The NFC North has been Mr. Rodgers’ neighborhood for the last four seasons and had the Green Bay Packers just one botched onside kick away from an appearance in Super Bowl XLIX. The Packers had a 12-4 record overall and finished 5-1 in the North and are likely to yet again reign supreme in the upcoming 2015 NFL season. The Detroit Lions were not far behind finishing 11-5 on the season with a 5-1 divisional record while the Minnesota Vikings ended up going 7-9 and 1-5 in the NFC North. Despite many thinking the Chicago Bears could finally give Green Bay some competition for the North, they went a disappointing 5-11 and 1-5 against division rivals.
Green Bay Packers
It will be hard to knock reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers off of his game and oddsmakers know it. The Packers are currently big favorites at -303 to win the NFC North for a fifth year in a row. The biggest offseason moves came in signing two of their own pending free agents in receiver Randall Cobb and offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga. Green Bay thrives on consistency and very little roster turnover. The only real question mark that seems to plague the Packers over the last few seasons is their spotty defense. They improved to some degree late in the 2014 season, but they will need to be more consistent in order to lock down the NFC North.
The Detroit Lions gave the Packers a run for their money last season, but could have trouble adjusting to major changes in what was one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley both left in free agency. While Detroit gained Haloti Ngata in a trade with Baltimore and Tyrunn Walker from New Orleans to fill the gap, it’ll be hard to replace one of the most dominate linemen in the league in Suh. The Lions still have Megatron, aka Calvin Johnson, lined up as receiver as well as Golden Tate who proved to be a nice compliment to Johnson in the passing game. Matt Stafford is prone to putting up video game numbers, but hasn’t always been known for coming through in the clutch. If Detroit can get Stafford to tighten up his game and find consistency in the running game, they could push for the NFC North title. They’re currently +599 favorites to do just that.
It’s hard to win without your superstar running back in the lineup, which is exactly what the Minnesota Vikings experienced last year. Adrian Peterson returns to the field this season for the Vikings, which should help their chances against the rest of the division. With second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater getting a full offseason under his belt and a solid running game fully restored, the offense could see a considerable improvement over last year. The defense could be ready to make a splash this year as the Vikings drafted Trae Williams to play opposite Xavier Rhodes, which could be an exciting tandem to watch in the division given the amount of prolific passers in this division. Minnesota may have fallen from grace after they borrowed time from Brett Favre a few seasons ago, but they could be poised to compete for seasons to come as they build on a core of young, talented players. The Vikings sit at +595 to claim the NFC North title.
New GM, new coach, same old Jay Cutler. The Sports Interaction oddsmakers aren’t too generous with the Bears chances to win the division and have Chicago at +1200 to win the NFC North in 2015. The huge contract given to Jay Cutler prior to the 2014 season made it impossible for the new GM to move the embattled quarterback in the offseason, so Chicago will have to make do. The Bears still have some of the leagues most productive players in running back Matt Forte and receiver Alshon Jeffery. The arrival of rookie receiver Kevin White should help bolster the passing attack but it won’t make much of a difference if the defense can’t improve from being ranked second-to-last in the league. They acquired ex-Ravens pass rusher Pernell McPhee to help the transition to a 3-4 scheme, but the remaining pass rushers were often overrun last season. More importantly, the Bears secondary could use a major overhaul. Bringing on Antrell Rolle, Alan Ball and Tracy Porter was a good start, but new head coach John Fox appears to have his work cut out for him.
How Will the NFC North Teams Rank for the 2015/16 Season?
Barring catastrophic circumstances, it’s likely that the Packers will run away with the division yet again as their offense could be one of the best in the league and is primed to dazzle. Expect the Lions to give Green Bay some not-so-friendly competition. Detroit still has a very skilled offensive game, but it will be interesting to see how their offseason losses on defense will impact their season. The Vikings could surprise this year due to major upgrades up and down the roster, but they are probably another season away from truly contending and will likely finish third in the division. The Bears could shock us all and find their groove this season, which would be great since the NFC North is always fun to watch when Chicago is a good team, but it would be a long shot. Look for the Bears in the NFC North basement this year.