2013 NFL Preseason Predictions: NFC North (Hanson)
Here are my NFC North preseason predictions for the NFC North:
1. Green Bay Packers (schedule): 13-3
Despite possessing one of the league's most explosive offenses, the Packers have been unbalanced on that side of the ball. Of course, when you have Aaron Rodgers under center and can line up stud receivers Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones, you don't necessarily need to have a strong rushing attack to score points and win games.
But things will be different for the Packers offense in 2013 as rookie Eddie Lacy slipped to them in the second round. From a fantasy perspective, he has the potential to have a huge season and one of my bold predictions for 2013 is that he will lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns.
They ranked 11th in both scoring and total defense, tied for eighth in intercepted passes and were fourth in sacks last season. Despite the hype that the 49ers and Seahawks have received in the NFC this offseason, the Packers have a legitimate shot to finish with the No. 1 seed in the NFC. After their 15-1 season and a one-and-done playoff performance in 2011, this team has its sights on Super Bowl XLVIII — not on winning the regular season.
2. Chicago Bears (schedule): 9-7
It's a new era for the Bears as they shift from a defensive-minded coach in Lovie Smith to an offensive guru in Marc Trestman. As part of that transition, they lose the veteran leadership of Brian Urlacher in the middle of the defense, but he was not the same, physically, as he was earlier in his career.
The team still has plenty of veteran leadership on the defensive side of the ball as Julius Peppers is still one of the best pass-rushers and they have a great pair of cornerbacks in Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. This defense excels at creating turnovers (and scoring defensive touchdowns), but this year they should get more out of their offense. Quarterback Jay Cutler is in the final year of his contract so the timing of the coaching transition could work really well for him. I expect Matt Forte to have a huge season, and he's looked impressive so far, and I also expect Alshon Jeffery to step up in his second season to take some pressure off Brandon Marshall.
3. Minnesota Vikings (schedule): 6-10
With the league's best running back and reigning MVP, the Vikings surprised everyone and won 10 games to make the postseason. That was a seven-game improvement over the previous season.
Could the Vikings have a repeat of last season?
Anything's possible in the NFL, but I think that's highly unlikely. In fact, superhuman Adrian Peterson has set his (personal) goals on not just another 2,000-yard season — but a 2,500-yard season instead.
4. Detroit Lions (schedule): 5-11
The Lions have the talent to exceed these expectations. On the offensive side of the ball, they have the league's best receiver in Calvin Johnson, who set the single-season receiving record last year, and Matthew Stafford, who threw a league-record 727 times. Added to the mix is veteran running back Reggie Bush, who could lead the NFL in receptions among running backs.
On the defensive side of the ball, the team has an excellent front-four and they should get plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The trouble for this group has been in the secondary, but they have made some moves (both draft and free agency) to address that.
Some teams are just bad and you know what to expect. Some teams are really good and you know what to expect from them. The Lions are one of those teams that I could really see their season go either way.
All of our contributors will make their division and Super Bowl picks and we will track those on this centralized predictions page.