The Green Bay Packers are a model of consistency, having made the playoffs in eight straight seasons and missing out on postseason play just four times since 2000. And if the predictions of ESPN’s expert analysts hold true, 2016 will be reminiscent of many other recent Green Bay runs.
ESPN is going around the league asking its gaggle of pundits which squads will win their respective divisions. You can take a peek at what the rest of the NFL projects to look like here, or keep your focus closer to home with a view of the NFC North here.
Led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a new offensive weapon in Martellus Bennett, and a defense that can’t be much worse than what last year showed, the Packers are a unanimous choice to win their sixth division title in seven seasons. The wagering public thinks highly of the Packers, too. During our recent look at some futures odds, you’ll note that Green Bay is favored to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, and only the Patriots have better odds to win it all. If you want to be the best, you’ll have to beat the best. And as it stands, the Packers are arguably the best in the division – and the conference.
HOWEVER, there is still hope for the postseason … but only if you allow yourself to dream.
The NFC North has a history of sending two teams to the playoffs, despite Green Bay’s dominance over the division. This division has sent two teams to the playoffs in each of the last three years, and seven times in the last eight seasons. So if you want to dream on an appearance in the Wild Card Playoffs, by all means, dream big, because history suggests someone will join the Packers in the playoff tournament.
And if the Bears were to represent the NFC North as a Wild Card team, it would be a first. The Bears won the NFC North three times since moving to a four-team alignment, but have yet to get lucky in the Wild Card. The NFC North’s Wild Card representative has needed reach 10 wins in four seasons (2010, 2011, 2012, 2015), and 11 wins twice (2009, 2014), but the 2004 Vikings needed just eight wins, while the 2016 Lions finished at 9-7.
So if the Bears want to defy the odds and make the playoffs, they will either need to be surprisingly good, lucky, or – to be completely honest – some combination of both.