Prior to the start of the last NFL season, the NFC North was widely regarded as one of the better divisions in all of football. The Packers had arguably the best quarterback in football and the Vikings boasted an elite defense. The Lions came in with hopes of an explosive offense and a resurgent defense. The Bears were the one weak spot, and after selling much of their talent on offense, they ultimately hitting the football “restart button.”
In short, the division, although competitive, wasn’t all it was hyped up to be, with the exception of Minnesota. While the Vikings did have that elite defense that was touted at the beginning of the year, they also got career-high quarterback play from Case Keenum and an outburst in production from their receiving core. The Packers, on the other hand, fell apart after Aaron Rodgers was knocked out in their week six game versus Minnesota. Brett Hundley struggled mightily and Green Bay never really found their groove even after Rodgers’ return.
The Bears surprised some people, including myself. I thought this rendition of John Fox’s team would be very, very bad, and although they weren’t great, they had some flashes. They beat two of the best teams in the NFL last season in the Steelers and the Panthers but struggled to put consistent performances together. First-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, although limited by coaching and lack of talent on offense, showed why he was a top-five pick at some points in the season. He had some very impressive performances, especially later in the season. The defense was what really stood out, though. Rookie Eddie Jackson and 24-year-old Adrian Amos performed well at the safety position for their young age. They ranked in the top ten in most defensive stats and really kept them in games throughout the year.
The Lions, on the other hand, underachieved in terms of past years’ performances. Sure, they went 9-7 and were just yards from making another postseason appearance, but most Lions’ fans agree that’s just not good enough anymore. Former head coach Jim Caldwell made some questionable decisions over the course of the year and overall couldn’t get the team to play a consistent four quarters of football. The run defense fell apart late in the season and was gashed by numerous poor teams, making bad running backs look elite and good running backs look like Hall of Famers.