only started 9 games in 2 years so it’s hard to judge how he’ll be as a starter. At the safety position Detroit has Tavon Wilson & Glover Quin. Wilson comes from the Patriots where he’s played for the past 4 years. Glover Quin has been a very good safety since joining the Lions in 2013 having gotten 14 interceptions in 3 years with them. The Lions have a lot of question marks especially on defense which causes me to give them an under .500 record.
Green Bay Packers: 2015 Record: 10-6
2016 Projected Record: 12-4
Key Additions: Jared Cook
Key Losses: Josh Sitton, Casey Hayward
The Packers in my opinion have the best QB in the NFL with a guy named Aaron Rodgers, Last year Rodgers apparently “struggled” last year without Jordy Nelson but still put up a good season with 3,821, 31 TDs & 8 INTs while the Packers still won 10 games & made playoffs. I know it’s a disappointing season especially for a guy like Rodgers but I don’t like using the word “struggled” when obviously if a QB loses a target like Jordy Nelson their stats might take a hit but Rodgers in 2015 still put up a career year for some QBs. For example if you took Antonio Brown off the Steelers offense I guarantee Roethlisberger’s stats take a huge hit it’s common sense.
The Packers are hoping Eddie Lacy is finally is in the right mindset to where they feel comfortable moving forward with him as the staring RB. Supposedly Lacy has lost plenty of weight this offseason & is in the best playing shape of his NFL career. I love this Packers team but a viable running game can make them even more dangerous. Of course the big news for the Packers is Jordy Nelson is going to be ready to play week 1. Nelson was one of the best receivers in the NFL before having to sit out the entire 2015 season with a knee injury. The Packers also still have Randall Cobb & added Jared Cook in the offseason to give Aaron Rodgers another weapon.
The defensive line of the Packers is unproven. It consists of guys like Mike Pennel, Letroy Guion, & Mike Daniels. There’s a lot of people saying that they expect Mike Daniels to be an up & coming DE. The Packers are hoping Jake Ryan takes a step forward in his 2nd year in the league & hope he can step up & be the starter at MLB. The outside linebackers still consist of the dangerous duo of Julius Peppers & Clay Matthews. Peppers was tied 8th in the NFL in sacks with 10.5 in 2015 at 35 years old (he’s still a freak of nature). Matthews should be back to being an elite pass rusher after the failed experiment of putting him at MLB last year.
The secondary of Green Bay is very underrated. Although the Packers lost Casey Hayward the Packers still have Sam Shields & the 2 rookies who played pretty well last year in Damarious Randall & Quinten Rollins. Randall had 58 tackles & 3 INTs while Rollins had 31 tackles & 2 INTs. Sam Shields has always been a consistently good CB for the Packers. The safeties are Morgan Burnett & Ha Ha Clinton-Dix which is one of the best safety duos in the NFL. The Packers are a great team especially if Jordy can stay healthy & if he does I have the Packers as my favorites to win the NFC not just the NFC North.
Minnesota Vikings: 2015 Record: 11-5
2016 Projected Record: 10-6
Key Additions: Sam Bradford, Laquon Treadwell (draft)
Key Losses: Phil Loadholt, John Sullivan
The Vikings were expecting a big season for Teddy Bridgewater in 2016. Unfortunately Bridgewater injured his knee in practice & will miss the entire season. Minnesota didn’t wait long before calling the Eagles to negotiate a trade to bring Sam Bradford to the Vikings. Bradford is definitely an upgrade from Shaun Hill who is currently the backup on the Vikings roster. Bradford looked pretty good to end the year for the Eagles under then offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur who is now the TEs coach for the Vikings.
Do I need to spend anytime talking about how good Adrian Peterson is? Peterson ran for 1,485 yards to lead the league in yards & added 11 TDs which also was tied for the lead AT 30 YEARS OLD. With 1,000+ yards this year Peterson will jump into the top 10 of all time in rushing yards & asking if Peterson will get 1,000 yards is like asking if water is wet. The Vikings drafted Laquon Treadwell in the 1st round. I see him being a big target for Bradford & I see Stefon Diggs having an even better year than last year because no offense to Bridgewater he lacks a good deep ball.
The Vikings defensive line is a pretty good group. They’re led with Brian Robison & Everson Griffen on the end positions while Shariff Floyd & Linval Joseph. Robison has consistently been a solid DE for the Vikings. Griffen has been really good for the Vikings in the last 2 years, in 2014 he had 12 sacks & in 2015 he had 10.5. Floyd & Joseph have been a very formidable duo the past few years. The linebacking group is very athletic with the likes of Anthony Barr, Eric Hendricks, & Chad Greenway. Barr has already in his first couple years has already shown he’s one of the best LBs in the game because of his versatility.
The Vikings secondary is one of the best in the NFL in my opinion. The corners are Terence Newman & Xavier Rhodes while the safeties are Harrison Smith & Andrew Sendejo. Newman at 37 years old in 2015 had 3 INTs & showed he still has some left in the tank. In 2015 Rhodes showed his potential of maybe becoming an elite shutdown corner in the near future. Harrison Smith has consistently been one of the best safeties in the NFL since he’s been in the league. Sendejo is an unproven guy but the guys surrounding him should help him get acclimated to starting pretty fast. The Vikings are a great team but I just can’t them as a better than an Aaron Rodgers led team.
Final Prediction: Packers win the division at 12-4 with Jordy Nelson back & Vikings also make playoffs at 10-6.
The next division I will be taking a look at is the NFC South.