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2018 NFL Forecast: NFC North Roundtable

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota dominated the NFC North last season. Their impressive 13-3 season ended with a blowout loss to the Eagles in the NFC Championship round. Nonetheless, a Packers squad with a healthy Aaron Rodgers could certainly challenge their reign. An improved Bears team will also be aiming to claim their first division crown since 2010.

Our consensus predictions:

1. Minnesota Vikings

This offseason the Vikings made history when they signed former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins to a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal, a first at the position. With Case Keenum now in Denver and Sam Bradford in Glendale, Minnesota’s front office is clearly confident Cousins will be able to connect well with receivers Stefon Diggs and unlikely, local star Adam Thielen, who is one of the best values in the NFL. Entering the league in 2014 as an undrafted free agent out of Division II Minnesota State, Thielen recorded 1,276 receiving yards (averaging 14 yards per reception) and four touchdowns last season. The Vikings also signed former first round defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, bolstering a defense that was number one in the league for total defense (YPG) in 2017. If Cousins can step in and continue his offensive success in tandem with a stifling defensive front, the Vikings are well positioned for another deep postseason run. - Sage Morander

The Vikings return pretty much their entire 2017 roster which was a game away from playing in Super Bowl LII. The only major difference is that they’ll get an extremely promising running back re-entering the fold from injury and a probable upgrade at quarterback in Kirk Cousins. I’m a bit skeptical that the Cousins-Minnesota marriage will be dynamite out of the gate (these things rarely are) but I believe he’ll be effective enough to take a loaded roster very deep this season. - Jake Louque

Kirk Cousins joins a Vikings team that is on the cusp of winning a championship. While the offensive line still has some weak spots, the receiver tandem of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen is among the top starting duos in the game. Game breaking running back Dalvin Cook will also return from injury. But the other side of the ball is where Minnesota’s strength lies. Mike Zimmer’s defense is outstanding, with elite caliber players at every level. The four man line of Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Sheldon Richardson and Everson Griffin is a dominant force. On the back end, Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith are some of the best defensive backs in the NFL. Expect the Vikings to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2018. - Vasilis Lericos

2. Green Bay Packers

Entering his 14th season, Aaron Rodgers is always a threat to the entire NFC due to his efficiency as a passer. Plagued by a broken collar bone in Week 6, Rodgers and the Packers will look to rebound from a 7-9 season and third place finish in the division in 2017. This offseason, Green Bay released injury-prone receiver Jordy Nelson and signed top-tier tight end Jimmy Graham to bolster Rodgers’ targets. Linebacker Clay Matthews continues to anchor the defense, leading the team in sacks last year. However, fellow linebacker Blake Martinez emerged in his second season out of Stanford, leading the Packers in total tackles. With a healthy Rodgers, look for the Packers to bounce back and return to the top 10 in passing offense after falling from seventh in 2016 to 25th in 2017 in the absence of their future Hall of Famer. - Sage Morander

I was tempted to put the Packers at number one; after all they finally seem a bit more committed to getting a real NFL roster around Aaron Rodgers for the first time in a while. I don’t think they’re all the way there though. Jimmy Graham and some nice draft picks are a good start but I’ll need to see more before I’m ready to put them in the Super Bowl conversation. - Jake Louque

Aaron Rodgers, the best quarterback in the game today, is the centerpiece of the Packers franchise. He does not have the best offensive weapons to work with, but behind a solid pass blocking line and with the help of ascending receiver Davante Adams, as well as a solid running back committee, he will lead a Green Bay offense that lights up the scoreboard. Their defensive front is underwhelming, but the secondary is built to protect the leads Rodgers provides. Rookie corners Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson will work with second year defensive backs Josh Jones and Kevin King to comprise an ultra talented young corps. The Packers should be firmly in the wildcard mix. - Vasilis Lericos

3. Chicago Bears

The Bears have failed to make the playoffs since 2010, which is also the last time Chicago claimed the division title. The Bears are still far away from becoming contenders as they look to develop quarterback Mitchell Trubisky for future success. The second overall pick in 2017, Trubisky will look to improve from his seven interceptions and five fumbles in 12 games played during his rookie season. To assist their young signal caller, the Bears signed wide receiver Allen Robinson. Robinson tore his ACL in 2017, playing in just one contest for the Jaguars. Over the course of his career, Robinson has averaged 14.1 yards per reception and should become a reliable target in the Windy City if he can stay on the field. On defense, re-signed cornerback Prince Amukamara has set a goal of 10 interceptions next season. A mark as improbable as the Bears winning the division in 2018, considering his career total sits at seven. - Sage Morander

The Bears haven’t hidden the fact that they’re trying to be this year’s version of the 2017 Rams. If all the pieces they brought in work out, they’ll at least be able to produce a reasonable facsimile of what Sean McVay and Jared Goff did, even if Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky aren’t quite on their level. I’d only expect that to go so far, as I have Chicago finishing around .500 while they endure some growing pains in 2018. - Jake Louque

Chicago brought in offensive minded head coach Matt Nagy to work with Mitch Trubisky in an attempt to replicate the Rams quick turnaround. Free agents Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton were signed to bring some receiving options to a smash mouth style offense that features tailbacks Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. The Bears defense is largely underrated, first round linebacker Roquan Smith may be the captain they need to create an imposing defense. While making the postseason will be difficult in the rugged NFC, Chicago is a team on the rise. - Vasilis Lericos

4. Detroit Lions

Closing in on a decade in the NFL, Matthew Stafford is still chasing his first postseason victory. In a down year for the division, Detroit was able to finish second with a 9-7 record in 2017. The Lions ranked dead last in rushing yards per game last season, and will hope offseason addition LeGarrette Blount can return to his 2016 production when he rushed for over 1,000 yards with the Patriots. Detroit also released tight end Eric Ebron who tied for third in receiving within the organization in 2017. For the Lions to break out of the pack, their defense will need to improve from 27th in total defense. The Lions will look to new head coach Matt Patricia to improve the culture of the defense, as he previously served as the defensive coordinator for New England’s Super Bowl wins in 2014 and 2016. - Sage Morander

This is tough for me because I’ve long felt that Matthew Stafford is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in football. Unfortunately for him, his supporting cast doesn’t look nearly up to snuff enough to help him get the respect he deserves. At least, that’s how it looks right now. If the right pieces fall into place, the Lions could push for a wild card spot. If they don’t? I could see them near the top of the draft order next Spring. - Jake Louque

On paper, Detroit has one of the least talented rosters in the league. End Ziggy Ansah, linebacker Jarrad Davis and corner Darius Slay are their only notable defenders. The offense completely revolves around Matthew Stafford and his uncanny ability to engineer game winning drives. Running back Kerryon Johnson should be an impact rookie behind an improving offensive line. Overall, first year head coach Matt Patricia will face an uphill climb in 2018. - Vasilis Lericos


Who will win the NFC North?

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  • 66%
    (512 votes)
  • 22%
    (174 votes)
  • 1%
    (15 votes)
  • 8%
    (66 votes)
767 votes total Vote Now