The NFC North has traditionally been a rough and tumble division. In the old “Black-and-Blue” division, defense and running games used to rule. It seems as though the Chicago Bears are the only one that have kept that formula and it seems to be working. The Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Vikings have gone further and further towards a pass-first, high scoring type of football. For the most part, this new style has worked for these teams. Will it continue this season?
The Detroit Lions are riding their veteran quarterback, Matt Stafford, to the bitter end. Stafford has done well in his career, becoming the Lions all-time leading passer with over 38,000 yards! The difference in young Stafford and experienced Stafford is that the young Stafford had one of the best receivers in NFL history, Calvin Johnson. Well, Johnson is gone and the passing attack is not what it once was. Compounding the issues is the fact that Detroit has only had a rusher gain over 100 yards twice since 2013! The only saving grace is that new Head Coach Matt Patricia is defensive-minded and improved the Lions defense to a top-10 unit. Even still, the offensive struggles will handicap this team as the Elldee Sports Formula is predicting a 5-11 season and last place finish for Detroit.
2nd and 3rd place in the NFC North is a virtual tie. The Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers are both expected to finish with a 9-7 records. Both teams are predicted to win three divisional matchups, splitting the head-to-head games, each defeating the other on their home turf. These teams are built very differently with Green Bay having a powerful passing attack, led by perennial pro-bowler Aaron Rodgers, but a middling defense that is void of any big-names. The Minnesota Vikings have one of the top NFL defenses but the offense is a well-balanced, yet, middle-of-the-road unit. Minnesota is younger and appears to be on the rise while Green Bay looks more towards rebuilding as their nucleus seems to have seen their best days pass by. Either way, both teams are still solid but must find a way to force turnovers as each team finished with a 0 +/- margin. To be a winning team in the professional ranks, you have to have a positive turnover margin.
The cream of the crop in the North are the Chicago Bears, who have embraced their roots of a smash-mouth, defense first team! Young quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a game-manager at this point in his career but only continues to improve. The running game is solid, as well, but the real strength of the Bears is the defense. Chicago has the league’s best rush defense, giving up only 80 yards on the ground. Couple that with a +12 turnover margin, the Bears become very difficult to beat. In fact the Elldee Sports Formula is predicting a 15-1 record! The only loss is a 50/50 toss-up game against the New Orleans Saints. That record will earn this team home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as the #1 seed.
The NFC North looks to send the Chicago Bears to the playoffs as the #1 seed, the only divisional representative. The Vikings and Packers are both quality teams but will just miss the playoffs this season. The Lions will finish last, at 5-11, and need to do some serious rebuilding and player development to return to the post season. Until next time, good luck!