NFC North preview 2016: Packers’ division to win
A look at the NFC North heading into the 2016 NFL season, with teams listed in predicted order of finish.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
COACH: Mike McCarthy
11th season (104-55-1, .653)
LAST SEASON: 10-6, 2nd place
PLAYOFFS: beat Washington, 35-18; lost to Arizona, 26-20 (OT).
OUTLOOK: Aaron Rodgers remains at or near the top of NFL quarterbacks, and that alone bodes well for a team that has been a consistent playoff team since Rodgers took over for Brett Favre. Rodgers gets wide receiver Jordy Nelson back from a knee injury, and Randall Cobb has developed into a consistent threat. A slimmed-down Eddie Lacy anchors the running game. The defense has been an issue over the years, but coordinator Dom Capers has a worthy unit that features prominent pass rushers Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews, as well as former first-round safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and reliable cornerback Sam Shields.
COACH: Mike Zimmer
4th season (18-14, .563)
LAST SEASON: 11-5, 1st place
PLAYOFFS: lost to Seattle, 10-9.
OUTLOOK: With Teddy Bridgewater gone for the season with a knee injury, GM Rick Spielman took the bold step of trading for Sam Bradford rather than going with journeyman Shaun Hill as the starting quarterback. The Vikings are clearly in a win-now mode, and if Bradford can work well with highly regarded offensive coordinator Norv Turner, the Vikings should be back in the hunt for a playoff spot. The defense is rock-solid.
COACH: Jim Caldwell
3rd season (18-14, .563)
LAST SEASON: 7-9, 3rd place
OUTLOOK: Caldwell got a reprieve after recovering from a dreadful start last season, as new GM Bob Quinn retained the veteran coach. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is one of the NFL’s more prolific passers, but he lost the retired Calvin Johnson as his primary target. The Lions signed Bengals free agent Marvin Jones to fill his spot, and Golden Tate is back. The Lions also signed reliable veteran Anquan Boldin. The defense is average, although fourth-year defensive end Ziggy Ansah is a bright spot.
COACH: John Fox
2nd season (6-10, .375)
LAST SEASON: 6-10, 4th place
OUTLOOK: The Bears believe they have one of the best one-two receiver combinations in the NFL with Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White now that White is ready to play after missing last year with a leg injury. That’s good news for quarterback Jay Cutler, who quietly had an efficient year in 2015 with 21 touchdown passes and only 11 interceptions. Fox still is patching things together on defense, especially with a re-tooled group at linebacker. There’s very little pass rush, though, so this could be another long year for the Bears.