Our NFL series heads to the NFC North, which once again looks intriguing. Death, taxes, and the Green Bay Packers winning the NFC North. Those seem to be the constants as for the last decade or so, the Packers have won all but three NFC North crowns (2011 – 2021). That includes last season where Green Bay tied the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a league-best 13 wins.
Last year, that was more than enough for the Packers, who won the division by five wins over the Minnesota Vikings. Green Bay was also the only team to finish with an above .500 record in the North. So, while things may look locked up for the Packers in 2022-23, it is worth noting that we’re not that many years removed from the Vikings looking like a Super Bowl contender. We’re not that far removed from the last time the Packers didn’t win the NFC North, 2018-19, the season the Chicago Bears did with 12 wins. We’re even not that far removed from when the Detroit Lions last had a winning record…Okay, Detroit and maybe Chicago aside, the NFC North still very much has the makings of a division that could provide multiple playoff teams.
Will the Packers continue to reign supreme? Or will the Vikings reclaim their past glory? Check out our predictions, picks and full preview for the division below.
Green Bay Packers (+1000 to win Super Bowl, +400 to win NFC, -190 to win NFC North)
When the dust settled on the season-long saga of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, it turned out to be much ado about nothing. Despite making every indication he was leaving Green Bay during the regular season, Rodgers and the Packers managed to mend fences and agree to a new deal keeping the Hall of Fame QB in the green and gold for four more years. Very few people would have expected this outcome, but here we are, and here Rodgers is, looking for that elusive second Super Bowl.
Despite being one of the NFL’s best regular-season teams over the last decade, the Packers have only gone to the Super Bowl once under Rodgers, in 2010, when they won. But they have had tons of great teams since that have failed to live up to expectations. Folks in Green Bay are hoping 2022 will change all of that but there are some uncertainties.
For starters, the Packers and Rodgers will have to find a way without Davante Adams, who was responsible for about a quarter of Green Bay’s scoring offense last year. Adams is one of the NFL’s top scoring threats so the Packers will definitely miss that dimension he provided for the offense. That’s not to say Green Bay isn’t without weapons however, as they have Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb, but neither have the prowess Adams did. The offensive line is a little shaky, but the running game behind it should be fine as Aaron Jones and AJ Dillion provide continuity on that front. Defensively, the Packers project to be a top-10 group again, having drafted two solid playmakers for the line. In fact, with the offensive question marks, the defense could well be one of the Packers’ biggest strong points this year.
Minnesota Vikings (+3500 Super Bowl, +1800 NFC, +260 NFC North)
The Packers are undoubtedly the top name in the NFC North, but the Vikings aren’t that far off. This team should certainly close the gap from last year in the division and if the Packers slip up for any reason, could even be good enough to claim the crown. People are sleeping on the Vikings to their own detriment, largely because of how dominant Green Bay has been. Heading into this season, Minnesota doesn’t really have any obvious flaws or weaknesses. They are definitely underrated.
For starters, the Vikings are heading into this season with a new head coach and new coaching staff led by Kevin O’Connell, who is fresh off winning the Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams. O’Connell brings a fresh face and new dimension to an offense that has failed to see its full potential under quarterback Kirk Cousins.
In LA, O’Connell turned Matthew Stafford’s career around, and there is optimism he can do the same for Cousins in Minnesota. In fact, there are a lot of parallels with LA’s offense last year and Minnesota’s expectations this year. One of them comes via the receiving game where O’Connell could really impact Justin Jefferson and his production the way he did Cooper Kupp in LA.
Jefferson is already well on his way to being a star in this league, but with O’Connell he can be even better and that should be terrifying for opposing defenses. Not to mention, the Vikings pair one of the league’s best receivers with one of the league’s best running backs in Dalvin Cook, who has recorded at least 1,100 yards on the ground in each of the last three seasons. When we talk about NFL triplets, Minnesota doesn’t necessarily have the flashiest group, but their trio of Cousins, Cook and Jefferson could well be top-five in the league.
Detroit Lions (+15000 Super Bowl, +6000 NFC, +1000 NFC North)
When the Detroit Lions shipped Matthew Stafford off to the Rams, it was as much about giving their franchise quarterback a chance actually to win some games, as it was about a shift in the team’s mentality and what the Stafford era represented. Stafford was perfectly average and often even better than that in Detroit, but he was the quarterback who had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Brought to the team with the first overall pick following a winless season, Stafford’s tenure in Detroit was always about getting the team back on track but he was never quite put in a position to do so. Stafford never had the right coach, the right players, the right help. With him in LA, the Lions are looking to change the narrative. Head coach Dan Campbell now has his first year under the belt and he’s definitely building something positive in Detroit. But the roster, while much improved with guys like D’Andre Swift, Aiden Hutchinson, DJ Chark, and even QB Jared Goff. Goff’s tenure in LA didn’t end on the best terms but he is still a quarterback the Lions can get something out of as he too seeks his fresh start.
Chicago Bears (+15000 Super Bowl, +8000 NFC, +1500 NFC North)
So much has changed for Chicago between this season and last. From top down, there have been significant organizational changes in leadership and with that, came a full roster overhaul indicative of a major rebuild. The team kept Justin Fields, hoping to build around him as a top young quarterback in the league. But Fields hasn’t shown yet that he has the potential really to be that guy and this season, he will have little more than a bare bones roster to try to prove it. It is not exactly the best circumstances for a guy the Bears are still trying to evaluate.
Chicago does still have some pieces in place, largely wide receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet, who some think is poised for a breakout year. Defense should be a strength for the Bears as well. Overall, though, this roster is at least a year away from getting back in the conversation.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.