Today's question: Will the Packers' annual march to the division crown continue on autopilot? If so, will another team join them in the playoffs? Our NFC North reporters weigh in.
Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Packers reporter: If recent history is any indication, two things will happen: The Packers will win the division, and a second team from the NFC North will get a wild-card spot. The Packers have made the playoffs eight straight years (five times as division champs), and in all but one of those years, a second team from the division joined them in the postseason. The smart money is again on Green Bay to win the NFC North, which leaves Minnesota and Detroit to fight for a playoff spot. There’s no reason to think Chicago is ready to join the rest of the division teams as a playoff contender.
Jeff Dickerson, Chicago Bears reporter: The NFC North usually produces two teams. I think that’s a safe bet. Green Bay is, of course, the favorite to win the division, but Detroit is also a compelling team. The Lions have qualified for the playoffs two of the past three seasons. Barring injury, I don’t see Matthew Stafford regressing anytime soon. Meanwhile, the Vikings have a playoff-caliber defense. Don’t rule out Minnesota making some noise in the NFC North. The Vikings finished 8-8 last season, despite losing their starting quarterback to a serious injury.
Ben Goessling, Minnesota Vikings reporter: The Packers will win the division, despite their usual round of concerns on defense. They're well-stocked on offense after adding Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, and they'll be looking for more after their remarkable run to the NFC Championship game ended in tatters in Atlanta. The question is: Does anybody else from the NFC North join the Packers in the postseason? The Vikings would be the obvious candidate, though it remains to be seen whether their offseason moves were good enough to fix their offensive line. The Lions made the playoffs with seven fourth-quarter comebacks a year ago, which could be hard to replicate, and the Bears are simply trying to find their identity after adding Mike Glennon and Mitchell Trubisky this offseason. I'm betting the Vikings end up in a wild-card fight with teams such as the Buccaneers, Cowboys and Panthers and fall just short of making it back to the playoffs after they won the NFC North title two years ago.
Michael Rothstein, Detroit Lions reporter: The Packers have won five of the past six NFC North titles. They still have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and gave him another dynamic offensive player in Bennett. The defense, in theory, should be better, too, after the team brought in cornerback Davon House and drafted cornerback Kevin King, safety Josh Jones and defensive tackle Montravius Adams with its first three draft picks. I’ll take the Packers. Two teams from the division will make the playoffs, with the Lions being a wild-card team for the third time in four seasons by sneaking in at 9-7 off tiebreakers. This, however, is far from a lock, and the division could see just one team get in from the division for the first time since 2013.