The NFC North is a division generally known for its intense rivalries and hard-hitting games; this year should be no different. In fact, the hype surrounding this year’s games has been heightened as there has been several free agents from NFC North squads signing with other NFC North teams. The Minnesota Vikings alone signed left-tackle Riley Reiff from the Lions, defensive-tackle Will Sutton formerly with the Bears and defensive-end Datone Jones, who is an ex-Packer. Let’s preview a division that will be one to keep an eye on in 2017.
The Bears have made it clear to the nation that this year will be one for rebuilding. Chicago is going to have to count on first-year starting quarterback Mike Glennon, whom the team signed in free agency for three years and $45 million during the spring. This year is also a big year for younger guys proving they are worthy of an extension such as Kyle Fuller and Kevin White.
Detroit has improved over the offseason by signing former Green Bay guard T.J Lang to a three-year, $28.5 million deal during free agency. The Lions went 10-6 last season and made the playoffs, so it is normal to ask how a team that has improved will decline in wins the following season. I have three reasons behind my answer. First, the schedule is daunting. Detroit has the possibility of starting 0-4 as they play the Cardinals, Giants, Falcons and Vikings. Second, the Lions won so many close games last year that this year they might lose some of those closer games. Three, rising star left tackle Taylor Decker is out for an extended period of time.
I believe Minnesota is on the fringe of being a playoff team again. The defense will once again be a top-ten defense and many expect the offense to take their play to the next level with quarterback Sam Bradford entering year two for the Vikings and with the addition of running back Dalvin Cook via the NFL Draft. The Vikings are confident second-year receiver Laquon Treadwell can perform better than his rookie season after catching one ball for 15 yards. Minnesota’s schedule down the stretch is brutal but if they can navigate through that, this team could be playoff-bound yet again.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay is the NFC North’s team to beat for the 2017 season. As it has been said year-after-year, the answer is within one man on the roster: Aaron Rodgers. If you put Rodgers on any team, they are automatically a playoff contender. Green Bay also put towards an effort in free agency, signing tight end Martellus Bennett to a three-year, $21 million deal. The obvious problem is the defense. If their defense can be average or slightly above, this team will be a Super Bowl-contender come playoff time.