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NFC North Review

Bears

Good: The Bears made it into the playoffs with QB Mitchell Trubisky as the starter. RB David Montgomery proved to be one of the best dual threats in the league and improve as a runner. TE Jimmy Graham proved he still had some big plays in him and reliable hands along with production from rookie TE Cole Kmet making that a solid unit. Rookie WR Darnell Mooney proved to be a good #2 improving as the season went on. WR Allen Robinson had a great season providing solid consistency despite teams knowing he would get heavily targeted every game. WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson proved that he is much more than a KR and much improved as a WR; he proved can make plays all over the field, even at RB, if given the chance. The defense rebounded from a down season last season with great play from their LBs mostly Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith. The addition of DE/LB Robert Quinn proved to be a solid addition to the pass rush showing he has a lot left in the tank. Rookie CB Jaylon Johnson played well across from veteran Kyle Fuller despite being heavily targeted. DT Akiem Hicks proved to be a valuable run stuffer and the key to defense.

Bad: The Bears had a back and forth between Trubisky and Nick Foles at QB with neither looking like a long-term answer and the swaps coming from poor play and injuries. The offensive line struggled against top pass rushes in the league causing the team to rely on a lot of quick screens to Montgomery to open space. The Bears barely made the playoffs after a good start to the season and never seem like a real threat due to the offensive side of the ball.

Looking Forward: The Bears making the playoffs saved the GM Ryan Pace and HC Matt Nagy, but they must make the playoffs again to stick around. As mentioned above, the QB situation is a big question mark and Trubisky is a free agent, so if they would like to give him another try it would come at a hefty price tag; Nick Foles is still on the roster. Allen Robinson is now a free agent and the Bears must decide to give him a long-term deal, franchise him, or let him walk. They could use another playmaker on the offensive side of the ball and really need help on the offensive line especially at the tackle spots.

Lions

Good: The Lions finally fired HC Matt Patricia. While it’s never good for a man to lose his job, this team has been on a decline and hasn’t shown improvement on the defensive side most importantly under a “defensive guru”. The running game looking good as rookie RB D’Andre Swift proved to be an explosive runner and solid dual threat, while veteran Adrian Peterson proved to still have something left in the tank, after being cut by Washington. WR Marvin Jones proved to be a go to target again, as the WR position suffered injuries making him the only bright spot. TE T.J. Hockenson proved why he went so high in the draft and will be one the top TE’s in the league as he continues to get better, he is a big time pass catcher. DE Romeo Okwara had a 10-sack season proving to be an upcoming young pass rusher with a relentless motor. DE Everson Griffen who they traded for midseason also added some much-needed pass rush.     

Bad: The Lions piled up injuries on the defensive side of the ball and their free agent acquisitions, mostly former Patriots, did not work out as planned. The defense was statistically the worst defense in franchise history. Star WR Kenny Golladay spent most of the season injured in his contract year, after having a career year the season before. Rookie 1st round pick Jeff Okudah spent a lot of time injured and did not seem to be the ready-made CB as projected, making the loss of veteran Darius Slay via trade a big one.

Looking Forward: The team chose Assistant Coach/TE Coach Dan Campbell from the Saints as the new HC and while his press conference was a little weird getting him off to a rough start, they hope the season will not be the same. The team has big decisions to make at WR on both Golladay and Jones with Golladay showing a big desire to stay and the feeling should be mutual for the young upcoming WR, despite a down season due to injury. The team traded longtime QB Matt Stafford for Jared Goff from the Rams along with draft capital which should help them upgrade a defense that is talent deficient. Most of the veteran players will probably choose to move on, as the team appears headed for another rebuild. 

Packers

Good: Aaron Rodgers had a great season after the team drafted a QB and should be this year’s MVP. Davante Adams took over as the new #1 WR football putting up crazy numbers despite being heavily targeted without a true #2 WR across from him. RB Aaron Jones proved to be a valuable piece to the offense again leading the way for a strong running attack with Jamaal Williams and rookie A.J. Dillion who came on late in the season. TE Robert Tonyan proved to be a solid receiving threat, especially in the red zone and could be one of the top TE’s in the league, while veteran Mercedes Lewis continues to produce. The offensive line was one of the best in the league led by LT David Bakhtiari considered the best in football. On defense, the secondary played top-level football led by CB Jaire Alexander who locked down top opposing WRs. Pass Rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith continued to pressure opposing QBs along with Rashan Gary who has shown some growth in his 2nd season. S Darnell Savage continues to grow as a young coverage safety, while leading the team in interceptions.

Bad: After winning the #1 seed, a bye, and a home playoff game the Packers came up short against Tampa Bay in what seemed to be a great shot for Rodgers to cap his season with another Super Bowl appearance. The Packers drafted no one that made an impact on this season, most importantly QB Jordan Love who they traded up for. The defense continued to struggle against the run game and it usually neutralized their pass rush; this was the same reason they loss in the playoffs last season.  Aaron Rodgers seemed bothered by the lack of short-term help provided once the season ended.

Looking Forward: The Packers have big free agency decisions to make RBs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams and C Corey Lindsay. Rodgers would like to see them return and the Packers front office now have a somewhat unhappy QB due to last offseason. The Packers need to finally solidify the ILB position and add a NT on the defensive line to help stop the run. Adding another CB to help the secondary and another talented WR would also help push this team.

Vikings

Good: The Vikings stumbled across the perfect replacement for WR Stefon Diggs by drafting Justin Jefferson who led the team in receiving with 1400 yards topping the rookie record formerly held by Hall of Famer Randy Moss. RB Dalvin Cook proved to be one of the best backs in football, as an every-down player and dual threat who is always a homerun threat forming a nice tandem with Alexander Mattison who proved to be a nice change of pace back and spot starter. QB Kirk Cousins had a career high in TD passes while WR Adam Thielen continued to be one of the most reliable targets, especially in the red zone due to great hands and consistency. The Vikings had one of the youngest defenses and some injuries allowed their many draft picks from last draft to get valuable playing time, where they were especially young/inexperienced at CB. Veteran Safety Harrison Smith led the team in interceptions and continued to prove why he may be the top Safety in the league. LB Eric Kendricks was having a great season as the leader in the middle flying sideline to sideline while improving in coverage, before going down with injury.  

Bad: The Vikings missed the playoffs despite a late rally, due to an ugly start to season. The trade for DE Yannick Ngakoue added some pass rush but proved to be a poor decision as he was shipped out to the Ravens. The defensive line struggled without DE Danielle Hunter as the line was mostly young and inexperienced. Ditto with the secondary, who mostly relied on their veteran Safeties to cover the ground, but FS Anthony Harris who they franchised struggled in pass coverage with no interceptions; their top three CBs were allowed to leave via free agency.  The offensive line continues to be better at run blocking than pass blocking, but it is just an above average unit. Kirk Cousins continues to turn the ball over at a high rate, but he did clean up his interceptions as the season went on, however, fumbling is still a problem. Pass rusher Anthony Barr was loss for the season after they paid a lot of money to keep him from signing with the Jets.

Looking Forward: The return of Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter should help the young defense next season. The Vikings need to improve the offensive line by finding a long-term solution at LT while another Guard or two would not hurt. The team could use an upgrade at talent along the defensive line and a pass rusher off the edge. The only big free agent is FS Anthony Harris coming off the down season in coverage but had over 100 tackles. A veteran CB should be added to the mix to help the growth of the unit.

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