Although the 2014 NFL schedule hasn’t been released yet, each team’s opponents have been, and this upcoming season has the makings of being either a season to forget, or, in my opinion, a season to remember for Packer fans. Green Bay will have their fair share of challenges coming up with games against Seattle, New Orleans, and New England, but before worrying about those opponents I wanted to discuss the most important games of every season, divisional games.
This upcoming season will probably the most difficult to predict for the NFC North when looking at recent memory. On most years a team is familiar with its divisional opponents. They play twice a year, and the coaches/schemes/personnel are normally the same. This is anything but the case for the Packers next season. Due to the fact that the Lions and Vikings are bringing in new head coaches and the Bears are entering only their second year under Mark Trestman, these teams will be very different compared to what we have known in the past.
1. Detroit Lions
The Lions made a big improvement at the head coach position this offseason by adding Coach Jim Caldwell. Caldwell comes with very impressive resume that not many other coaches on the market had. He led the Colts to a Super Bowl appearance in 2009 and won the Super Bowl as the Ravens offensive coordinator in 2012. There is no doubt he will add experience and more discipline to a team that was glaringly lacking both last season when they were in position to win the division. It is still arguable though that Jim Caldwell’s success as a Coach was strictly the result of inheriting a great team from Tony Dungy, and the excellence of Peyton Manning.
2. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings added Coach Mike Zimmer who also comes with an impressive resume. He led a Cincinnati defense that was among the best defenses in the NFL in 2013. They ranked in the top 5 in all the major categories last season and now Zimmer will bring his scheme to help improve a defense that has been anything but top 5 in recent years. Adding this, along with offensive threat Adrian Peterson, will prove a respectable challenge for the Packers next season. However, they remain to be the only team in the NFC North without stability at the quarterback position, and if they don’t find a quality quarterback soon, they’ll most likely end up at the bottom of the division again.
3. Chicago Bears
The Bears will be entering their second season under Coach Mark Trestman. Until last year the Bears were known mostly for their defense, but under Trestman, the switch has flipped. The Bears became one of the best offenses in the NFL during 2013 ranking 2nd in points per game. Now if Jay Cutler can stay healthy and with the amount of weapons they have on offense, it looks like they will only get better next season. On the other hand, the Bears were terrible on defense last year ranking near the bottom in most categories. I can only imagine that the addition of M.D. Jennings will probably make the defense worse, and the addition of Jared Allen may help them with pass rush, but not in rush defense, which is where they struggled the most.
Packers 2014 NFC North Record Prediction (5-1)
After evaluating the other NFC North teams, and factoring that the draft has yet to come, I still believe that the Packers are the best team in the NFC North. I feel they will win at least 5 out of the 6 divisional games by sweeping the Vikings and maybe losing one game either to the Bears or Lions. The continuity that the Packers have sustained over the years, and of course having Aaron Rodgers, will give them an advantage over these other teams that are going through transition years. They will be trying to integrate new schemes, and will be trying to find their strengths and weaknesses.
And that is what I think about the 2014 NFC North divisional race. Do you agree or disagree? What divisional record do you think the Packers will have next year? Do you think they will win the NFC North? Leave a comment and let me know!