The schedule has been kind to the NFC North this year, with the rotation being the NFC East and the AFC South it was always going to be relatively kind to them. As the majority of the NFC East and the AFC South were less than .500. Even the Texans and Redskins who went to the playoffs had 9 wins each and could have been close to the .500 mark.
That in itself doesn’t mean that we will definitely get two from this division this year at the end of the season, but the early season indicators would say that they should be able to certainly make quite a run at getting the wild card.
In the analysis below I’ve ignored the inter-division teams that did/didn’t make the playoffs as that doesn’t give an indication of the schedule for the teams. The Packers and the Vikings are surely the two teams that are going to be harbouring expectations of making it through to the playoffs.
Green Bay Packers
With the Packers receiving corps being at full strength with Aaron Rodgers combined with the fact that the Packers only have to meet 3 teams that made the playoffs last season with only one of those on the road (being the Redskins that the Packers defeated last year in the playoffs thanks to Jeff Janis) it looks like they shouldn’t be making holiday plans for the early offseason.
The thing that might not help the Packers is that they have a very early Bye week, which might be handy to have later as injuries start to take their toll, as well as having three division games back to back right at the end of the season, and with these games being worth that little bit more it might not be great timing.
Teddy and Co will also be looking to make a run for the playoffs- their road is a bit trickier with them having to face the top team in the NFC South (in the shape of the SuperBowl runners up Carolina) on the road is a tough ask. Especially when you combine it with hosting the Cardinals who were always dangerous last year, I think it’ll be tough but very do-able for them to make a playoff run.
I’d expect those two to get at least 10 wins though and be challenging.
The Bears travel to Tampa to take on the Bucs, and although they were less than even last year I think the Bucs would take this one. The saving grace for the Bears is that they have to play possibly one of the worst 49ers teams in history and with Chip Kelly trying to push his offence on they’ll be hoping the players perform as they did last year and let the Bears get the win.
I’m not sure how they will fare though this year with their leaky OL going up against JJ Watt and the Texans, followed by the Eagles then a game in Dallas – they could easily be looking at 0-3 before they play their first division game against the Lions, and really losing becomes a habit.
The Lions have a mixed bag- they have to play the Colts week 1 which might not be good playing against a fresh Luck in the pocket. They also have to go to the Saints which can be a tough place to go if you get behind early and the crowd get on your back