Questions abound on who will finish atop the NFC North. Last year we saw a Bears defense rivaled only in team history by its predecessor in 1985, riding it to a division title. Will they do it again? The Vikings went all-in on Kirk Cousins and went 8-7-1. Will he be better in his second season or ever? The Packers followed with a season of firings and another losing record. I thought they had the greatest quarterback ever? Can he stay healthy? At the bottom, it was the Detroit Lions.
Chicago Bears, 1st NFC North
Team MVP: Khalil Mack
Kahlil Mack is in the best player in football conversation every year. If he is on your team he is the MVP. Expect another big season from the former Defensive Player of the Year.
Breakout Player: Mitch Trubisky
Mitch took a big step last year under new head coach Matt Nagy but still had lapses in play with flashes of brilliance. With a year under his belt in Nagy’s system and more talent around him, expectations are high. 2019 is the year he meets those expectations and becomes one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
Season Outlook: The Bears already have a Superbowl defense. If Mitch Trubisky and the rest of the offense can take that next step, the Bears could be holding a Lombardi Trophy in 2020. The problem is that if they regress on either side of the ball, they will come up short again. It all comes down to the progression of Mitch Trubisky.
Green Bay Packers, 2nd AFC North
Team MVP: Aaron Rodgers
The Packers go as far as Rodgers takes them every year. The fact is in nine of his 11 seasons as the starter he has had a winning record, even injury-shortened ones. He is the number one reason this team has a chance at the playoffs each year.
Breakout Player: Aaron Jones
Jones first two seasons in the NFL have given Packers fans a taste of his game-changing capability. An outstanding season is a near lock based on his 5.5 yards per carry average and an increased role in the passing game. The question is, can he stay on the field? He has been unable to do so through his two years in the NFL.
Season outlook: The Packers open with a new head coach for the first time in 12 years. The year before Ted Thompson stepped down after, I think, a Millenium of running the most conservative team in the NFL. The Packers have opened the purse strings a bit and hired a touched by McVay coach so they should win the Superbowl, right? In the end, this is a solid group with a great quarterback, so 9-7 feels about right.
Minnesota Vikings, 3rd AFC North
Team MVP: Adam Thielen
Thielen is one of the best receivers in the NFL and the critical component to the Vikings passing game. In combination with Stefon Diggs, they form one of the best tandems in the NFL. He is the clear number one wideout and will likely catch 100 balls again making him the Vikings MVP.
Breakout Player: Chad Beebe
After Thielen and Diggs, the competition is wide open among the receiver corp. Beebe was a tryout player that fought his way to the active roster. If he can stay healthy, he has a legit shot at being the third/fourth option in the group. The door is open for a potential breakout campaign.
Season Outlook: The chance to be a contender rests in the right arm of Kirk Cousins. The Vikings and Cousins need to prove they can be better when it counts most. This team spent last year teeter-tottering from a great game to a terrible game. Consistency will be crucial to being better than mediocre again, and we haven’t seen it yet so 9-7 it is once again.
Detroit Lions, 4th NFC North
Team MVP: Trey Flowers
Flowers brings a disruptive force and a Superbowl ring to Motown. He already knows the defense based on playing for Matt Patricia in New England. In addition to improving the pass-rush, he will set the tone, making him invaluable to the second-year coach. Signing him will prove to be a smart move by the front office.
Breakout Player: Kenny Golladay
Cheated a bit with Golladay after a 70 catch season for over 1000 yards, but it feels like there is more to come. Kenny has 100 catch talent and will see that potential come to fruition this year with more targets. By the end of the 2019 season, everyone will know what Detriot fans already know. Kenny Golladay is one of the best young receivers in the game.
Season Outlook: Detroit threw money at a bunch of free agents, but aside from Flowers, it wasn’t an overly impressive haul. Did Detroit get significantly better this offseason? Can the former Patriots brought in get this team to buy into Matt Patricia? Will Matt Stafford bounce back from a “down” year? This team got better, but by how much is the question.
Up Next: NFC South