A glance at the NFC North reveals a pair of top-tier Super Bowl contenders (Packers, Vikings), a team just one season removed from a postseason appearance (Lions), and a team on the rise (Bears).
So it should come as no surprise that Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com ranks the NFC North as the second toughest division in the league. Only the NFC South (which sent three teams to the playoffs in 2017) is believed to be tougher in Rosenthal’s eyes. Wonderful.
The Bears’ projected (and in some cases, predicted) resurgence and departure from doormat-status figures to be key in framing the NFC North as the league’s toughest division. Chicago started the offseason with a head coaching change and an overhaul of offensive philosophy. Since then, the team made upgrades at wide receiver, tight end, and inside linebacker. If you were to look at the names on this roster and compare them to the ones from last year, it’s easy to feel better about the Bears now than you did a year ago at this time.
This rest of the division is as talent-heavy as one can get. Green Bay has the division’s best quarterback and is getting a fresh start on the defensive side of the ball. Minnesota signed the best free agent quarterback to hit the market, replaced its outgoing offensive coordinator with one who just won a ring as a quarterbacks coach, and returns all of its most important pieces from last year’s division-winning squad that went all the way to the NFC title game before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champs. Even Detroit presents a tough challenge coming off back-to-back 9-7 seasons.
So while the Bears don’t have an easy task ahead, the team has some favorable matchups that could tilt things in their favor.
The Bears have games against the Dolphins, Jets, and Bills, who represent the weakest division in football, according to Rosenthal’s power rankings. They also have the Giants, who finished as the last-place team in the second-lowest-ranked division, as well as two sub-.500 teams who played in the NFC West.
Chicago looks to be better than it was last year and could still find themselves looking up at the other three teams in their own division. That’s a tough break and an unenviable position no rebuilding team wants to be in, but emerging as a surprise contender for a postseason spot while playing in the NFL’s toughest division would make the Bears’ potential Cinderella story that much more sweet.