Chicago Bears- It is hard to see the Bears duplicating last season, defensively, with all those interceptions, 27 to be exact. You add in their 9 fumble recoveries the Bears ended up with the highest takeaway total in the league last season. Chicago acquiring Khalil Mack last off season through trade with the Raiders paid off huge for this defense as it looks to roll on opposing offenses again this year. They brought in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix this off season to strengthen the safety spot. The biggest question is Chuck Pagano, the Bears new defensive coordinator, will he be able to maintain what the Bears were able to accomplish last years?
On the offensive side of the ball, it is all going to fall on the shoulders of Mitchell Trubisky, and if he can show improvement on last season. Chicago lost running back, Jordan Howard in the off season to free agency, other then that they have kept the core of the offense intact. They brought in two running backs to replace Howard’s productivity in Mike Davis and rookie out of Iowa State, David Montgomery. Tarik Cohen will mostly continue his pass catching role out of the backfield, and maybe get some more touches running the ball if the other two backs prove to be ineffective. At the WR spot they added Cordarrelle Patterson and rookie Riley Ridley, while Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel remain at the top 2 spots. Offensively the Bears should at least be able to improve a little bit on their numbers from last year through the air, on the ground, I don’t know.
Biggest Concern- Chuck Pagano maintaining the defense.
Minnesota Vikings- On the offensive side of the ball the big question will be, can they have any resemblance of a running game, game in and game out. Dalvin Cook hasn’t proved he can stay on the field. Maybe rookie Alexander Mattison can be that guy for them, sitting at 5’11” and 220 pounds, sounds like a workhouse back to me. The Vikings acquired Ameer Abdullah as well, but he also has a history of being injury prone. There is no doubt the passing game will be on point again this year, with Thielen, Diggs, and Rudolph being the primary pass catchers. The key though, will be having a running game to keep the pressure off of Kirk Cousins so he can sit back in the pocket, hopefully one of their running backs pan out.
Defensively after resigning Anthony Barr, the Vikings should have as talented of a squad as anybody in the league. Across the board, they are solid, the only hole maybe being at weak side backer, but their veterans should be able to get Gedeon or whoever gets that spot, up to speed in short order.
Biggest Concern- Running game, which translates into the Offensive line.
Green Bay Packers- Where to start? Defensively they did pick up safety Adrian Amos, previously from the Bears, and two linebackers Preston Smith, as well as Za’Darius Smith to go along side Blake Martinez. The linebackers are pretty solid, also drafting rookie Rashan Gary, but lack chemistry, which will take at least a short time to develop. They lost Clay Matthews and most recently Mike Daniels, arguably their best defensive player just recently to the Detroit Lions. The defensive line and secondary isn’t going to be one that scares anybody on paper, so hopefully they can develop as a cohesive unit and be a lock down defense, instead of a bend but don’t break kind of defense we are so accustom to seeing.
Offensively outside of Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, it doesn’t look too promising. Just like the Vikings, the Packers running backs have been injury prone the last few years. If that can turn around, it could be a solid offense, with a solid offensive line. If not, it could be last year on repeat, because the wide receiver talent is just not there for a team that has a foundation of building players, into stars from within. We will see what the new head coach can get done.
Biggest Concern- The Talent
Detroit Lions- First off, yes, I know this is the Lions we are talking about. However, on the offensive side of the ball we learned two things last year. That coming into this year, all signs lead to this team having a running game, and 2, they have a potential #1 wide receiver in the making. Kerryon Johnson and Kenny Golloday had solid numbers last year in a somewhat meaningless season, but it shows what kind of potential they have coming into this year. On paper, at the running back spot they look great with bringing in C.J. Anderson, and Kerryon. At the wide receiver spot on paper, they look solid with Golloday, Jones, and Amendola. Meanwhile they brought in Jesse James, and drafted T.J. Hockenson to lock down the tight end spots. Having a balanced offensive of both run and pass is what will make the offensive line improve. Will this year be the year that Matthew Stafford proves he can be a winner? It all falls on him this year, they put the players around him to get it done.
Defensively the Lions are looking formidable across the defensive line, with bringing in Damon Harrison last year during the season to help with stopping the run game. They also managed to snag DE Trey Flowers in free agency, and just recently signed Mike Daniels. Those guys will have to help out the back side of the defense with pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Darius Slay is still a lockdown cornerback, but that only helps so much against a team like the Vikings with so many playmakers catching the ball. The linebackers are young but should improve.
Biggest concern- Matthew Stafford is 6-46 against teams with winning records, THAT stat has to start to change.
How I see the division playing out-
I will always take defense over offense, and the Bears and the Vikings have the defense to carry their respective teams into the playoffs. However, if the Vikings can not find a running game, look for the Detroit Lions to sneak into that number 2 spot and MAYBE sneak into the playoffs as a wild card team. The Packers, for how talented Aaron Rodgers is, I don’t know if he will be able to make up for the lack of it on this team, this year.