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NFC North Prediction

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Green Bay Packers

The big challenge for the Packers front office this offseason was to hang onto the free agents on their current roster, a feat made even more difficult by the salary cap challenges Green Bay, and most NFL teams are facing this year.

RBs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams were both free agents, putting in jeopardy the Packers’ strong backfield, the tandem’s solid run game helping QB Aaron Rodgers’ passing attack work more effectively, but GM Brian Gutekunst were able to secure the longterm contract of Aaron Jones.

Another key to this Green Bay offseason was to bring in some young talent to provide roster depth, and on defense. The Aaron Rodgers drama took over this off-season in Green Bay. The reigning NFL MVP wanted out, but thankfully he was around when training camp started. The Pack were 1 game away from the Super Bowl and finished with a 13-3 record. If Matt LaFleur didn’t opt to kick that field goal in the NFC Championship game, who knows what the narrative surrounding Green Bay would be right now?

Aside from Rodgers, the team has a fair bit of talent on both sides of the ball, and a good majority of their starters are returning. The resigning of Aaron Jones was vital and if only the defense can hold their own, this could be a Super Bowl winning team. Packers managed to resign Tyler Lancaster outside of Aaron Jones. Unfortunately they lost Jamaal Williams and more importantly the best graded center in Corey Linsley. Packers three best draft picks were OG Royce Newman, DT Tedarrell Slaton, CB Shemar Jean-Charles.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings’ front office needs to do more to protect their franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins, who endured the highest pressure rate ever in 2020, which forced him to rush his delivery, and more often than not, that caused Minnesota’s offense to falter.

The bulk of the Vikings’ schedule is six games against NFC North foes and four contests versus AFC North teams. The two Los Angeles teams, plus Arizona, Carolina, Dallas, San Francisco, and Seattle, round out the slate. Minnesota opens the season with a two-game road trip and has a Week 7 BYE. With Cousins improving, RB Dalvin Cook and WR Justin Jefferson doing their thing, a 9–8 record is within reach for the Vikings. The Vikings had a good offseason with additions like CB Patrick Peterson, S Xavier Woods, DT Dalvin Tomlinson. But have lost Kyle Rudolph and Anthony Harris. To help the offensive line, Vikings drafted Christian Darrisaw.

Even Kirk Cousins, who is widely disrespected in the media, brings a lot to the team. If he is consistent in 2021, along with the revamped O-line, Minnesota should feature one of the top offenses in the league. However, last year, the problem was on the other side of the ball. Head coach Mike Zimmer, a defensive-minded coach, said it was the “worst defense” he’d ever had in the NFL.

Corners were getting torched, and the team had trouble dominating the line of scrimmage and putting pressure on QBs. The young corners have had time to settle, and veteran Patrick Peterson ought to add some balance to their secondary. On top of this, superstar edge rusher Danielle Hunter is back after an injury-laden 2020. Zimmer is now the longest-tenured head coach without a ring, so he really is on the hot seat. If he can’t lead the Vikings to a great season with all their talent, eyebrows will definitely be raised.

Chicago Bears

The Bears had an exceptional draft and an offseason that will hopefully lay the foundation for the future. First, they traded up to select Ohio State QB Justin Fields, who they hope answers their age-old QB woes. Chicago’s previous starting QB, Mitch  Trubisky, is gone now, but they brought in Andy Dalton, who is expected to be the week 1 starter. Fields will probably take his time to reach the highest level, which could be said about the team as a whole.

But a quarterback controversy is swirling in the Windy City as well. With Trubisky out of the picture, the Bears signed free agent QB Andy Dalton to just a single season contract. After nine seasons in Cincinnati, Dalton played in 11 games for Dallas last year. The Cowboys were 4–5 with the Red Rifle as their starter. The QB quandary in Chicago is similar to the Fitzpatrick/Tagovailoa scenario in Miami last season. Justin Fields may be the starter by Week 11 or so.

It’s looking like they could be a force to reckon with at some point but realistically should finish 2021 around where they finished 2020: 8-8. Apart from adding Fields, the team also brought in key pieces like Damien Williams and Desmond Trufant.

Just like it was the case for the Vikings, the Chicago Bears also needed an upgrade to the offensive line, and in Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom, Bears secured some in the draft. Bears have said goodbye to Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Fuller without bringing in any players to substitute them. So expect players in their sophomore years to gain added time on the field.

Detroit Lions

After trading franchise QB Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and some other knickknacks, the Detroit Lions are back to rebuilding and are the longshot to win the NFC North in 2021.

Making matters worse, or hopefully better, is new head coach Dan Campbell who replaces Matt Patricia. The new guy in charge better hopes that the Detroit front office can do a decent job of working around the salary cap to keep certain key free agents from leaving the team.

The Lions have lost to offensive playmaker WR Kenny Golladay. Instead, the Lions added Jamaal Williams from divisional rivals Green Bay and Breshad Perriman. Detroit Lions were kittens on defense last year as they allowed a league-high 32.4 points per game. The Cats offense will be even worse this year, so a divisional title should be impossible this year.

In the blockbuster trade, this offseason, Lions also received the Rams’ first-round draft picks in 2022 and 2023, plus their third-round pick in 2021. Lions secured their starting LT in Penei Sewell, who was the top prospect in this year’s draft. Having secured some protection to Jared Goff, this could be the start of something great in Detroit. To help the defense, DT Levi Onwuzurike, DT Alim McNeill was selected, and that should hopefully bring the points per game average down from last year. But to expect much more than 5 wins this season should be unrealistic.

Why Green Bay Packers will win the NFC North this season

It should be a contest between Packers and Vikings with Packers being the clear favorite as Aaron Rodgers is back. Last years MVP should be able to distribute the ball with great success following. After going 13-3 last season Packers could and possible should go 12-5 this season with the extra game. But the thing that should be the defining factor should be the lack of defensive talent to the Vikings unit. The chance of having a division winner called Lions or Bears are very slim and injuries to key players would need to happen before that will be the case. I see Packers having a good season as long as Rodgers stays healthy and we should see the NFC North going to Packers for the 3rd year in a row.

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