1. Green Bay Packers
The Packers are a tough team to predict, as they’ll rise and fall with Aaron Rodgers, who has been inconsistent in the past several years. In the 5 years between MVPs awards he was mostly average. So the question is why, and will he go back to that average level or continue at an MVP level?
I usually hate Colin Cowherd logic, but the best explanation I can come up for this pattern is that Rodgers is a bit lazy when his job isn’t threatened, but when the Packers brought in a highly drafted rookie to challenge him, he kicked it in gear to secure his job.
Now that he’s pushing to either be traded or get a new contract, there’s a real possibility that he will feel content again. If he gets a bunch of guaranteed money the Packers won’t be able to justify replacing him. And if that happens, that opens the door to the rest of the division to make a push.
2. Chicago Bears
Like the Packers, the Bears are going to come down to the quarterback position. Not only the question of if Dalton will start (and if so for how long), but how well Fields plays when he inevitably gets his chance. If Fields plays early and plays well, they have a very real chance of winning the division.
3. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings made a couple upgrades on defense, but they’re on the lower end of “notable” and don’t change much. At the end of the day they will have a low ceiling as long as they continue to pay Cousins as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
4. Detroit Lions
I don’t think the Lions are quite as bad as everybody seems to think they are. Goff is a downgrade over Stafford, but the difference isn’t that big. Consider that, despite playing 7 fewer seasons, Goff has more Pro Bowl selections (2 to 1) and the same number of winning seasons (4 each).
But with a likely upgrade at head coach (given how bad Patricia was), and an overall upgraded roster elsewhere, I think that they will be roughly the same as they were last year.
One other area of optimism is the turnover differential. If they can bring that down, they might actually be able to improve a bit.