Photo via Matt Ludtke/AP
Ah the NFC North. This division has always reminded me of the most history in one division. Yes, the New England Patriots have more championships than every other team, but a division that has the former head coach that the Super Bowl trophy is named after? I mean come on, if that’s not history I don’t know what is.
Lambeau Field, Soldier Stadium that’s history for you. Two iconic fields where some of the best teams of all time have played. The Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions both have beautiful indoor stadiums with Minnesota’s US Bank Stadium, a beautiful indoor arena, being opened for the first time in 2016.
Beautiful fields and storied franchises, those are just a few of the characteristics of the NFC North.
Green Bay Packers
Yes, the Green Bay Packers still have who many believe is the best quarterback in the NFL. I know, not Tom Brady but Aaron Rodgers. Last year, the former-Cal standout said his team would run the table when they were 4-6 and you know what? They did just that.
Rodgers was absolutely incredible last year, but some of the Packers issues remain clear. Did the defense do enough in the offseason to get better? Will wide receiver-turned running back Ty Montgomery be able to have another productive season rushing the ball? These are questions that remain to be answered.
The Packers finished ranked No. 22 in the league in yards allowed last season and drafted former UCLA defensive tackle Kenny Clark and recently signed linebacker Ahmad Brooks to improve their pass rush.
The offensive line will be among the best in the game since the team signed Jahri Evans and re-signed Don Barclay to ensure that Rodgers has all the protection he needs.
Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams all still create a good arsenal of receivers for Rodgers and you better believe he’ll use them all well.
The Lions a year ago, made it into the playoffs only to lose to the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field during Wild Card Weekend to extend their playoff losing streak to nine consecutive games, the longest streak in NFL history.
Detroit has a very solid quarterback in Matthew Stafford, but he hasn’t shown he can win playoff games. While Detroit’s offense was solid in 2016, at No. 13 overall, Stafford might need more help in 2017.
Insert Ameer Abdullah. This speedster out of Nebraska has the talent to be a clear no. 1 running back, but hasn’t been able to stay healthy. If he can assume the role of a three-down running back, with Theo Reddick there to help in pass-catching situations, the running game could be a key to winning in 2017.
Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are going to be relied on heavily in the passing game, but the emergence of tight end Eric Ebron will be important as Stafford looks to have three solid options.
The Vikings were expected to be good ever since Teddy Bridgewater looked like he could be the franchise quarterback, but after tearing his ACL a year ago, the team hasn’t been the same.
Bridgewater has been put on the PUP list to start the season and will be out at least the first six games. Sam Bradford will take his spot as the QB1.
Stefon Diggs has what it takes to become one of the elite receivers in the game. The running back group is as deep as any team with the starting running back looking like it will be assumed by rookie Dalvin Cook, while the team also signed free agent Latavius Murray in the offseason who ran for 12 touchdowns in 2016.
The defense had a great 2016 finishing third in overall defense. With Everson Griffen, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, and Xavier Rhodes, it shouldn’t regress very much in 2017.
Watch out for Minnesota if Bradford can just be a solid game-manager until Bridgewater, hopefully, is healthy to return.
The Bears signed a very good backup quarterback in Mike Glennon to become their starter. 22 million. That’s how much they paid for a quarterback who’s never thrown for 20 touchdowns in a single season.
Also, they traded with the 49ers for the No. 2 overall pick taking quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. They gave up way too much for the pick, considering all the information pointed to San Francisco not having any interest in the former-UNC quarterback.
Jordan Howard had a phenomenal first year and is primed to have a complete season as a top-10 running back.
Unfortunately, Chicago just lost wide receiver Cameron Meredith to a torn ACL and this means they will have to rely on Kevin White, who is very talented but has been injured for much of his short career. White’s success will play a large role in the Bears trying to move the ball down the field, no matter who’s under center.
While the defense wasn’t terrible, it was just average and won’t be a big factor in the Bears taking big strides this season.
Division Champion: Green Bay Packers
The Packers have to be the clear favorite to win the NFC North in 2017 despite the fact that their defense still has major questions. With that being said, it is possible both the Vikings and Lions could take advantage of any struggles.
Aaron Rodgers is the only reason Green Bay is the favorite. He and Tom Brady both have the capability to dominate games. Moreover, Rodgers is still in the middle of his prime, unlike Brady.
Ty Montgomery will be a huge key for the Packers, with few questions in the passing game. Montgomery should be expected to have a very good year as the starting running back.
However, questions still surround the secondary and if they will be able to improve in 2017.
Regardless of the form the defense is in, the offensive line is one of the best in the NFL and they will help Rodgers lead the Pack to another division title.
Dark Horse: Minnesota Vikings
This year, the Minnesota Vikings are intriguing. Bradford has never fully realized his potential but if he can help the Vikings to a winning record before Bridgewater can come back, the rest of this team has the ability to be elite.
Dalvin Cook could easily be the offensive rookie of the year. With Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon also in the mix, the Vikings don’t need star-production out of their quarterback.
The defense is ferocious and should be one of the NFL’s best in 2017. Look out for the Vikings as they could easily compete for a wild card spot if not the division.
Rob Werner is a contributing writer for The JR Report. For more news follow him on twitter @robwerner28.