Will the Minnesota Vikings defend their NFC North crown in 2018, and which teams from the division will make the playoffs? Our division reporters make their predictions:
Courtney Cronin, Minnesota Vikings reporter: Packers. Green Bay will halt the Vikings’ attempt for a second straight division title and capture the NFC North in Aaron Rodgers‘ season of redemption. Green Bay made a ton of changes to its coaching staff and drafted cornerbacks with its first two picks to combat a passing league. They also have two of the league’s top red-zone targets, Jimmy Graham and Davante Adams, and added three receivers in the draft. The entire division got better this offseason, including Minnesota stealing the spotlight by signing Kirk Cousins. Still, the Packers and Vikings will be the only two teams to make the playoffs from the North. Chicago and Detroit are improved but probably still a year away from reaching the postseason.
Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Packers reporter: Vikings. This looks like a two-playoff-team division if the Vikings and Packers live up to expectations. The Week 2 game between the two teams at Lambeau Field will give one of them an early leg up in the division and could shape the way things go the rest of the way. At this point, though, the Vikings look like the more complete team thanks to a strong defense, an improving offense and stability off the field in the coaching and personnel departments.
Jeff Dickerson, Chicago Bearsreporter: The Minnesota Vikings. But I also have the Green Bay Packers making the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Vikings are the easy choice to win the NFC North after they reached the NFC Championship Game last year and then signed quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency. I also fully expect Aaron Rodgers to have an MVP-type season after he missed nine games last year due to injury. I’m not sure what to make of the Lions under Matt Patricia. And Chicago — under new head coach Matt Nagy — is an improved team, but I don’t anticipate the Bears qualifying for the postseason.
Michael Rothstein, Detroit Lions reporter: Vikings. Rodgers is back and automatically makes the Packers one of the top teams in the NFC, but Minnesota might be the top team in the conference other than Philadelphia and maybe Los Angeles. The Vikings improved from last season, added Kirk Cousins, get Dalvin Cook back from injury and have the division’s top defense, so they win the division again. The Packers also make the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Lions end up close but a tough schedule at the beginning and end of the season keeps them out of the playoffs for the second straight year.
Photo: Rick Wood /Milwaukee Journal Sentinel