Write these down. You can laugh at me later…
NFC North – Chicago Bears
2019 Record: 8-8
The Bears disappointing season in 2019 has only one set of fingerprints on it: Mitch Trubisky. The young slinger that seemed destined for Canton before the season started suffered a major regression in 2019, floundering under pressure and launching balls clear out of the field of play. If he wants to keep his starting job, he’ll need to improve on his 17/10 TD/INT ratio and do it quickly. What’s worse, the offseason acquisition of Nick Foles spells doom for young Mitch. Or does it?
Bold Prediction: With the absence of a preseason to speak of, Trubisky will more than likely get to start in week one, despite the presence of veteran super-sub Nick Foles now waiting in the wings. That’s a good thing, because the Bears first four games might be enough to get Trubisky back on track.
First, it’s the woeful Lions, then the moribund Giants, then the not-much-better Falcons and Colts. If there’s a slate of games that could allow Trubisky and the Bears to come out hot, this is it. I predict that by the end of that time, Trubisky will have found his rhythm and won at least three out of four. Nick Foles will keep the pressure on, but won’t be a major factor as Mitch reasserts himself as the quarterback of the future in Chi-Town.
NFC North -Detroit Lions
2019 Record: 3-12-1
Last season was not kind to Lions fans. Matthew Stafford was dominating, throwing for 2,500 yards and 19 TDs against only 5 interceptions and a passer rating of 106…in only eight games. He was legit on pace for 5,000 yards and almost forty TDs. Here’s the weird thing. Even with all of that awesomeness over the first half of the season, the Lions were 3-4-1 when he went down for the season. The Lions would lose nine straight games to close out the year and finish tied for the worst record in the NFC.
Bold Prediction: The Lions defense will be light years better than 2019, vaulting into the top ten in points allowed. The draft addition of Jeffrey Okudah should stabilize the back half of the defense, while Jamie Collins will add monster athleticism to the middle.
Julian Okwara is a talented edge rusher who should make life uncomfortable for Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Mitch Trubisky. Coach Matt Patricia is a defensive whiz kid, and he’s added talent all over the defense. If he can bring it together cohesively, they could be the best defense in the division. I’m not sure that Detroit has enough pieces overall to challenge for the NFC North, but I strongly doubt that they’ll go 0-6 in the division in 2020.
NFC North -Green Bay Packers
2019 Record: 13-3, Division Champs
It’s hard to argue with 13-3, or with Aaron Rodgers. The Packers might be back on top next season. But I don’t think they will. The Pack won their final five straight to go 13-3, while Minnesota backed into the playoffs with two consecutive losses. Not to mention that the Packers managed only a +63 point differential over those thirteen wins, far less than the Niners and Saints who posted the same record. Plus, I hated Green Bay’s offseason, as they did nothing, nil, zilch, to correct their obvious team needs.
Bold Prediction: The Packers house of cards comes down in a major way in 2020 and they miss the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers clearly isn’t happy that Green Bay moved up in the draft to select Jordan Love instead of getting him some skill players, or improving the defense. Other teams know that they can simply gut Green Bay on the ground. Aaron Rodgers will sit powerless on the sidelines as opposing offenses maul that porous defense and the game clock. It will be enough for him to pack up shop and find a new home for 2021.
NFC North -Minnesota Vikings
2019 Record: 10-6, Wildcard
Minnesota’s Adam Thielen was a monster in 2017 and 2018, compiling over 1,250 yards each season, but 2019 was different. Injuries limited his effectiveness and availability last year, as he played in only ten games and Minnesota faded into a wildcard spot late. Coming back healthy will change his, and the team’s fortunes.
Bold Prediction: Adam Thielen will go off in 2020, as the departure of Stefon Diggs turns him into a number one target for the first time in his career. The Vikings will have a lot to work with in 2020, with running back Dalvin Cook becoming the legitimate threat on the ground that turns Kirk Cousins play action into a serious weapon. Expect Thielen to rack up over 100 receptions and a career-best 1,400 yards this year.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.
Image Source: AP Images