The Chicago Bears shouldn’t be favored to win the NFC North, but they certainly have a shot to take what is now a weak division. The Lions are the favorites, and rightfully so, but Detroit missed a major opportunity to improve at key positions and further separate themselves from the rest of the division. The Minnesota Vikings are the defending champions, but their limp to the finish line brings up many questions. And the Packers, well, where do we start?
These are things Ryan Poles was surely looking at when he told The Athletic the team should contend for the NFC North. Here’s a quick snapshot at each of the teams and why the Bears could top them.
There’s a lot to like about the Detroit Lions but that can be found all over the internet. In short, the Lions had a top-five offense in 2022 and their defense allowed a hair over 20 points per game in the second half of the year. They finished 8-2 with convincing wins over the Vikings and Packers.
But there are issues with the Lions that are largely going ignored.
- They need quarterback Jared Goff to continue playing at a level at which he has not previously played.
- They need him to do this while being shorthanded at wide receiver. Losing DJ Chark wasn’t supposed to be significant because Jameson Williams was going to fill the void, stretching the field vertically, but Williams has been suspended for six games for gambling. Without Chark’s speed on the field — he missed six games — the powerful Lions offense averaged fewer than 20 points per game last year.
- The team made considerable investments in the running back position, but was that really a weakness last year? Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift combined for more than 1,600 rushing yards, with an average of 4.45 per carry and had 22 rushing touchdowns. Swift caught 48 passes for 389 yards and three more touchdowns. If they upgraded, it’s hard to see them being more productive.
- There’s also the matter of Ben Johnson. There’s no question that he is a bright offensive mind, but now teams will have a full season of work to study and figure out how to stop him.
We can comfortably assume Detroit’s defense will improve, after being bottom-five in both scoring and yardage last year. How much is a bit of a mystery, though. They made some improvements in the secondary but spent a first-round pick on an inside linebacker — a position that wasn’t a strength, but also not necessarily a weakness.
On paper, the Lions should be favored to win the NFC North. But it isn’t hard to see why that might not happen.