NFC North 2017 Predictions
NFC North 2017 Predictions (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Everyone uses different indicators when predicting divisional winners. There are four keys, in no particular order, that I consider when carefully calculating my NFC North 2017 predictions:

These are not the “end all, be all” qualifications. These are the key indicators that help decide who wins and who loses. Quarterback play is extremely important in the NFL, especially when trying to make a playoff run. As teams continue to win in January, there is a direct correlation with how good their quarterback is.

The strength of schedule is also an important factor. It gives an objective base to start with and make predictions based on their opponents 2016 win/loss record. Regardless of what the popular opinion is, traveling wears on people and yes, that includes athletes. The more your team travels, the harder it is to get ready game after game. And finally, Vegas. When people involve money, everything changes. You’ve heard the phrase “Follow the money” – there is a reason Vegas is so successful. They know what they are doing.

And from there game-by-game selections are made; sometimes going against my better judgment. Additional keys to consider are home field advantage, coaching, offensive/defensive line play, and skilled playmakers.

Now that I’ve bored you with my selection process, let’s talk football. From last to first, below are my NFC North 2017 predictions.

Chicago Bears

NFC North 2017 Predictions
Can Jordan Howard perform at the pace he did as a rookie? (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Bears are slowly but surely rebuilding. While they have accumulated a lot of talent of the past few months, this team is nowhere near contention. They drafted Mitchell Trubisky second overall in the 2017 draft, which I thought was a good selection. What I didn’t like was what they gave up for a player they could have taken third overall and kept their other draft picks.

I’ve never had a problem with a team going “all in” on a player. But I don’t agree with the assets the Bears gave up for the future, especially when they are clearly rebuilding.

Let’s review the Bears checklist.

  1. The Bears have a mediocre starting quarterback in career backup Mike Glennon.
  2. Chicago has the second easiest in division “strength of schedule” (19th overall).
  3. The entire NFC North travels a total of 35,070 miles. In perspective, the Rams alone travel 32,600 miles. The Bears travel the second most in the division: 8,318 miles.
  4.  Las Vegas has the Bears winning 5.5 games which is the lowest in the NFC North.

According to the checklist, the Bears don’t have much reason to win very many games. They simply play too many good teams. Losing Cameron Meredith doesn’t help either. He was going to be their number one option since high draft pick Kevin White has been plagued by injury.

This Bears defense, however, is very intriguing. It has a chance to be a solid NFL defense. With the additions of Quintin Demps at strong safety and Prince Amukamara at cornerback, their secondary is much improved from a year ago.

But how many points is this offense going to score? Not that many, I’m afraid.

Prediction: 4-12

Detroit Lions

NFC North 2017 Predictions
Now the highest-paid player in the NFL, can Matthew Stafford lead this team to the promise land? (Tim Fuller/USA Today)

Wow – the Detroit Lions make veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford the highest paid player in all of the NFL. Was it a good decision? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

My takeaway from the signing is: this shows how hard it is to find a franchise quarterback in the NFL and once a team does, they want to do everything they can to keep them. Side note: Is it possible they are making up for the loss of Megatron? They chose not to pay the best receiver in the league and he chose to retire.

Without further adieu, let’s list the Lions’ checklist below.

  1. Matthew Stafford is the second-best quarterback in this division.
  2. The Lions have the second hardest “strength of schedule” in the NFC North.
  3. Detroit travels the second most in the division: 8,218 miles.
  4. Las Vegas has the Lions winning 8.0 games; second worst in the NFC North.

All signs point to the Lions finishing third in this division. They finish “second worst in the division” in almost all four categories.

I am not a fan of the direction the Lions are headed in. What is their offensive identity? Win shoot-out games? New Orleans has shown us over the last five seasons how unreliable that is. I don’t even know where to begin with this team defensively.

Prediction: 8-8

Minnesota Vikings

NFC North 2017 Predictions
This monstrous Minnesota Vikings defense is going to be a headache for opposing offenses (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports)

The Vikings may have found their replacement running back in Dalvin Cook. What separates Cook from other running backs is his receiving ability. Not only can he carry the football every down, but he additionally is a weapon when running routes.

This Vikings offensive line needs to step up a protect its quarterback. Along with the Vikings stout defense, Sam Bradford is extremely fragile but he is their best chance at finding success.

Let’s review the Vikings’ checklist.

  1. Sam Bradford is the third-best quarterback in the division.
  2. The Vikings, by far, have the easiest “strength of schedule” of the NFC North teams; tied 27th overall.
  3. Minnesota travels the most of the NFC North teams: 10,460 miles.
  4. Las Vegas has the Vikings winning 8.5 games this season – good for second in the division.

After tailing off big-time last season, the Vikings finished 8-8. That’s hard to believe considering they started off red-hot at 5-0. I expect this team to have a better finish. They improved their offensive line play later in the season and with a healthy Bradford, they have a chance to secure a wild-card spot. Although it won’t be easy thanks to the ever stacked NFC East/South.

Thankfully, Dalvin Cook opens this offense and takes pressure off their defense. This helps them in the long run and allows the Vikings to secure a winning record in 2017-2018.

Prediction: 8-8

Green Bay Packers

NFC North 2017 Predictions
Behind the arm and legs of Aaron Rodgers, the Packers will once again win the NFC North (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Green Bay Packers have won five of the last six divisional titles and it doesn’t appear that the 2017-2018 season will be any different. With the addition of Martellus Bennett, one could argue this offense is better than it was a season ago.

Let’s review the Packers four keys.

  1. The Green Bay Packers have the most talented quarterback in the NFL.
  2. The Packers have the toughest schedule in the NFC North; 18th overall.
  3. Green Bay travels the least in the division: 8,074 miles.
  4. Vegas projected the Packers to win 10 games – first in the NFC Noth.

Vegas only having the Packers winning 10 games makes me hesitant to pick them to win more. What do they know that we don’t? Regardless, they travel the least of the NFC North teams; couple that with having a mediocre schedule and we are looking at a team that is likely to end on a tear.

The Green Bay Packers have owned this division for some time now. Why would that change this season? They return the same offense and most of their defense. The Packers are set for another successful season.

Prediction: 12-4

Who do you have winning this division?