The 2017 season kicks off at the beginning of September with all 32 teams vying to be a part of Super Bowl LII at the end of the campaign.
The NFC North has been dominated by the Green Bay Packers, with Mike McCarthy’s men winning five out of the last six crowns.
However, the Packers last won the Super Bowl in the 2010 term when they advanced through the wildcard. Pressure is beginning to build on the club to cash in on their window for another title.
The Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions are both desperate to knock them off their perch. The Lions saw the division snatched from their grasp in week 17 last season, denying them their first crown since the 1993 campaign.
The race for the crown promises just to be intense this time around, while the Chicago Bears could prove to be a surprise should rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky hit the ground running.
The Packers endured an all-too familiar story in the 2016 season, falling short in the NFC Championship game. Aaron Rodgers’ brilliance guided them through the opening two rounds, defeating the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, but the Atlanta Falcons’ offense proved too much for McCarthy’s men to handle.
Green Bay’s defense struggled throughout the campaign with injuries, with their secondary exposed to strong passing attacks. Matt Ryan exploited those deficiencies with ease in the NFC title game, giving McCarthy and the club’s front-office with plenty of questions to answer in the off-season.
At times last season even the reliability of their offense was in doubt in a four-game losing stretch. General manager Ted Thompson does not usually splash out in free agency, but he acquired Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks during the process to bolster the receiving corps.
Ty Montgomery’s permanent switch to running backs should fill the void of Eddie Lacy’s departure and offer an improvement in production. There’s decent depth on the offensive line, but the question of whether the club can compete for the Super Bowl remains the defense.
Their defensive line and linebacking corps are fine, but outside of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix their secondary is average and potentially the fatal flaw – as it was last season. Rodgers is good enough to win the NFC North again, with odds of -200 with Ladbrokes, but whether he can carry the fortunes of the team forward to grab a place in the Super Bowl in February is another matter.
The Vikings were dealt a huge blow before the start of the 2016 season when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater sustained a serious knee injury. The problem ruled him out of the term, forcing the club to trade a first-round pick to acquire Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles.
Minnesota enjoyed a strong start to the term aided by their impressive defense, but fell away drastically after their bye in week five, losing eight of their last 11 matches. Bridgewater will remain sidelined this term as he continues to recover, with Bradford charged with leading the club back to the playoffs after their failure in the last campaign.
Adrian Peterson left the Vikings in the off-season after a distinguished 10-year career, which will see bound for the Hall of Fame in the future. However, he was not the same player that won the MVP award in the 2012 campaign and consequently was allowed to leave.
Minnesota selected Dalvin Cook to replace him in the 2017 Draft and the rookie will have the chance to start from the off, sharing carries with new signing Latavius Murray.
The offense should take a step forward in their second season with Bradford in position, while more will be expected of their wideouts, especially 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell.
Mike Zimmer’s defense will be the foundation of the side and they have outstanding players at all three levels. If they are dominant enough it could drive the club back into the playoffs at odds of +175 with Bovada sportsbook to return to the post-season.
The Lions had a decent term in 2016, but still couldn’t beat the Packers when in a meaningful contest. Jim Caldwell’s men recovered from a tough start to leave themselves 9-4 with three weeks left in the campaign, needing only one win to secure the division. However, they lost three matches on the bounce to lose out to the Packers, who beat them 31-24 at Ford Field.
The loss put them on the road against the Seahawks in the playoffs, which ended their campaign in a humbling defeat. Detroit have made moves in the off-season to overturn their roster, bolstering their offensive line and their linebacking corps.
TJ Lang has moved across from Green Bay, while Rick Wagner was signed from the Baltimore Ravens to fortify protection for quarterback Matt Stafford. Linebacker DeAndre Levy was released, but general manager Bob Quinn acted by selecting Jarrad Davis in the first round of the 2017 Draft, while Jalen Reeves-Maybin was added in the fourth.
Surprisingly the Lions did not add a quality running back in the off-season to ease the pressure on Stafford. Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick have quality, but are not the type of player that can churn out yards on the ground with regularity. As a result, the fortunes of the team will be on Stafford, who has been hot and cold during his time in the NFL, being not quite good enough in defining moments.
Therefore a slight regression may not be a surprise so take the under on 7.5 wins at -110 with TopBet sportsbook.
The Bears endured a miserable 3-13 campaign in 2016, although head coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace managed to survive in their roles. Long-time quarterback Jay Cutler left the club along with number one wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, leaving a significant void on offense.
As a result, Chicago made a splash to sign Mike Glennon in free agency and made the surprising move in the 2017 Draft to trade up one spot to snag quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. An interesting battle will develop between the two for the starting spot and it would not be shocking to see the rookie beat out the veteran, who has been underwhelming during his career.
The loss of Jeffery could be costly as former top-five pick Kevin White’s time in the NFL has been blighted by a number of injuries. New signing Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle have talent, but none of the trio possesses the talent of Jeffery, which leaves the passing attack vulnerable.
On a positive side of things running back Jordan Howard had an outstanding rookie season. If he takes a step forward in his development, the 22-year-old could become one of the elite backs in the NFL.
Defensively Chicago were a mess last term. For a franchise that has a proud history on the defensive side of the ball it was sad to see the club in such turmoil, especially in the secondary. Several signings have been made, but talent remains scarce which will hurt their ability to improve in 2017.
Green Bay Packers To Win NFC North
Minnesota Vikings To Reach The Playoffs
Detroit Lions To Win Under 7.5 Matches