NFC North Predictions
The Green Bay Packers ran away with the NFC North last season with an NFL-best 15-1 record. They entered the playoffs as the Super Bowl favorite, but would get beaten by the eventual champion New York Giants. The Detroit Lions were one of the best stories in the league last year as they made the playoffs for the first time since 1999 with a 10-6 mark. Chicago was a disappointment at 8-8, while Minnesota remained in rebuilding mode at 3-13.
This has become one of the tougher divisions in the league. Green Bay remains a Super Bowl favorite, while Detroit and Chicago have each upgraded their talent this offseason. Things are not looking up for Minnesota, though. Here is a brief preview of each team, as well as my predictions on where they finish within the North at season’s send.
1. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – The Packers had just about everything go right for them last season. They went 15-1 with their only loss coming at Kansas City as they were playing without several injured players. Green Bay even rested its starters in Week 17 with the No. 1 seed already wrapped up and still beat Detroit. It did suffer a shocking home loss to the New York Giants in the second round of the playoffs in a shaky performance a year after winning the Super Bowl. The Packers do have some signs pointing downward this season. They were +24 in turnover differential, and they had six wins by eight points or less last year. Green Bay does get an easy schedule that ranks No. 26 in the league, so it could come close to matching last year’s totally. I have the Packers as the No. 1 seed in the playoffs in the NFC once again in 2012.
2. Chicago Bears (11-5) – The Bears lost Jay Cutler for the season due to injury with six games remaining last year, and they stumbled to an 8-8 finish. Chicago had arguably the best offseason of any team in terms of fulfilling its need. It added WR Brandon Marshall and RB Michael Bush to give Cutler a few more weapons offensively. It also nabbed LB Geno Hayes from Tampa Bay, and drafted DE Shea McClellin (Boise State) with its first-round pick to help out the defense. Now, the Bears face the No. 30 schedule in the league, and they’ll put ‘11’s disappointment behind them by making it back to the playoffs in ’12.
3. Detroit Lions (9-7) – The Lions are coming off their first playoff appearance since 1999 with a 10-6 record in ’11. However, they went 0-6 against NFC playoff teams, including a 45-28 loss to New Orleans in the first round. They did not beat a team that finished with a winning record last season, which is a sign pointing downward in ’12. Detroit finally had good health last year as it only had 23 starts lost to injury. It also took care of the football, finishing +11 in turnovers. The Lions will face eight teams that I foresee having a winning record this year, so I don’t expect them to make the playoffs again.
4. Minnesota Vikings (4-12) – The Vikings are clearly in rebuilding mode. They gambled on Christian Ponder by moving up to select him in the first round last offseason, and so far it doesn’t look like it’s paying off. The Ponder-led Vikings went just 3-13 in 2011, but they did have an amazing nine losses by 7 points or less. That is certainly a sign pointing upward, plus they get a healthy Adrian Peterson back, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 14. Still, Minnesota did little to help out Ponder offensively, and the defense is suspect at best. This is clearly the worst team in the division in ’12.
Individual Team NFL Season Predictions