NFC North: Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers have owned the NFC North for the majority of this decade, winning the division title in all but two seasons. The Packers came in third place last year — something they haven’t done since 2008 — mostly due to the loss of one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers. With Rodgers back, the Packers are in position to unseat the 2017 NFC North champs — the Minnesota Vikings — but it won’t be an easy fight.
The Vikings were one of the best all-around teams in the NFL last season, as their offense took a major step forward under offensive coordinator — and NFL Assistant Coach of the Year — Pat Shurmur. Now, Shurmur is gone, as is quarterback Case Keenum, after the Vikings went all-in on Kirk Cousins, signing the free-agent QB to an unprecedented $84 million guaranteed contract. Over their respective careers, Cousins is an upgrade, but Keenum — under Shurmur — was the better quarterback in 2017. Look for the Vikings to take a step back in 2018 with the loss of their offensive coordinator, and the addition of the flashy but erratic Cousins, who has a losing record over the course of his career.
Minnesota will still be a playoff contender, but don’t expect another 13-win season in 2018.
The Detroit Lions are also posed to take a step back this year after a less-than stellar offseason. A year after nine wins and a near-playoff birth, the Lions are only favored in four games in 2018, but are more likely to land in the six-to-eight-win range. Detroit will compete with the Chicago Bears for the No. 3 spot in the NFC North, as Chicago eases quarterback Mitch Trubisky through his early-career development.
With Chicago spending significant money on weapons for their young quarterback, hopefully games with single-digit passing attempts are a thing of the past.