Neil Reynolds' Division Preview - NFC North

The NFC North promises to be one of the most fiercely-fought divisions in 2020. Green Bay and Minnesota both made the playoffs last season, Chicago won the division in 2018 and Detroit will be under pressure to find a first postseason win since the end of the 1991 campaign.

Neil's Predicted Finish

  1. Green Bay Packers
  2. Minnesota Vikings
  3. Chicago Bears
  4. Detroit Lions

GREEN BAY PACKERS

State of the Franchise

The Packers were 60 minutes from reaching last year's Super Bowl yet many pundits seem intent on writing them off for 2020. Maybe that has something to do with the negativity surrounding the offseason drafting of Jordan Love and the affect that will have on incumbent quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But the Packers did win 13 regular season games a year ago and remain a talented and competitive squad.

Star Man

Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers might not like this choice, but running back Aaron Jones is a growing force in Green Bay. This do-it-all star is a perfect modern-day back with a nose for the endzone.

Secret Superstar

The Packers are strong in the secondary and that unit will be boosted by the continued growth of second-year safety Darnell Savage, who recorded two interceptions and two forced fumbles in 2019.

By the Numbers

1… Aaron Rodgers has thrown 1 career touchdown pass to a first-rounder – tight end Marcedes Lewis.

1 of 10… The Packers were one of 10 NFL teams not to select a wide receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft.

40… Aaron Jones has scored 40 touchdowns in his past 30 NFL games, including the playoffs.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

State of the Franchise

The Vikings are nipping at Green Bay's heels and are regularly in the playoff mix, but mounting a serious charge has to come with improvement against the Packers and Chicago. Minnesota went 0-4 against those division rivals in 2019. This team feels talented enough to reach the playoffs once again, but are they good enough to go much further and contend for the Super Bowl?

Star Man

The Vikings have some elite players, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, but defensive end Danielle Hunter is the one most likely to change the course of a game with a timely sack or forced fumble.

Secret Superstar

After missing 12 games in his first two seasons, cornerback Mike Hughes is finally going to have a shot at living up to his first-round billing. With departures at the position, the path is clear for Hughes to succeed.

By the Numbers

25… Kirk Cousins is the only quarterback in the NFL to throw at least 25 touchdown passes in each of the last five seasons.

29… Danielle Hunter has recorded 29 sacks over the past two seasons – third-best mark in the NFL.

314… Dalvin Cook led all NFL running backs with 314 receiving yards on screen passes in 2019.

CHICAGO BEARS

State of the Franchise

Having settled on Mitchell Trubisky as their quarterback heading into the 2020 season, the Bears will now be keen to prove that 2019 was just a bump in the road. Matt Nagy's high-level defense is healthy once again so that unit should be fine. The reality is that Trubisky is going to need to take his game to a new level if the Bears are to become true contenders in the NFC.

Star Man

Khalil Mack did not have the most dominant of years in 2019 but he remains a game-changing force. With 61 ½ sacks in 94 regular season games, he is a constant menace and should lead from the front in 2020.

Secret Superstar

Even with Chicago struggling at quarterback in 2019, wide receiver Anthony Miller showed enough in the slot to suggest he is ready for a breakout year in 2020 – his third season in the NFL.

By the Numbers

50… Since 2017, Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller has forced 50 incompletions – second in the NFL during that time behind New England's Stephon Gilmore.

56.6… Since entering the NFL in 2017, Mitchell Trubisky has compiled a passer rating of just 56.6 when under pressure.

1,147… Wide receiver Allen Robinson registered 1,147 receiving yards in 2019, marking the second time in his career he has broken the 1,000-yard mark.

DETROIT LIONS

State of the Franchise

The Lions are a tough team to figure out. At first glance, they appear to be going nowhere with head coach Matt Patricia winning nine games in two years. But then you think back to the first half of last season with quarterback Matthew Stafford at the helm and Detroit were competitive and fun to watch. Keeping Stafford healthy will be a key for the under-fire pairing of Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn.

Star Man

The Lions went 3-4-1 with Stafford in the line-up a year ago. When their cannon-armed passer was sidelined with a back injury, Detroit went 0-8. That's a pretty good snapshot of Stafford's importance in the Motor City.

Secret Superstar

Tight end T.J. Hockenson came storming out of the gates as a first-round rookie in 2019. He couldn't maintain that pace but should develop and become a key target in 2020 now that Stafford is back.

By the Numbers

11… Kenny Golladay led the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns in 2020 and ranked third in the league with an average of 18.3 yards per catch.

20… Golladay and fellow receiver Marvin Jones combined for 20 receiving touchdowns in 2019, making them the most productive scoring duo in the NFL.

106.0… Matthew Stafford's quarterback rating of 106.0 before getting hurt in 2019 was a career high.

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