There are fun stories and then boring old winning. Guess which one the Vikings are and guess who wins more games? Experience is everything in the NFC North this season.
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While the NFC East feels straight forward on paper, our next division is anything but. We could really imagine any arrangement of the four teams finishing in the NFC North. The odds back this up. All four of Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, and Chicago are between +155 and +400 to win the division. The four win totals range from 9.5 to 7.5, easily the smallest gap in the NFL.
Last year wasn’t so muddled. The Vikings overachieved in a major way and absolutely ran away with the division title. Meanwhile, the Bears were not ready to compete and finished a distant fourth. Instead of being the tightest division, the North saw a whopping 10-game gap between first and last place.
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So what gives? Well, for one thing, according to point differential, Minnesota played more like an 8-9 team than a 13-4 team. We’ve also seen some strides taken by Chicago to lessen the gap, some uncertainty in Green Bay for the first time in ages, and an up-and-coming Detroit team ready to have its bandwagon filled to the brim. The division hierarchy is going to change, but will a new team rise all the way up?
Who Wins The NFC North?
Todd Salem: North’s King Keeps Its Throne
So who comes out on top? Call me crazy, but I think Minnesota sticks around for another year. The Vikings are being underrated. We know they are worse than last year, but a complete collapse doesn’t seem likely. Everyone loves the Detroit offense. It’s no guarantee that anyone has a better offense in this division than Minnesota though. The unfun, uninteresting Kirk Cousins is still around. He’s flat-out the best quarterback in this division! It feels insane to utter, but which guy is better? Maybe Love or Fields becomes better, but neither is better right now. Cousins is surrounded by what is the best group of pass catchers in the division to boot.
The rest of the Minnesota roster leaves something to be desired: a league-average offensive line and running game, and a defense that probably hopes to be league-average. The odds already project them dropping 4-5 wins, which is a wacky figure that makes more sense the more you dig into it. But even a slightly less egregious drop-off could still see Minny sitting on top.
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This is because I’m not ready to anoint Detroit. The Lions’ best unit is its offensive line. That is a tremendous starting point. Offensive lines don’t win titles though. Lines boost up floors, not ceilings. This is a team that is going to hinge on the play of Jared Goff, a rookie running back, a rookie tight end, and one good wide receiver.
On defense, Detroit, like Minnesota, hopes to be league-average at best. This organization also bungled its draft, reaching for two non-impact positions with its two first-round picks. They were acting like they were a couple players away at specific holes, but too many other holes still exist on this team. Detroit slots into second place by default. Neither Green Bay nor Chicago are ready to approach double-digit wins, despite what the over/unders say.
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As themed in the North, the Packers will hope to have a league-average defense this year. Injury history, specifically with anchor David Bakhtiari, prevents us from counting on the offensive line being anything better than that either. The pass catchers are unknown or unproven, as is the quarterback. Which unit on this club is guaranteed to be above-average other than maybe the running back room? I don’t see anything else.
And that group is still better than what I’m seeing from the Bears. Jumping from three wins to a 7.5 projection makes little sense to me. The defense looks terrible on paper. We have a complete overhaul of the offensive line. The RB rotation is new; the wide receivers are new; all led by a QB who can’t complete passes. I actually like Justin Fields as an asset, but he is not someone who is going to lead a team to many wins in 2023.
3) Green Bay
Dan Salem: Lions Chasing Vikings
Wow, you managed to surprise me with your conservative and logical analysis of the NFC North. I thought you might be a Justin Fields fanboy for 2023, or a Lions lover. Instead you seem to view the truth as I do, which is to say that boring rules supreme in this division. The unexciting, business as usual, no thrills team in this division has also lost the least, has the best overall player at a power position in Justin Jefferson, and has proven it knows how to overachieve like no other. Minnesota wins the North once again.
The Vikings will be major beneficiaries of the deteriorating competition around them in the NFC. I was impressed with Minnesota last season, but winning so close so often is unsustainable. Those types of statistics always balance out over time, yet here the Vikings are. Still a very good team and still better than the majority of NFC competition. I can see the Lions being just as good and perhaps even a game better, but I won’t put money on it. I can even see the Packers and Bears both being winning teams that defy expectations, but I’m not putting money on that either. The only thing I’ll wager on is Minnesota winning this division.
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I’m a bit more optimistic about Chicago than you are. Fields is dynamic and I believe the Bears have built enough around him for a sizable improvement to be made this season. This pulls them out of the gutter, but no higher than third in the division. Chicago needs one more season for everything to come together with the playoffs as a real possibility. Now, do I believe Jordan Love can hold the Packers up on his shoulders immediately? Do I believe Jared Goff is more than enough for Detroit to be a winner?
My bottom line for the NFC North is simple. None of these teams are great and only one is very good. Detroit steals second place, but there’s no guarantee it’s with a winning record. I view the NFC as two very good, competitive divisions (NFC East and West), along with two average at best divisions (NFC North and South). The Lions are good enough to finish in second in an average division. This places Green Bay at the bottom, because frankly it would be unprecedented for Love to come in and play anywhere near as good as Aaron Rodgers did last season. The Packers pulled this off once before, so if any team can do it again, sure it’s Green Bay. But Rodgers was holding up a deteriorating team. The defense is still not quite good enough and the running game cannot shoulder the load of the entire offense, because there will be growing pains with a new quarterback, even if he isn’t new to the NFL. Maybe the Packers grab six wins, but whatever the number is, they will be in last.
4) Green Bay
Meet our Writers:
Dan Salem is Lead Editor, Writer, and Co-owner of BuzzChomp. He’s a published author, as well as an award winning Actor, Director and Producer. Visit M Square Productions for his film work, or get lost in his old-school comedy on Pillow Talk TV. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Todd Salem is a Staff Writer and Contributing Editor at BuzzChomp. He’s also a fantasy football and fantasy baseball Staff Writer for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter or comment below for his unfiltered opinions.
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