2023 NFL Season Preview: NFC North Edition

With the NFL season kicking off in 14 days, we thought it was time to release our predictions for the season. We will be going at each other in alternating fashion, beginning with Mohamed. To make this easier to digest, we will only be covering the NFC North so we don’t put too much on your plate. The NFC East, South and West are coming, don’t worry.

REMINDER: Everything we say in this article is FACTS. You can’t argue it, we can only argue with each other.

Minnesota Vikings

Mohamed: 2nd. I expect the Vikings to take a step back this year. When I think about last season’s team, the majority of those thoughts have to do with the amount of one-score games they won. I’m still not sure how they beat the Bills and Colts to this day. Over the course of the history of the NFL, teams that win a ton of one-score games usually regress back to the mean the next season. I don’t think the Vikings did anything groundbreaking during the off-season to make me think that won’t be the case this upcoming season. Their biggest acquisition of new DC Brian Flores will be a huge plus and I expect the defense to improve. Flores will have to be on his A-game most weeks if they want to create pressure for opposing QBs due to their lack of talent in the pass rush.

Hayden: 1st. The Vikings are coming off of a shocking 13-4 season that provided fans with instant classics like the Bills game and the Colts game. On the other side of the spectrum, there were some like the Cowboys and Giants playoff game that made you question the validity of their record. While I don’t expect them to replicate their record from a season ago, I do expect them to win this division because of the pure talent on the roster. If you want to know more of my own thoughts about the Vikings, I published an entire article exclusively talking about the Vikings in the previous issue of the paper.

Detroit Lions

Mohamed: 1st. Perhaps the most fun NFL storyline from last season will go on to become division champs for the first time in 30 years. The Lions just barely missed the playoffs last season but had one of the league’s most exciting offenses. They were also excellent in turning red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Earning themselves a red zone touchdown percentage of 66.2%, which was fourth in the league. I don’t expect Jared Goff to be quite as good as he was but I expect breakout star WR Amon-Ra St. Brown to keep improving and their monstrous offensive line to be one of the league’s best. The best thing they did this off-season was keep hold of highly coveted OC Ben Johnson. The defense was terrible last season and I think the only way is up for that unit.  

Hayden: 2nd. The Lions were the darlings of most NFL fans last season, and for good reason. A lovable coach leads a miserable and unfortunate fanbase to relevancy on the back of hard work and player likability, capping the season off by killing the Packers’ playoff hopes. And they had Jamaal Williams. Here’s the thing, the Lions are still a very young team, and let’s not forget that around the midseason mark, people were calling for Dan Campbell to be fired. Sure, they got hot down the stretch, but where is the consistency? To me, the 2023 Lions are VERY comparable to the 2019 Browns. They gather a lot of hype in the offseason because they are a feel-good story, but at this point, with all of the pressure and expectations, I feel like they are just destined to fail. They will most likely be a playoff team in the NFC, but do not expect anything more than that.

Chicago Bears

Mohamed: 4th. Their season is similar to the Packers for me. It is all about figuring if you have your franchise QB at the end of the season. Justin Fields was drafted into a bad situation. He had a head coach in Matt Nagy that was on the hot seat and got fired after his rookie year. In year two, he has a defensive-minded head coach with little to work with on the offensive side of the ball and a terrible offensive line. During the year they traded for WR Chase Claypool. This offseason, they traded for WR D.J. Moore and signed right guard Nate Davis in free-agency. Now the Bears will truly be able to evaluate Fields and find out if they have their long-term guy. 

Hayden: 4th. The winners of the off-season to me. The Texans practically handed them a king’s ransom by blowing their final game against the Colts. (Thanks, Lovie Smith). By passing on the underwhelming crop of QB’s in the 2023 NFL Draft, they are giving Justin Fields one more season to prove that he can turn his talent into production. To me, the Bears are winners this season no matter what. If they suck, they will likely be contenders for the #1 pick, and the 2024 NFL Draft will feature QBs Caleb Williams and Drake Maye, who are miles better than Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson. But if Justin Fields can lead this team to a decent season, they stick with him. This season is for the Bears to figure it out. They have a lot of question marks, and only time can answer them. 

Green Bay Packers

Mohamed: 3rd. For the first time in 15 years, the Packers go into an NFL season without Aaron Rodgers as their starting QB. The biggest question mark the Packers have is Jordan Love. Is he any good? Prior to last season, my answer was no. That short cameo he had when Rodgers got injured against the Eagles made me question that a bit. He looked way better than he did at any point of his short career. I think they have a pretty talented young team and Matt LaFleur is too good of a coach for them to be terrible, so I think they’ll be in the hunt for the division for most of the season.

Hayden: 3rd. Wow. Wow, wow, wow. It finally happened. I remember thinking as a kid, at the peak of my Packers hate, that Aaron Rodgers would terrorize me for the rest of my life. But now he’s gone. Packers fans will tell you that Jordan Love is going to continue their run of Hall of Fame QBs and be the next Bart Starr, but they need a reality check. Jordan Love is not going to be that, at least this season. He may be solid, hence why I can’t put them at the bottom, but that will not push them to the top end of this division. Also, Jaire Alexander needs to shut his mouth before JJ son’s him. Their defense is a top ten unit, but with so many question marks surrounding the offense, it is hard to see them making a return to the playoffs this year. They have a decently bright future, but they are too young and too unproven as of now.

The Vikings and Lions are the playoff contenders in this division, but that’s where it ends. Realistically speaking, this division SHOULD not produce a Super Bowl winner, but then again, any given Sunday, any team can win. This is the dark horse division. Skol.

Header Photo: Fun Fact: US Bank Stadium was just recently voted the NFL’s best stadium, according to the Athletic. But we knew that already. Many more Super Bowls will be played in this stadium, including the Vikings’ first SB win. (Hayden Lee/The Reporter)

Write to Hayden Lee and Mohamed Warsame at hayden.lee@my.smsu.edu and mohamed.warsame@mnsu.edu

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