1. Chicago Bears
Defense wins championships, right? Well, in this case, the NFC North championship. The Chicago Bears defense is about as good as it gets. Pass rush, coverage, and swagger. Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, and the list goes on and on. The Bears’ defense is picture-perfect for Bear weather in Soldier Field. But where this team takes a leap over the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings is on offense.
Yes, we know there is a large, very loud and very bright question mark on Mitch Trubisky, but the weapons around Trubisky help that mark fade. The Bears have playmakers at every level of the offense. And with a mad scientist like Matt Nagy scheming these guys open, things could open up for Trubisky. Nagy will be leaning on a pair of young players, Anthony Miller and David Montgomery, to take his offense to the next level. If the youngster and Trubisky can deliver, the Bears look like one of the league’s most complete teams.
The Bears offensive supporting cast plus the best defense in the NFL will carry Chicago through the NFC North for their first back-to-back division championship since 2005-06.
-Tommy Call, PFN NFL Columnist
2. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings come into the 2019 season after missing the playoffs in 2018. To say that was a disappointment is an understatement. The defense took a step back, and the offensive line was a disaster as they failed to protect Kirk Cousins.
But now with the emergence of Anthony Harris on the back end, keeping together its potent defensive core, and the hopeful bounce back of Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings defense is on the up. The real improvement is on the offensive line, however, where first-round pick Garrett Bradbury should have an immediate impact. Pat Elflein moves back to his natural position at guard, and Brian O’Neill will continue to develop at right tackle. The offensive line is much improved, and with weapons like Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Dalvin Cook, and others, this season rests squarely on the shoulders of Kirk Cousins. If he steps up, this team can go far. If he falters, Minnesota could be QB hunting very soon.
-Nick Farabaugh, PFN NFC North Writer & PFN Film Room Writer
3. Green Bay Packers
After back to back losing seasons for the first time in Aaron Rodgers’ career, the Green Bay Packers look to bounce back in 2019 under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur. For the first time in years, the Packers were active spenders in free agency, in hopes to rejuvenate Aaron Rogers in his 12th year as a starter.
Adrian Amos, Preston Smith, and Za’Darius Smith headline what is on paper the best defense Green Bay has had since their Super Bowl run in 2010. Offensively, big things are expected from third-year back Aaron Jones.
The Packers could very well come out of nowhere and steal this division in 2019. However, there are just too many questions that are yet to be answered. How will LaFleur fair in his first year as a head coach? Can Rodgers return to form or is his career now on the decline? Can the defense live up to its expectations? Until the Packers show results on the field, it’s hard to put them in front of Chicago or Minnesota in this very competitive division.
-Ethan Knipfer, PFN NFC North Writer
4. Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions are stuck in a horrible situation. They are in a division with a ton of talent, and a group of teams that can attack you in lots of different ways. They have bolstered their defensive line this offseason, and that should hide any back-end deficiencies. However, they need that defensive line to take over games if they are going to completely negate opposing offenses.
They need to negate those offenses because their own offense has some concerns. How healthy is Matt Stafford? Can Kerryon Johnson shoulder the load and finally give them that running game they need? Can the offensive line keep this offense rolling? Let’s say all of those answers are yes – now what is their record? In this division, with that talent, 9-7 is probably as good as it gets for the Lions this year, and that is everything goes perfectly. This has all the makings of a six or seven-win season but also stinks of a situation which could turn sour very quickly.
-Ben Rolfe, PFN NFC North & NFC South Editor
NEXT: NFC SOUTH