NFL Divisional Previews: The NFC North


Dec 29, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) meet at midfield after the game at Soldier Field. The Green Bay Packers win 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

As we rapidly approach the start of the 2014 regular season, it’s time to assemble divisional previews for each of the eight that exist. We’ll look at last year, then call attention to the key losses and additions by team, and then give an outlook for 2014. We continue with the competitive NFC North, and go from the best team to worst team in 2013.

Side note for Saints fans: The team plays the NFC North this year.

2013 Combined Record: 28-34-2
2013 Playoff Teams: Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers 

2013 Record: 8-7-1 (NFC North Divisional Champs)
Splits: Home (4-3-1), Road (4-4), Conference (6-5-1)

How their season ended: In a frigid Wild Card game at Lambeau (5° F) . The 49ers stood tall to the test of facing the Packers in their own backyard. The Packers would fall short at the end of it all, as Colin Kaepernick would lead his team on a game winning drive with five minutes to go, and the 49ers would win 23-20. The Packers were shredded for 444 yards of total offense, and Kaepernick picked up 181 of those on the ground.

Key Offseason Losses: WR James Jones, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, S M.D. Jennings, OT Marshall Newhouse, DE/DT C.J. Wilson

Important Newcomers: DE Julius Peppers, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Draft), WR Davante Adams (Draft), TE Richard Rodgers (Draft)

2014 Outlook: A fully healthy Aaron Rodgers can lead the Packers to great things in 2014. Green Bay was the prime example of ‘what happens when you lose your star quarterback’. Had Rodgers not been hurt in the Bears game, it would have been quite interesting to see how the team would have fared in the grand scheme of things. The team started 5-2, after all. As long as Aaron Rodgers leads this team, there’s little doubt of the potent offensive attack. The biggest question mark has got to be the defensive performance, but with the new additions of veteran Julius Peppers, and addition of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety, there could be a lot more things to like about the Packers defense.

Chicago Bears 

2013 Record: 8-8
Splits: Home (5-3), Road (3-5), Conference (4-8)

How their season ended: Losing four out of the final six games, including the season finale against the Green Bay Packers at home 33-28, which negated the Bears from winning the division and earning a playoff spot. The Bears were discount double-checked by Aaron Rodgers, as the Packers won the game in the final minute on a 4th & 8 pass from Rodgers to Randall Cobb.

Key Offseason Losses: QB Josh McCown, WR Earl Bennett, RB Michael Bush, KR Devin Hester, P Adam Podlesh, S Major Wright, DT Henry Melton, DE Julius Peppers, DE Corey Woottoon

Important Newcomers: C Brian de la Puente, WR Domenik Hixon, WR Josh Morgan, DE Jared Allen, S M.D. Jennings, S Danny McCray, DE Willie Young, DE Lamarr Houston, S Adrian Wilson, CB Kyle Fuller (Draft), DT Ego Ferguson (Draft), RB Ka’Deem Carey (Draft)

2014 Outlook: The Bears front office certainly did a great deal in the offseason to gear up for 2014. They addressed several of their outstanding needs through free agency and the draft. The question we’ll all be asking ourselves is what type of Jay Cutler we get. When Cutler’s on fire, it’s tough to stop the Bears potent offense. The team only got Cutler more weapons to work with. The secondary should improve, which gives the Bears a great chance to threaten for the division.

Detroit Lions 

2013 Record: 7-9
Splits: Home (4-4), Road (3-5), Conference (6-6)

How their season ended: After starting 5-3 and despite dominating the division with a 4-2 record, the Lions would drop six of their final seven games. The tough pill to swallow is that the final three losses of the season were decided by a combined 6 points (2, 3, 1). In the final game against the Vikings, it was Matt Asiata, not Adrian Peterson, who ran all over the Lions in the final game at the Metrodome. The team improved over 2012, but failed to get back into the postseason. Did you know that the Lions were the only team in the NFC North to outscore their opponents (395-376)?

Key Offseason Losses: QB Josh McCown, WR Earl Bennett, RB Michael Bush, KR Devin Hester, P Adam Podlesh, S Major Wright, DT Henry Melton, DE Julius Peppers, DE Corey Woottoon

Important Newcomers: FB Jed Collins, WR Golden Tate, QB Dan Orlovsky, S James Ihedigbo, DE Darryl Tapp, CB Cassius Vaughn, DT Vaughn Martin, TE Eric Ebron (Draft), DE/LB Kyle Van Noy (Draft), C Travis Swanson (Draft))

2014 Outlook: The Lions are trying to emulate the New Orleans Saints offense, and that’s a good thing. The team was able to acquire former Saints quarterbacks coach, Joe Lombardi, to run the team’s offense. Under new head coach Jim Caldwell, the Lions should have a threat about them heading into the season. However, many are cautious of the Lions, because they have had the talent for quite some time, but just haven’t been able to put it together. Here’s to hoping we see more discipline out of this team to put together a winning season.

Minnesota Vikings

2013 Record: 5-10-1
Splits: Home (5-3), Road (0-7-1), Conference (4-7-1)

How their season ended: ‘Experts’ thought the Saints couldn’t win on the road? See the Vikings, their proof is in their record. While the Vikings’ season did end on a high note by winning their final game at the Metrodome over their long-time division rival, the Detroit Lions, it was still an ugly year for the Vikes. Adrian Peterson had his lowest rushing yards since 2010, and Leslie Frazier was fired shortly after the end of the season.

Key Offseason Losses: DE Jared Allen, QB Josh Freeman, RB Toby Gerhart, QB Joe Webb, TE John Carlson, LB Erin Henderson, DT Pat Williams, CB Chris Cook, CB A.J. Jefferson, LB Desmond Bishop

Important Newcomers: DE Corey Woottoon, DT Tom Johnson, CB Captain Munnerlynn, CB Derek Cox, S Kurt Coleman, LB Jasper Brinkley, DE/LB Anthony Barr (Draft), QB Teddy Bridgewater (Draft), RB Jerrick McKinnon (Draft)

2014 Outlook: The team did make a strong improvement in the coaching department by adding former Bengals defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer, as their head coach and also added long-time offensive mastermind, Norv Turner, to run the team’s offense. A nearly billion dollar stadium is always a nice way to start things off in a season, but what is the quarterback situation going to look like in Minnesota? It’s almost sickening to realize that Adrian Peterson does so much, but doesn’t get the support needed from a quarterback to compliment his play. Until this gets fixed, don’t expect the Vikings to do too much.

NFC North Bold Predictions

  • The Detroit Lions will be playing the Green Bay Packers for the division in Week 16; the loser misses the playoffs while the Bears sneak in as a Wild Card
  • Adrian Peterson will lead the NFL in rushing in 2014, and end up with over 2,000 rushing yards
  • Teddy Bridgewater will enter the Vikings starting lineup by Week 3
  • Jay Cutler will finish as a Top 10 passer in 2014

In case you missed it….

Like Who Dat Dish? Follow us on Facebook

Follow @whodatdish