With another season approaching fast, all 32 teams come in with shifting rosters and personnel changes. This can often lead to power changes within divisions, causing the teams that live in the lower rankings to rise up and take a hold of the number one spot.
The 2017 Detroit Lions are, once again, tabbed as underdogs in the NFC North. It is easy to understand as the Green Bay Packers have been kings of the North for almost a decade. The Lions have put together a solid roster and this season looks as promising as ever, but, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
The competition will be scrappy and hard-wired as always, creating a dramatic race until the last game. Here is my ranking of every other NFC North team and the threat they pose to the Lions.
#3 Minnesota Vikings
The 2016 Vikings were a dumpster fire for the ages, proving hot starts don’t mean hot finishes. Sam Bradford made history while also being one of the most unenergetic quarterbacks in recent memory. They managed to put together a deadly backfield this offseason with the addition of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, but that still isn’t enough to convince me that this team is legitimate. Teddy Bridgewater enters the season with the ill-boding cloud of injury stalking him once again and his explosive potential is lessening by the day.
Their defense should return just as mighty and will likely be the bright spot on the team this season. With such a mix of talented players, it might be confusing as to why so many people have written them off already. The Lions have gone 8-8 against the Vikings since 2009, but the lackluster offensive line and a quarterback who likes to play it safe make Minnesota an easy team for the Lions to game plan for.
#2 Chicago Bears
Before you roll your eyes in disgust, just look at the numbers. The Chicago Bears have been the laughing stock of the NFL for a few years now, but the future is looking bright in the Windy City. Despite their 2-14 record, Jordan Howard rushed for over 1,300 yards and became quite respected by the end of the season. Howard and the Bears’ offensive line man handled opposing defenses and that was just his rookie season.
The Bears defensive unit improved vastly as well, only allowing 224.9 passing yards per game, which was seventh best in the league. Their trio of young linebackers was a force to be reckoned with, and they added a young rookie under the radar of most analysts.
Linebacker Alex Scearce was undrafted out of Coastal Carolina and may just take the sports world by storm this season. Scearce made his name at Lake Norman Charter High school in North Carolina. He played all over the field at running back, safety, wide receiver, tight end, and kick return. In his junior and senior seasons, he compiled 4,314 total all-purpose yards, 56 total touchdowns, and averaged 20.7 receiving yards per game. He is an animal on the field and, if given a shot, could be an impact player on defense.
It looks as if the game plan this year will be to pound the rock and load the box, which might be enough to best the Lions. While they have handled Chicago with poise and confidence in most games, we could see a fresh looking team this season that could threaten the Lions a lot more than one would think.
#1 Green Bay Packers
Do you even need to read this one? The Packers are the clear-cut favorites of the division every season and this year is no different. Aaron Rodgers possesses too many favorable qualities for the Packers to ever be out of a game, let alone out of the playoffs. Home grown rosters and winning is just casual business in Wisconsin, and business is booming. The Lions have gone an embarrassing 4-10 against the Pack since the arrival of Matthew Stafford in 2009, which just goes to prove how dominate a hold Green Bay has over the NFC North.
It doesn’t matter if the Packers are struggling or dealing with injuries, they show out against the Lions. The Packers won’t give up any ground this season and they will find a way to beat the Lions, especially in close situations. Always a game or two ahead, they usually hold the key to Detroit’s postseason door. At this point, their annual battle is comparable to an older brother dangling his younger brother’s favorite toy, just out of reach.
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