- Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings came close to reaching the super bowl last season and there is a chance that they could be even better this season. They have starting running back Dalvin Cook who will be back from injury in 2018 and they have Latavius Murray as a solid backup at the position as well. They also have some really good pass-catchers led by Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph. The offensive line is probably the weakest part of the entire Vikings team and that could really hold the offense back in 2018. However, Minnesota likely upgraded at the most important position by signing pro-bowl quarterback Kirk Cousins to a massive contract this offseason. The Vikings did well with Case Keenum last season, although Cousins has been a better quarterback throughout his career. Cousins won’t have to do too much since Minnesota has a very talented defense, but he just strengthens the quarterback position for Minnesota. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s defense is arguably the strength of the team. They have arguably the best defensive lines in the NFL as they have a terrific pass rush duo with Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter. However, they are even stronger at defensive tackle with the addition of Sheldon Richardson this offseason and he will form a really good starting duo along with Linval Joseph. Also, the Vikings have a couple of really good young linebackers with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. Not to mention, the Vikings are extremely deep at cornerback with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Terence Newman, Mackensie Alexander, and rookie 1st round pick Mike Hughes. Overall, the Vikings don’t have much of a weakness on offense or defense and they appear to be legitimate super bowl contenders heading into next season.
2. Green Bay Packers
The Vikings are probably the most talented team in the division, but the Packers will likely make a strong push to win the division in 2018. Green Bay has plenty of firepower on offense as they have a couple of really good wide receivers with Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, although the departure of Jordy Nelson will hurt that position group. However, the Packers made up for it by signing star tight end Jimmy Graham this offseason and that is a major upgrade for the team at that position. Meanwhile, the running back position has some good depth, but they really don’t have a clear starter. They have Ty Montgomery, Jamaal Williams, and Aaron Jones as potential options in the backfield. However, it will be interesting to see which running back will get the most carries this season. The Packers have a really good passing game, but they will need more balance from their running backs this season. Green Bay also has some issues along the offensive line especially on the interior offensive line. Green Bay still has arguably the best quarterback in the NFL with Aaron Rodgers and as long as he stays healthy then the Packers should be a playoff contender once again. Meanwhile, the Packers defense might actually be the strength of the entire team. The Packers have an elite pass rush led by Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. However, the addition of Muhammad Wilkerson should make Green Bay’s pass rush even more dangerous. Green Bay does have some weakness in their secondary as it is extremely inexperienced. However, they do have some terrific talent in the secondary led by star safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and rookie 1st round cornerback Jaire Alexander. The secondary has high potential, but it also has a risk of failure as well. If the secondary can perform well then the Packers could have a strong defense in 2018. Overall, the Packers just missed out on the playoffs last season and that was mostly because Aaron Rodgers missed most of the season. However, if he can stay healthy then there really isn’t much doubt that this team has a really good chance of making the playoffs.
3. Detroit Lions
It is a year of transition for Detroit as they have Matt Patricia as their new head coach heading into 2018. However, don’t forget that the Lions were actually a good team last season as they just missed out on the playoffs with a 9-7 record. There is no doubt that the Lions are really dangerous on offense especially in the passing game. Matthew Stafford is an above average quarterback and he has some really good wide receivers to throw to with Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay. Also, he should have an improved offensive line this season especially with the addition of rookie guard Frank Ragnow. However, the key to the success of the offense will be the running game as that is something that they have struggled with for many years. The addition of rookie 2nd round pick Kerryon Johnson and the signing of veteran running back LeGarrette Blount should give a big boost to that group. They also have Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah who could compete for some playing time as well. Either way, the Lions have a deep running back group, but it is unknown which player will have the most carries. If the Lions can just be average running the ball then it will make Detroit’s offense even better. Meanwhile, the Lions defense actually wasn’t that bad last season mainly because their secondary played really well last season. They have one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL with Darius Slay and they also have a terrific safety with Glover Quin. However, the Lions also have a solid pass rush led by elite defensive end Ziggy Ansah. They also have starting defensive end Anthony Zettel who provided a solid 6.5 sacks last season. The Lions have some holes on the defense especially at outside linebacker, but their defense should be decent as long as their secondary and pass rush to continue to lead the way. Overall, the Lions are a good team, but they just play in what is likely to be a very tough division this year. However, the Lions have a very talented team that is capable of being a playoff contender once again in 2018.
4. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears have some hope for this year as Mitchell Trubisky heads into his first full season as an NFL starting quarterback. However, the Bears are still a team that is in transition with new head coach Matt Nagy and they unfortunately play in a tough division as well. The Bears did add some more talent to their offense this season though as they signed pro-bowl receiver Allen Robinson and tight end Trey Burton. The Bears still don’t have a very good receiver group, but it is better than what they had a year ago. The strength of the Bears offense though is still at the running back position as Jordan Howard has established himself as one of the best running backs in the NFL. Also, they have Tarik Cohen who is a terrific 3rd-down back. Both of those guys will be important since they help to take a lot of pressure off of Trubisky and the passing game. The Bears offensive line is somewhat concerning, but it is still decent with Kyle Long and Charles Leno. The Bears offense should be better this season, but it all depends on how Trubisky progresses in his 2nd NFL season. Meanwhile, the Bears have one of the most underrated defenses in the entire NFL. Akiem Hicks provides the team with their main source of pass rush as he had 8.5 sacks last season, but the rest of the defensive line is a major weakness. They need other pass rushers like Leonard Floyd to step up and have a better year than they did in 2017. The linebacker position is looking stronger this season for the Bears as they added rookie 1st round pick Roquan Smith to go along with veteran linebacker Danny Trevathan. The Bears also have a somewhat strong secondary led by cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson. Chicago has some good players on both sides of the ball, but they still have too many holes to fill. Also, I’m just not quite sure how well Mitchell Trubisky will develop at the quarterback position.