NFC North: Analysis and postseason predictions

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NFC North: Analysis and postseason predictions

Graphic Courtesy of Ingrid Hua

Graphic Courtesy of Ingrid Hua

Graphic Courtesy of Ingrid Hua

Graphic Courtesy of Ingrid Hua

Kurt Masline, Contributing Writer

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Through three weeks of the 2019-20 NFL season, the NFC North has been one of the strongest divisions in the NFL with a combined 9-2-1 record between the four teams. Each team has shown signs of greatness that could result in a playoff spot, but with such strong competition, what do these teams need to do in order to capitalize on their starts?

Green Bay Packers: 3-0

The Packers’ offseason moves were some of the most notable storylines over the summer. So far, these moves have clearly been successful. The additions of Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Za’Darius Smith, and Preston Smith have made an immediate impact that has given Green Bay a top defensive unit through three weeks. While they narrowly escaped with victories over division rivals Chicago and Minnesota, a 27-16 win at home against Denver showed that this team has the chance to be one of the best in the NFL. However, Denver and Chicago have been among the worst offensive teams in the league thus far, and Minnesota threw away a victory at Lambeau. Regardless of their defensive abilities, the Packers offense can’t be ignored as long as they have Aaron Rodgers, who will now be working with new head coach Matt LaFleur. Green Bay will be a playoff team and is in a very good position to win the NFC North, but tough matchups later in the season may show this team’s true identity.

Final record prediction: 11-5

 

Chicago Bears: 2-1

The Bears had a relatively quiet offseason, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad one. Chicago kept 10 out of their 11 starters on defense, replacing Adrian Amos with Ha Ha Clinton Dix at safety. Much like division rival Minnesota, there’s no doubt the Bears have one of the best defenses in the NFL. In Week 3 against Washington, the Chicago defense forced 5 turnovers, including a pick 6 in a 28-15 win. Even though the Bears have a strong defense, there are still some questions surrounding the offense. In his third season, quarterback Mitch Trubisky has looked like the team’s largest liability, making inexcusable passing decisions in close games. It’s possible Trubisky just needs time, given that he did not play in the preseason. He might need to adjust to a different running offense with David Montgomery taking a majority of the workload instead of Jordan Howard. If the defense plays similarly to their performance last season, Chicago should be in a very good position to repeat as division champs, although there is certainly more competition and pressure to win the NFC North now.

Final record prediction 10-6

 

Minnesota Vikings: 2-1

The Vikings hope to bounce back from an 8-7-1 record last season that disappointed many fans following an NFC Championship Game appearance in 2017. After three games, Vikings fans are beginning to picture a defense reminiscent of that team from two years ago. The key to success this season has been the Vikings’ offense. While many believe Minnesota’s fate lies in the arm of quarterback Kirk Cousins, a successful offensive line and run game may prove to be far more necessary down the line. The Vikings revamped their offensive line through the draft and free agency, while adding Gary Kubiak to their coaching staff and introducing a new zone blocking scheme. This has allowed for running back Dalvin Cook to lead the league in rushing yards through week 3, lessening the need for Cousins to carry the team to tough victories under pressure. If Minnesota’s offense can maintain a strong rushing attack while incorporating the passing game to an extent, this team is easily a contender to win the division.

Final record prediction: 10-6

 

Detroit Lions: 2-0-1

The Detroit Lions have surprised many this season with strong performances that currently leave them without a loss. Their offense has weapons on both the air and ground, something many Lions teams of the past have lacked. With second-year running back Kerryon Johnson, the Lions look to create a multidimensional offense, although Johnson has gotten off to a slower start than expected. Detroit’s offseason moves have paid off so far, with first-round pick TJ Hockenson and free-agent signings Trey Flowers, Mike Daniels, and Rashaan Melvin making immediate impacts. With consistent play from quarterback Matthew Stafford, Detroit could see themselves as contenders for a wildcard spot in the playoffs. It’s going to be a tough journey to a playoff appearance for Detroit in a strong NFC, meaning their tie against Arizona may end up being the key to their season, impacting their total win percentage in either a positive or negative way that could determine the outcome of this season.

Final record prediction: 8-7-1

 

Each team in the NFC North has a reason why they can win the division, but it won’t be easy for any of them to do so. It’s going to be very close, but the Packers will win the division with an 11-5 record. Both Minnesota and Chicago will finish at 10-6 and make the playoffs in the wildcard spots. Detroit will miss the postseason with a record of 8-7-1, with a strong foundation to build upon in future seasons.

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