The NFC North known as the “Black and Blue Division” went far beyond it’s name as the defenses in this division have been dreadful. The Bears and Vikings ranked at the bottom of the NFL in defense, the Packers ranked 24th and the Lions had the best defense in the division last year 15th.

So, what can we expect from this division?

Green Bay Packers 11-5:

The Packers are undoubtedly “The favorites” as they return one of the best quarterback’s in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers. They have Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Eddie Lacy and James Starks as offensive weapons.  Injuries decimated this team last year, especially Rodgers, but a healthy signal-caller does the trick.

Pros:

  • Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in this division when healthy the sky is the limit for Green Bay.
  • Eddie Lacy looks like he could be the real deal as last year the Packers used Lacy to help Flynn when Rodgers was hurt rushing for 1,178 yards.
  • The Packers draft was underrated as they selected Ha-Ha Clayton-Dix though Alabama.
  • The Packers finished 8th in offense with an injured Rodgers.
  • Jeff Janis will be the most underrated player out of the 2014 draft and will be valued with Rodgers as QB.

Cons:

  • Dom Capers: Capers is feeling the heat from Packers fans as the last time they owned a top 10 defense was their Super Bowl year four seasons ago.
  • Clay Matthews: can he stay healthy? That’s a big question. If he stays healthy the Packers will be improved on defense
  • Colt Lyerla tore his MCL and PCL: The Packers depth is highly questioned especially when they will start Andrew Quarless at the tight end position.
  • Are the Packers leaning too heavily on Rodgers?

Detroit Lions 10-6 

Same ol’ Lions?

I don’t think so as the Lions fired Jim Schwartz and replaced with Jim Caldwell.

Caldwell brings something the Lions have deeply needed ‘Leadership.’ Caldwell also went to the postseason with Indianapolis two out of his three years there.  People will point out, ‘but when Manning was hurt they went 2-14.’ Yeah, do you trust your team with Drew Stanton, Kerry Collins or Curtis Painter? I don’t. He comes to a good situation in Detroit with additions of Golden Tate, James Ihedigbo in free agency and Eric Ebron in the NFL draft.

Pros:

  • Jim Caldwell, Joe Lombardi and Teryl Austin all these coaches have won Super Bowls. That championship mentality has been missing in Detroit.
  • Calvin Johnson isn’t human and when you look at Detroit, you say double Calvin and we’re good, but as Lee Corso would say “Not so fast.” You have to cover Golden Tate and Eric Ebron now and you have to cover Joe Fauria, who may be better this year.
  • Deandre Levy and Stephen Tulloch are underrated LB’s and bring solidarity to the Linebacker core. Levy had a breakout 2014.
  • RB tandem of “Thunder and Lighting”  (Joique Bell and Reggie Bush) ran for 1,656 yards and 12 touchdowns.
  • The rush defense ranked sixth last year and was a vital sign that this defense is closer to a turnaround.
  • James Ihedigbo brings leadership from Baltimore to Detroit; something the Lions defense needs.
  • 2nd Best offensive line in football statistically in all forms.

Cons:

  • Stafford is a good QB with a solid arm. The problem is he turns into Tony Romo of the North. Pardon the pun, Stafford is a much better QB then Romo, but stats would say otherwise.
  • Defensive line, I know they have Suh, Fairley, Ansah and Jason Jones but they need to get pressure on the quarterback consistently; that can be a problem with Detroit.
  • Darius Slay: most people do not understand how good this kid can become. He worked on his game all summer with Rod Woodson and feels this scheme that Austin will run really benefits him as a player.
  • The health of Calvin Johnson: Megatron has had injury problems in the past few years, but says he feels healthier than he’s ever been.

Chicago Bears 9-7:
Understand this, The Bears offense is really scary with Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett. But don’t think I am letting them off the hook as Cutler was injured last year and has been injured in the past. Cutler hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2009, but has been in Chicago for five years and has played only one full season.

Chicago may have thought they improved on defense, but they didn’t instead of upgrading at DE when Peppers ran to Green Bay they picked up the corpse of Jared Allen. This ain’t no rodeo in Chicago. He joins a defense that looks more like a retirement home then a football team. I get it they added Kyle Fuller, but as Deion Sanders once said “A corners first year is a nightmare” but the Bears added the undisciplined Willie Young. Out of the whole free agent and draft class, Lamarr Houston was the best pickup. The Bears ranked 30th in defense last year and that won’t change. They didn’t improve on defense and in a division with the Lions and Packers you need a defense.

Pros:

  • Alshon Jeffery is a freak, and the offense should be good as long as Jeffery and Marshall stay healthy.
  • Matt Forte is underrated in all aspects an is the 2nd best RB in this division. He may not be as flashy as Reggie Bush or as imposing as Adrian Peterson or Eddie Lacy, but he does his job good and does it well as he rushed for 1,339 yards last year.
  • The Bears can score with anyone as they ranked 2nd last year in offense.

Cons: 

  • Jay Cutler needs to stay healthy.
  • Defense ranked near the bottom last year. Will that improve?
  • Jared Allen is aging.

Minnesota Vikings 7-9:

When I look at Minnesota, I want to put them ahead of the Bears because unlike Chicago, they improved on defense.

They have young guys to build around. Mike Zimmer, a defensive coach, will help this team, but here’s where the problem lies.

Schedule.

NFL.com ranked the Vikings schedule No. 1 in terms of toughness and pointing out the first six games are a true test for first year head coach Mike Zimmer.  If he can get the team to buy in I like them over the Bears in the NFC North. the first six games are crucial as NFL Network analyst as former Brian Billick said “When you start the season like Minnesota and you could be starting a rookie QB the problem lies beneath the surface if you win that’s key it propels your team, but if you lose players start to question themselves and with a rookie head coach, it’s hard to right that ship” Explained Billick.

Pros:

  • Usually most would think QB battles means no definite answer, Wrong.  This is the best thing for the Vikings with Bridgewater and Cassel fighting for the starting spot it brings a competitive nature into practice.
  • Adrian Peterson is a beast and they have a good rushing attack to build on especially if starting a rookie QB.
  • Kyle Rudolph is a pro bowl tight end, has hands and is vital to the success of a rookie quarterback.
  • Xavier Rhodes: When Zimmer took the job he had to marvel at who he gets in the secondary. Rhodes is a good young player like Lions CB Darius Slay. Both will be heavily leaned on their respective defenses.
  • Jerick McKinnon is a rookie, but I love that pick as I think the Vikings went proactive. They got a running back who played at a low level and can learn to be a pro watching Adrian Peterson.

Cons:

  • The cons start with playing outside the cold of the Minnesota winters.
  • Rookie Head Coach and Rookie QB? That spells disaster in most cases, but Norv Turner brings experience and gives the Vikings that key point as an offensive coordinator.
  • Defense obviously but they can and will improve. To expect the Vikings to be amazing on defense isn’t far fetched, but I don’t expect a stark improvement in 2014.
  • Turnovers: The Vikings gave the ball away 14 of their 16 games last season. That’s got to change in order to climb the ladder in a tough NFC North.

Follow Joe Chapp on Twitter @JoeChappM1

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author

Joe Chapp
Lions Beat Reporter and NFC North Beat Reporter

Broadcasting student who got his shot to cover one of his favorite childhood teams at the age of 19. Lions Beat Writer since 2013 NFL Writer and NFC North specialist

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