As we head into the upcoming season, there are plenty of storylines in the NFC North to pay close attention to, especially on the ground with 3 of the 4 teams looking to improve their running game.
Green Bay Packers:
Mike McCarthy is starting to feel the pressure to get another Super Bowl appearance under his belt during this run with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. The Packers will have to start by fixing their pass defense and finding a reliable running game. The Packers were pleased with how converted WR Ty Montgomery finished last season carrying the ball, however, this is not their end all cure, nor is he their future at this position. The Packers took a RB in the 4th round, Jamaal Williams, and will have a shot to earn some important downs this season. On defense, the Packers used their 2nd round picks on two cornerbacks, Kevin King and Josh Jones. Their best offseason move might have been signing TE Martellus Bennett. If the Packers defense can improve, their passing game should be enough for Green Bay to once again win this division.
The Vikings finally cut the cord with Adrian Peterson. It’s the beginning of a new era in Minnesota and it may start and end with the health of QB Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford. The Vikings once again rebuilt their offensive line with 3 new faces up front, hoping to improve the league’s worst running game last year. They did grab FSU stud Dalvin Cook in the 2nd round to shoulder some of the load with veteran Latavius Murray. What may keep the Vikings on the Packers heals this season is their defense under Mike Zimmer. They ranked 3rd in the NFL last season, with the strength being their front four. Look for Minnesota to keep the Packers on their toes all season long.
Well there is that Matthew Stafford guy….so they’ve got that working for them. Stafford is coming off one of his best seasons, passing for over 4,000 yards with 24 TDs and 10 INTs. The Lions big problem on offense (like Minnesota & Green Bay) has been the running game. The team will get Ameer Abdullah back for a full season and he and Theo Riddick could be a nice 1-2 combo. They do have to fix the left tackle position, which has been a problem for them after losing Taylor Decker to a torn labrum. Defensively the Lions continue to struggle, ranking 31st in the league in 3rd down percentage, meaning they hardly ever get off the field. They also tied for 30th in sacks, and you wonder why they always struggle against division rivals like the Packers. Overall, the Lions look to build on last season’s moderate success of making the playoffs. It might be tough in the NFC.
Who’s ready for the Mitchell Trubisky era!? Who? Hello? Anyone? The Bears are coming off a dismal 3-13 season and decided to go all in on a quarterback many are still unsure of in Trubisky. If you like the idea of addition through subtraction, then dumping Jay Cutler is a big win for this franchise. Mike Glennon is also in the fold for the Bears, however, I’m guessing fans will want to see the rookie perform to give them a glimmer of hope. Gone is Alshon Jeffrey, so the Bears will rely on Kevin White as their #1 WR. After White, you will need Google to know who their other weapons are on offense. Their one rising star might be RB Jordan Howard who had a breakout rookie season, rushing for 1,313 yards. Defensively, the Bears have hit the reset button in the secondary, signing two veteran corners Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio could be the fall guy if the Bears struggle again defensively. With a nightmarish schedule early (Falcons, Bucs, Steelers, Packers, Vikings, Ravens, Panthers, Saints), the Bears may find themselves out of the mix by week 8.
Written by: Andrew Rosenberg