2018 NFC North Preview and Predictions

Green Bay Packers' Brett Hundley celebrates his touchdown run with Aaron Rodgers (12) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Rob says Aaron Rodgers will make the Packers offense great again … MVP great. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps) (AP/Jeffrey Phelps)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins warms up before an NFL preseason football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Rob says Kirk Cousins is corny … but he’ll do enough to keep the Vikings in lockstep with Green Bay for the division title. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn) (AP/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Chicago tabbed Matt Nagy to be their head coach because they think he can replicate what Sean McVay did in L.A. last year — a tall task in a division shared with Green Bay and Minnesota, Rob says. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) (AP/Nam Y. Huh)
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
Matt Patricia brings the Patriot Way to Detroit, and Rob says the Lions could surprise some people. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken) (AP/Jason Behnken)
(1/4)
Green Bay Packers' Brett Hundley celebrates his touchdown run with Aaron Rodgers (12) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins warms up before an NFL preseason football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

For the overall 2018 NFL Preview click here, and see the links at the bottom of the page for the rest of the divisional previews.

Packers 12-4

The last time Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, he came back to win MVP.

He’ll have ample opportunity to do it again in 2018.

For the first time in 25 years, the Pack dipped deep into free agent waters, signing Jimmy Graham to serve as Rodgers’ best red zone target in years, and Muhammad Wilkerson to shore up a defensive line in need of some talent. Even Clay Matthews isn’t a fan of the depth at linebacker, but Packers fans finally got their wish: Longtime defensive coordinator Dom Capers is gone, and Mike Pettine takes over in a year when Green Bay spent its first two draft picks on corners.

A healthy Rodgers will make the offense great again, so Pettine’s success turning around a perennially disappointing defense will decide whether the Pack reclaim the division from Minnesota. If he does, the Packers’ 100th season could be a Super one.

Vikings 11-5

The Minnesota Miracle was great, but Philadelphia Flop (or Phlop?) is what drove the Vikings offseason.

With a borderline dominant defense returning the vast majority of the starting lineup from 2017’s top-ranked unit, the Vikes rolled the dice at QB, signing Kirk Cousins to the first fully guaranteed contract in NFL history, and also signing on for his corniness.

While Dalvin Cook’s return from injury will give Cousins the sort of run-pass balance he never got in Washington, he’ll play behind a banged up offensive line that will be without Nick Easton for the season. That’s a tough ask for a passer still adjusting to stud targets like Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and newly paid playoff hero (and former Terp) Stefon Diggs. Cousins probably won’t put up the same numbers he did as a Redskin, and Minnesota probably won’t have a gaudy record like last year’s — Captain Kirk will do enough to keep the Vikings in lockstep with Green Bay for the division title, and maybe even beam up a return trip to the conference title game.

Minnesota would Vike that. (Editor’s Note: No.)

Bears 6-10

Chicago tabbed Matt Nagy to be their head coach because they think he can replicate what Sean McVay did in L.A. last year, authoring an unexpected turnaround and making their second-year QB a stud.

That’s a tall task in a division with the Packers and Vikings, but Mitchell Trubisky should make some positive strides with new targets Allen Robinson and Trey Burton to throw to, and underrated run options Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.

Holdouts helped and hurt the Bears defense: Khalil Mack landed in the Windy City via blockbuster trade and promptly signed an extension that makes him the highest paid defender in football, a deal the Raiders never wanted to give him. The move helps solidify a really good front seven that was initially hurt by eighth-overall pick Roquan Smith’s holdout. Smith is also nursing a hamstring injury, so he and Mack will need time to get up to speed — but once they do, Chicago could be better than my initial six-win prediction.

Lions 6-10

Matt Patricia has eluded allegations from his past to bring the Patriot Way to Detroit. He brings another former Patriot, LeGarrette Blount, to Motown to fix a long-dormant run game that also added Kerryon Johnson in the draft. That should finally take some pressure off 10th-year starting QB, Matthew Stafford.

Since he’s already got his QB, Patricia’s big challenge will be fixing the defense. The key will be getting another quality season from the injury-plagued Ezekiel Ansah, whose offseason highlights included getting franchise tagged and being placed on the PUP list. If he can be healthy and productive, creating opportunities for a talented secondary, the Lions could surprise some people.

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West

NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

OverviewPlayoffs | Awards


Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2018 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up