For the overall 2017 NFL Preview click here, and see the links at the bottom of the page for the rest of the divisional previews.
Aaron Rodgers is madly in love with football again and that’s a problem for the rest of the NFL.
Considering Rodgers is one of the top three QBs in the league, Green Bay has underachieved for a few years now. This year, however, Rodgers has some new toys: Martellus Bennett is the weapon he’s lacked at tight end for years and Lance Kendricks makes for a nice insurance policy for that rare Packers free agent purchase. Counting on Ty Montgomery to be a full time RB is the only concern I have for this certainly potent offense, but Rodgers is the great equalizer.
The defense moved on from Julius Peppers but added Ahmad Brooks last week to help offset that loss. Plus, the first four Packer draft picks added depth to the 21st-ranked scoring unit. Davon House was signed to help Green Bay’s pass defense evolve to something north of awful, but will have to rely on rookie second-rounders Kevin King and Josh Jones to bolster the secondary. If the D can hold up its end of the bargain by just being middle-of-the-road, the Packers should be right there with the Seahawks as the NFC’s best.
For the first time in a decade, the Minnesota Vikings are opening a season without Adrian Peterson.
Oddly enough, that fact isn’t the reason why the Vikings offense is questionable. Minnesota signed Latavius Murray in free agency and drafted Dalvin Cook, so they actually have a pretty impressive 1-2 punch (on paper). The passing game is relying on Sam Bradford to actually be better than his decidedly average self and rolling the dice on Minnesota native Michael Floyd as a viable replacement for Cordarelle Patterson looks like a reckless gamble at best. This unit’s best hope is to have an explosive run game behind a “meh” offensive line.
The Vikings’ playoff hopes rest on whether their defense takes the step from good-but-not-great to best in the league. They have playmakers at every level of the D, so if they stay healthy — and that includes coach Mike Zimmer’s eye issues — this team can challenge for a wild card spot, and maybe even a division title.
Detroit was historically good in close games last season: 8-5 in one-possession games, 5-2 in games decided by a field goal or less.
That luck runs out in 2017.
Matthew Stafford is now the NFL’s highest paid player and he’ll have to play like it. Though the Lions beefed up their offensive line with T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner, the run game remains a massive question mark and losing Taylor Decker on Stafford’s blind side hurts. Rookie receiver Kenny Golladay turned heads in the preseason but still has a way to go before becoming a favorite target for Stafford.
On defense, the Lions lack bite: Ziggy Ansah is still banged up and coming off his worst season, and even if he’s healthy, the back end of the defense still looks like a weakness. Second round pick Teez Tabor should help that struggling secondary (or at least give me a ton of opportunities to make “Teez nuts” jokes in this year’s NFL Recaps) but this defense looks like a big reason why Detroit still won’t make consecutive playoff appearances since 1995.
I don’t see what John Fox is seeing.
Chicago is coming off their worst 16-game season in franchise history, a fact that has the Bears looking like a team cursed. And as cursed teams do, they make desperate moves to get a franchise QB — like trading up one spot in the draft to select Mitchell Trubisky second overall and spending big money on stopgap scrub Mike Glennon.
Regardless of who’s under center, there’s precious little to be excited about on offense. Jordan Howard was a pleasant surprise at running back and he’s likely to have another productive season, but losing Alshon Jeffrey to free agency and last year’s leading receiver Cameron Meredith to season-ending injury won’t inspire any confidence in the passing game. Speaking of confidence…Kevin White lacks it after two injury plagued seasons and Chicago is depending on him to stay healthy and start living up to his high draft status. No pressure.
One thing Fox knows well is defense and the Bears will need him to work his magic. This unit improved the secondary with free agents Prince Amukamara and Quintin Demps but is devoid of any real impact players. Count on Chicago staying south in the NFC North.
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