1. Minnesota Vikings– Going into the 2015 season, I had them being a complete surprise and were they ever? They won the NFC North for the first time since 2009 when some legendary guy named Brett Favre had them a game away from the Super Bowl. It also helps when Adrian Peterson comes back and gives your offense the necessary boost it needs. I was impressed with their passing game last season and I’m excited to see it this year with Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and rookie Laquon Treadwell from Ole Miss and the defense returns every single starter from 2015. The NFC North travels through Minnesota this year. Let’s also see how Teddy Bridgewater will elevate his play in 2016.
2. Green Bay Packers– It was a crazy 2015 season for the Packers. They lose Jordy Nelson in the preseason for the whole regular season after tearing his ACL and you saw just how much he was missed on that offense. He’s Aaron Rodgers’ go to guy for a specific reason. The Packers hadn’t lost a game at home since 2013 and that came to an end last season as they lost all three divisional games at home. This year, Jordy returns but I have concerns with him coming back from that ACL injury because as a receiver, you have to be able to cut plant the foot, turn and pivot so is he going to be the same guy? As always, the Packers defense will need to step it up on the defensive end of the ball. B.J. Raji is gone and they drafted his replacement in Kenny Clark. Can the offense get back to its usual form again in 2016 with Jordy Nelson?
3. Detroit Lions– A new era of Detroit Lions football is set to begin in the Motor City. The Lions will begin life after Calvin Johnson when the 2016 season rolls around as he announced his retirement in March during the off-season. Here’s the thing now with the Lions offense that people aren’t realizing. With Calvin gone, defenses will have no idea on who will be the go to guy on the Lions offense and Matt Stafford made a really good point about that in an interview this off-season. Detroit signed Marvin Jones when free agency hit to fill the open void that Calvin Johnson has left. Last season got off to a rough start, but they were in the hunt for the playoffs surprisingly. Jim Caldwell will be on the hot-seat entering the 2016 season.
4. Chicago Bears– It was the first year of the John Fox tenure in Chicago and it ended with a 6-10 mark and last place in the NFC North. The Bears were very active this off-season. Matt Forte was released, the Bears signed Danny Trevathan from the Denver Broncos to a four-year deal, signed Jerrell Freeman to add depth to the linebacking core, something that’s always been strength of Bears defenses and they also signed Akiem Hicks to a two-year deal. Offensively, we will finally get a look at Kevin White, the Bears first round draft pick in 2015 that missed his rookie season with a stress fracture in his leg. Jay Cutler finally had one of his better seasons in Chicago and will look to build off that in 2016.
1. Packers (12-4)
2. Vikings (9-7)
3. Bears (8-8)
4. Lions (5-11)
The Packers will bounce back and claim the division they’ve ran for the last six years, until last season. With Jordy Nelson returning, the Packers offense will have its “sizzle” once again and last season, there were times when Rodgers looked lost without his go to guy on the field. Eddie Lacy will be counted on to bring the balance and control the running game. Defense has always been a question with the Green Bay Packers over the years and I’ve always said when they can handle business on the defensive side of the ball as they do on offense, this is a scary team to face. We could potentially see the road to Houston travel through Lambeau Field in January during the NFC playoffs.