For the first time since 2011, the Saints will face off against all four NFC North teams.
Since the division was created in 2002, the Packers and Bears have managed to win all but two NFC North crowns, the last three by the Packers. Along with that, for the second season in a row, at least one of the teams made a coaching change, this time being the Lions and Vikings.
So without further ado, here’s a look at the NFC North in 2014.
Thank me later.
Record all-time against Saints: 13-13
The Bears in 2013 showed me a lot on the offensive side of the ball, finishing 2nd scoring with 455 points. That success on the offensive side of the ball can be attributed to the fact that for the first time in life, the Bears have a QB friendly coach in Marc Trestman.
However, for all the good that the Bears were on offensive, the hallmark of this storied franchise, the defense, was atrocious in 2013. Last season, the Bears allowed an average of 29.9 points a game, 29th in the league.
Due to the horrendous showing on defense, Marc Trestman hired former UCONN coach Paul Pasqualoni and former Texans assistant Reggie Herring to help shore up the defensive line and linebacking corps. Along with that, the Bears in March lured away defensive end Jared Allen from Minnesota, signing him to a four-year deal worth $32 million.
Doc’s Diagnosis: The Bears have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL as well as a potent offense. If I’m a Bears fan, I’m feeling confident about that aspect of the team.
But when it comes to defense, something that cost the Bears one too many times in 2013, I’m pretty sure the unit will make a few improvements in 2014, but getting that unit back to the Chicago defenses that we all grew up with will be a tall task.
Projected Record: 9-7, wild card
Record all-time against Saints: 9-11-1
The Lions had more potential than any team not named Green Bay in the NFC North last season. However, for all that potential, the Lions had nothing to show for it on the field as they went 7-9, a record that cost Jim Schwartz his job.
In his place is former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell, who recently served as offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. Caldwell, who took the Colts to Super Bowl 44, left Naptown with a 26-22 record in three seasons at the helm.
Doc’s Diagnosis: After a record setting 2012 season, Calvin Johnson was nagged by a bum knee that was eventually operated on in January of this year. Although he managed to put up respectable numbers in spite of this (84 catches, 1, 469 yards), having a healthy Johnson works wonders for Matthew Stafford and the passing game.
That being said, the Lions, based on their schedule alone, should be able to improve by one or two wins.
Projected Record: 8-8, no playoffs
Green Bay Packers
Record against Saints: 16-7
In my first piece for Who Dat Dish I said that this matchup against Lil Wayne’s favorite football team was my game to watch in 2014. Reason for that is because the Packers, winners of the last three NFC North championships, have a healthy Aaron Rodgers back as well as one of the league’s breakout stars in Eddie Lacy at running back.
That being said, the matchup between the Packers and Saints should be a fun one.
The Packers play five of their first eight games away from Green Bay, including the season opener against Seattle on Septmember 4th. Towards the end the Packers get Atlanta, Detroit, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay to close out the 2014 season.
Projected Record: 10-6, division winner
Much like Yadier Molina’s home run destroyed the Mets’ psyche, Garrett Hartley’s kick destroyed the Vikings’ psyche. Although the Vikings went to the postseason in 2012, the team has not won a playoff game since Old Man Favre took them to the NFC title game. More importantly, this franchise is on their third coach, this time Mike Zimmer, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals and New Orleans Saints.
Not much is expected out of this outfit in 2014 as they play their games in TCF Bank Stadium while their own stadium is being built. To me, this is a foundation year for Minnesota.
Projected Record: 6-10