2020 NFL NFC North Preview

September 9, 2020

FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2020, file photo, Chicago Bears quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky, left, and Nick Foles walk on the field during an NFL football camp practice in Lake Forest, Ill. The Bears acquired Super Bowl 52 MVP Foles to compete with former No. 2 draft pick Trubisky for the starting quarterback job, one of several moves to shake up an offense that ranked among the NFL's worst last season. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

For the overall 2020 NFL Preview click here, and see the links below for the rest of the divisional previews.

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West

NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

Overview | Playoffs | Awards

Packers 11-5

The Packers are puzzling: Green Bay got to the NFC Championship Game thanks to the golden right arm of a cinch future Hall of Fame quarterback — yet they traded up in the first round to take a quarterback who will undoubtedly sit on the bench for at least a couple years, rather than add talent to keep them among the conference’s elite right now in 2020.

If all goes well in Titletown, rookie Jordan Love won’t see the field this season — but it has clearly sent a message to Aaron Rodgers that his time in green and gold is limited. Rodgers’ supporting cast in the passing game is Devante Adams and a lot of question marks — Pro Football Focus ranked the Packers receivers 25th last season — although the run game seems solid with Aaron Jones and second-round pick A.J. Dillon. Even at age 36, Rodgers should still be able to carry the offense when necessary.

The defense is blessed with the Smiths (Za’Darius and Preston) coming off the edges, but the departure of Blake Martinez leaves some questions at inside linebacker. A good secondary and D-line will keep this unit strong, but don’t count on Green Bay posting another gaudy record like they did in 2019.

Vikings 7-9

This may come as a surprise pick for Minnesota, but the Vikings defense has seen a ton of change, not necessarily for the better. At least eight key players left in the offseason, leaving 25-year-old Danielle Hunter as the de facto leader of the unit. Former Ravens defensive lineman Michael Pierce was the big free agent acquisition, but he’s not impactful enough to overcome the losses of Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph.

Somehow, Kirk Cousins continues to be paid at a ridiculously high rate despite his good-but-not-good-enough reputation. Though his most explosive weapon (Stefon Diggs) is now in Buffalo, the Vikings selected Justin Jefferson in the first round to replace him. Perhaps he seamlessly steps in to balance out Adam Theilen, the Irv Smith-Kyle Rudolph combo at tight end keeps the pass game productive and Dalvin Cook stays healthy enough to have the breakout year everyone expects from him — it just feels like this team isn’t going to be as good as it looks on paper.

Minnesota certainly has the talent to put it all together and end up challenging the Packers for the division. But under Mike Zimmer, the Vikes have yet to put together consecutive good seasons, making this the year for a letdown.

Lions 6-10 

It’s always tough when a team like Detroit loses better talent (Darius Slay, Damon Harrison, Mike Daniels) than it procures (Desmond Trufant, Danny Shelton). But Matt Patricia’s master plan of collecting Patriots castoffs continues, adding Jamie Collins and Duron Harmon to a unit that ranked second-to-last in total defense and in the bottom third in scoring defense. Even if 30-year-old Collins still has impact, the Lions are probably more roar than bite on this side of the ball.

Offensively, however, Detroit has a healthy Matthew Stafford (for now), who low-key was playing MVP-caliber football before being sidelined by a season-ending back injury. Stafford’s 106.0 QB rating was by far the best of his career, and was on pace to throw for nearly 5,000 yards and 38 TDs. The problem is, he’s got good-but-not-great talent around him (no offense to Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, T.J. Hockenson and the newly-acquired Adrian Peterson), and this offense will have to be prolific to overcome what figures to be a lackluster defense and a tough division.

Bears 6-10 

Chicago’s season will come down to what happens at quarterback. Nick Foles may feel “right at home” in the Bears offense, but it didn’t help distinguish himself from underwhelming incumbent starter Mitchell Trubisky. This leaves coach Matt Nagy in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, entering a season in which he’s clearly on the hot seat.

The Bears defense remains among the league’s best and most talented, but it’s quietly getting long in the tooth. They just paid big money for 30-year-old Robert Quinn to play opposite Khalil Mack, who is still a dominant force, but turns 30 this coming February. This unit could be in for a setback, especially if Roquan Smith doesn’t take a big step up in his development.

In a division with Aaron Rodgers — and yes, even Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins — Chicago doesn’t have an arm capable of keeping up. Foles has only played well in an Eagles uniform and Trubisky seems destined to be the bust puzzlingly selected ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in the 2017 NFL draft. Change could be blowing into the Windy City yet again.

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