With most of the offseason moves complete, we have a pretty good idea what each team is going to look like. At this point, the Green Bay Packers are a lock to make the playoffs. There are some variables to consider in the NFC North. For example, what is Julius Peppers’s role with the Packers and how is he going to contribute? How explosive will the Lions’ offense be with Ebron and Calvin? Will the Bears defense bounce back and stay healthy? And, who’s the Vikings starting quarterback?
The biggest threat to taking the division is the Detroit Lions, whose biggest addition is the subtraction of head-case coach, Jim Schwartz. Give them another two wins without Schwartz making bad decisions and not having a frantic head coach in the locker room. The Lions won’t prevent the Packers from at least taking one of the wild cards, but could take the division. However, I think they are at least a year away from making serious damage in the NFC.
Last season the Bears had the best receiving corps, the worst defense and the most up-and-down quarterback in the division–and maybe the league. To say their 8-8 2013 season was a disappointment would be a great understatement to the Chicago faithful–especially if you consider Josh McCown outplayed Jay Cutler. The Bears are the hardest team to predict for 2014 because they have tons of talent on both sides of the ball, added Jared Allen (who has had double-digit sacks in 8 of 10 seasons so far) but they lost McCown so if Cutler does go down, there will be quite the drop-off with either Jordan Palmer or Jimmy Clausen.
If the NFL is really the league of parody, the Vikings would be the scariest team in the NFC North because they finished last in the division; however, looking at the situation that doesn’t make any sense. Even though they are just two seasons away from 10 wins (which would have won the division in 2013) and have the most explosive running back in the NFL (and possibly in the history of the NFL) but Mike Zimmer has never been a head coach before, they lost sack and emotional leader Jared Allen, and the best-case scenario they have a rookie quarterback. It’s hard to believe they win more than five games in 2014.
As much influence the rest of the division has on the Packers going to the playoffs in 2014, the Packers did their part as well. Not only are the Packers the reigning NFC North champions, but they gained the most. Their biggest addition was made without a transaction, just having Aaron Rodgers for the full season adds three to four wins alone. For the first time as a starter, Rodgers missed more than one game–the Packers had five of their eight losses and tied to the 5-win Vikings with Rodgers out.To go along with the addition of Rodgers, plug-in Julius Peppers to take some attention away from Clay Matthews, the young defense with another year’s worth of experience, and drafting Devante Adams to sure up the receiving corps, the Packers could be a 13 to 14 win team. At worst they win 11 games and an NFC wild card team.