The NFL has released the league schedule for every team last Thursday, and each squads’ path to the Super Bowl is now laid. The NFC North featured two teams with 10 or more wins last season, with both the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings making the playoffs.
With the schedule for each team being out, could this year be the same? Could the NFC North have a back-to-back division winner for the first time since the Packers did it in 2013 and 2014?
Here’s how the NFC North schedule ranks.
4. Chicago Bears
The Bears are going through a transition. They just traded for quarterback Nick Foles and they declined the fifth-year option of last year’s starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky. It’s still up in the air as to who’s going to start, and it doesn’t help that the Bears have the 13th toughest strength of schedule in the league. But in the NFC North, they probably have some winnable games.
Their first six weeks will be against teams that didn’t finish above .500 last season as they play the Detroit Lions, the New York Giants, the Atlanta Falcons, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Carolina Panthers. The other team on that stretch is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but their last year’s record does not reflect how good they’ll be this season with Tom Brady under center.
Regardless, there are some winnable games within that stretch for the Bears to take advantage of and build around.
3. Green Bay Packers
The first half of the Packers’ schedule is rough, with road games against the Minnesota Vikings, the New Orleans Saints, the Houston Texans, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the San Francisco 49ers. Three of those teams won their division, one made the playoffs, and the other is led by Brady.
However, the back end of the season could provide the Packers with some much-needed ease on the schedule as their last four weeks would have the Tennessee Titans as the only team that had a winning record above .500 last year before finishing their season against one of their top rivals in the Bears.
If the Packers are needing some victories at the end of the year, they certainly have a good lineup of games as they try to win the NFC North yet again.
2. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings will have a five-week period where they play the Packers, the Indianapolis Colts, the Tennessee Titans, the Houston Texans and finishes it off with a visit to Seattle Seahawks. Four of those five teams made the playoffs last year, with the Colts barely missing it, but they have improved by signing quarterback Philip Rivers.
While unlikely, there’s a chance the Vikings could go 0-5 to start the season.
Add to that two road games against the two best teams in the NFC South as they travel to both Tampa Bay and New Orleans to play the Buccaneers and the Saints respectively late in the season.
The Vikings made the playoffs last year with 10 wins, but it’s certainly going to be a tougher road to do it again this year.
1. Detroit Lions
The Lions could be in for a rough year.
They face the Chicago Bears in Week 1, and then have a three-week stretch where they play the defending NFC North champions and a much improved Arizona Cardinals, with both games on the road. The Lions come back home in Week 4 with the New Orleans Saints waiting for them.
For their final stretch of the season, Detroit again plays the Packers, then pay a visit to King Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans before ending the season with their last two games at home against the Buccaneers (who’s either trying to pull away or chase New Orleans) and the Vikings.
Wins could really be hard to come by in the Motor City.