NFC North (2014 Finish: Packers, Lions, Vikings, Bears)
Overall: This was probably my worst division last year, mostly because I thought the Lions weren’t as good as they ended up being. I also thought the Vikings would be better, but part of that was based upon Adrian Peterson playing, which of course did not happen.
Green Bay Packers
2014 Record: 12-4 (Pythagorean Wins: 11.2)
2014 Division Rank: 1st (My prediction: 1st)
2014 Injury Rank: 3rd
2015 Age Rank: 3rd
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 3rd (1st / 16th / 22nd)
If any team can lose a player like Jordy Nelson and march right on it’s the Packers. There are two big reasons for this. One, they draft WRs constantly, and Davante Adams will perform very well. Two, they have the best QB in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers.
With Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb, and Adams behind a reasonable OLine, this team will be in the top 5 on offense again.
Now, it’s true that the Packers were lucky in terms of injuries last year, ending up ranking 3rd in the NFL last year. It’s likely that they’ll regress to the norm some, and that’s already started to happen with Nelson.
However, note also that the Packers are the 3rd youngest team in the NFL going into 2015. This is a team likely to finish in the top half of the league in terms of injuries and is still generally speaking climbing their career arcs.
I don’t see any reason to think they won’t end up 11-5 or better and winning a really good division.
2014 Record: 7-9 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.5)
2014 Division Rank: 3rd (My prediction: 2nd)
2014 Injury Rank: 8th
2015 Age Rank: 7th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 24th (22nd / 23rd / 10th)
The Vikings have been given a lot of love by the press lately, and it’s not hard to see why. They get Adrian Peterson back, and even though I think he’ll start fading soon, having a year off might mean the tread on his tires was refreshed somewhat.
More importantly though, is that Teddy Bridgewater is already a pretty good QB on the way up. Pro Football Focus picked him as one of the players on the rise because of his improvement over the latter part of the year. In his last 5 games, his QB Rating was 120.7, 117.7, 84.9, 114.1, and 90.2. That’s really good.
This is a team that’s not old, that has my 2nd favorite QB in the division, that has one of the best RBs in history aching to prove himself. They’ve got a few targets for him as well. This team will score, and will end up being around the 10th best offense in the league.
They also threw a bunch of draft picks at this defense. I think it will improve a little. Then you add one of the most explosive returners in Cordarrelle Patterson and their special teams will be at least in the top half again.
That’s the recipe for a 9-7, 10-6 team. They’ll be fighting with Arizona for a wildcard.
2014 Record: 11-5 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.2)
2014 Division Rank: 2nd (My prediction: 4th)
2014 Injury Rank: 15th
2015 Age Rank: 24th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 14th (19th / 3rd / 31st)
There are a lot of people on the Detroit bandwagon. Since I picked them last in the division last year, I’m clearly not sold on them and I’m still not on this bandwagon.
First of all, this team benefited from some luck, and was more of a 9-7 team than an 11-5 one. Second, this is not a young team. Third, I’m not a fan of Matthew Stafford. He puts up big numbers because they throw a lot and because Calvin Johnson is one of the best receivers in history (not quite as good as either Jerry Rice or Don Hutson in my opinion… yet).
In any case, the 19th ranking in offensive DVOA suggests that this offense was at best average, despite the presence of Stafford, Johnson, and Golden Tate. I really like Ameer Abdullah, and I see in him an RB with a few top notch seasons to come, but I can’t see this offense improving that much, if at all.
Unfortunately, the defense will not be as good, basically because Ndamukong Suh has left. They have some other good players on the DLine but you just can’t lose a player like Suh without having some dropoff.
This was a 9-win team that got lucky last year. This is a 8-9 win team this year. Sorry, Detroit fans.
2014 Record: 5-11 (Pythagorean Wins: 4.9)
2014 Division Rank: 4th (My prediction: 3rd)
2014 Injury Rank: 27th
2015 Age Rank: 19th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 26th (14th / 28th / 25th)
This is a bit of a train wreck. Their offense was average last year, but it will be much worse this year. Kevin White is hurt, so he can’t replace the production of Brandon Marshall. Worse, Matt Forte, who has been a fantastic player, is declining, as RBs do as they get to around 30.
Their defense might be a little better, as regression to the mean suggests they should be, but I see no reason to see a major improvement.
This team won 5 games last year. I’m hard pressed to think they’ll do any better and I could absolutely see this team winning 2 or 3 games and picking first.