What a year it was for the Green Bay Packers: 13-3, NFC North Champs, and a spot in the NFC Championship game. The season did not end as many would hope in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but the first year under head coach Matt LaFleur was a success. This year is going to be another wild ride and a dog fight in the division, but I do expect the Packers to come out on top. Last year’s predictions were spot on but let us see how the NFC North could shape out for the 2020-2021 season.
1st – Green Bay Packers (10-6)
It is going to be hard for the Packers to repeat with another 13-3 season or better. You must be realistic and understand there is going to be a regression upon their record, but they can still be a great team and win the NFC North. Unlike last year, the Packers did not make a ton of moves in the offseason. They went out and got LB Christian Kirksey to replace Blake Martinez, OT Ricky Wagner to replace Bryan Bulaga and WR Devin Funchess to help the receiving core. The offense also adds second-round pick RB A.J. Dillion to a run-heavy team that features Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. The team still has Aaron Rodgers. If you have Rodgers leading this team, the Packers are always poised for a playoff run. Luckily, the Packers didn’t get hit with the injury bug last year, if they want another run for the postseason, they are going to have to find a way to stay healthy.
2nd – Minnesota Vikings (9-7)
Even though the Vikings finished in second place, they had a good season going 10-6 and losing in the Divisional Round to the 49ers. The Vikings had an interesting offseason as they let go of CB Trae Waynes, DT Linval Joseph, DE Stephen Weatherly, CB Xavier Rhodes, CB Mackensie Alexander, then traded Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills. Regardless of the losses, the Vikings defense will be tough. They also added DT Michael Pierce from the Baltimore Ravens and CB Jeff Gladney in the NFL Draft. The Vikings also got some help on offense with first-round WR Justin Jefferson and former Tennessee Titans WR Tajae Sharpe. The big issue, as of now, is Dalvin Cook holding out for a bigger contract from the Vikings. The Vikings are still going to be a tough team and could slide in as a wildcard in the new seven-team format.
3rd – Chicago Bears (7-9)
The Bears are in the same boat as last year when heading into the 2019 season – great defense, but nothing on offense. The same thing is going to fly in 2020. The Bears went out and got DE Robert Quinn and drafted second-round CB Jaylon Johnson, but did almost nothing to help the offense. The Bears signed former Packers TE Jimmy Graham, former Saints WR Ted Ginn Jr., and drafted Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet. The big headline for the Bears was trading for QB Nick Foles from the Jacksonville Jaguars. It made sense for the Bears to bring in quarterback competition for Mitchell Trubisky, but trading for a guy coming off a broken collarbone and was replaced by a fifth-round QB while Andy Dalton and Cam Newton being available at the time, is a head-scratcher. The Bears also did nothing to help improve their offensive line which was ranked 29th in run blocking and 21st in pass protection. The defense will carry this team once again, but if Trubisky figures things out or if Foles does well with his chance, the Bears could see a step in the right direction.
4th – Detroit Lions (5-11)
It was another busy offseason for the Lions as they focused primarily on defense. The 26th ranked defense went out and got LB Jamie Collins, CB Desmond Trufant, DT Nick Williams, and DT Danny Shelton. The Lions also had the third pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and used it on Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah. We saw this last year from the Lions as they spent money on DE Trey Flowers, CB Justin Coleman, and DT Mike Daniels, but as a defensive unit, it didn’t work in year one for them. The Lions seem to be in the mediocre funk where they have some nice players, but they can’t pull it all together and it could be on the coaches as Matt Patricia’s seat is starting to get warm with a 9-22-1 record. Also, it could be that the Lions don’t have any star players compared to the rest of the NFC North teams. The Lions will have some close games, but it’s going to be another tough season and might be followed with a coaching change and blowing up the roster.
The NFC North has always been exciting to watch and there is no reason why we should not see that again in the upcoming season. The Packers are going to put their title of NFC North Champs on the line while the Vikings, Bears, and Lions look to dethrone them. With a 13-3 record last year, it must be understood in a competitive division and a tougher schedule, that a regression is going to happen, but the Packers can still be a better team than last year.