For the first time in four seasons and just the second time in the past nine years the NFC North will have only one team competing in the postseason. The mid-season injury to Aaron Rodgers seriously impacted Green Bay’s chances of extending their playoff streak and the run eventually ended, though Rodgers did his best to keep the streak going. Rodgers returned two months after sustaining a broken collarbone, but he couldn’t work his magic and Green Bay’s eight-year postseason run ended two weeks ago in Carolina.
No team has ever played in a Super Bowl in its home venue, but the Minnesota Vikings have a great chance to become the first. The Vikes clinched the NFC North a few weeks ago and can lock down the No. 2 seed with a win over the Bears on Sunday. Should the top seeds advance, Philly gets the NFC Championship Game in its back yard, but the loss of Carson Wentz has opened the door for other teams to seriously think they have a shot at advancing.
The league’s greatest spectacle takes place in early February at U.S. Bank Stadium and the Vikings are salivating over becoming the first team to have a true homefield advantage. The Los Angeles Rams played in the 1980 Super Bowl at the Rose Bowl and the 49ers played the 1985 Super Bowl down the road at Stanford Stadium. That’s the closest any team has come to playing a true home game in the Super Bowl.
Let’s don’t put the cart before the horse, though. But the Vikings have been one of the most dominant teams in the entire league all season, buoyed by the league’s best defense. They’ve allowed the fewest yards per game and points per game, and have surrendered just seven points over their last two games. There’s a good chance those numbers improve against the Bears on Sunday. Minnesota took advantage of Rodgers’ injury to seize control of the division and they could do the same with Wentz sidelined in Philadelphia.
Minnesota Vikings (Clinched)
1. Minnesota Vikings ( 12-3 SU, 11-4 ATS, 7-8 O/U )
2. Detroit Lions ( 8-7 SU, 7-7-1 ATS, 9-6 O/U )
3. Green Bay Packers ( 7-8 SU, 7-8 ATS, 10-5 O/U )
4. Chicago Bears ( 5-10 SU, 7-7-1 ATS, 4-11 O/U )
Packers at Lions ( -6, 43.5 ), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET – FOX
Bears at Vikings ( -11, 38.5 ), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET – FOX
The Green Bay Packers are once again revving up for another run at the Super Bowl. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, it’s never out of the question. Green Bay struggled a bit in last year’s regular season but turned it on to win the NFC North and then made it to the NFC Championship game.
The Packers were ousted by the Atlanta Falcons but should once again be on the short list of Super Bowl contenders. Rodgers returns as arguably the best player in the NFL and Green Bay added intriguing tight end Martellus Bennett to help him out on offense. Continue
The Minnesota Vikings thought they were poised to compete for a Super Bowl in 2016, but injuries derailed that dream. The club is hoping for better luck and offensive improvement in 2017, which could lead to a return to the postseason.
Minnesota has one of the best young defenses in the NFL, which will always keep it in games. Longtime superstar running back Adrian Peterson has departed but the Vikings now get a full offseason of work for Sam Bradford, which should help him grasp the offense. The Vikings have a high floor because it has a lot of solid parts, but their ceiling won’t be to an elite level unless the offense can pick it up. Continue
The Detroit Lions watched one of the best receivers in the history of the NFL retire before the 2016 season and didn’t get much out of star linebacker DeAndre Levy. Despite the absence of Calvin Johnson and the injury to Levy, the team still managed to finish 9-7 on the season and make it to the postseason before bowing out against the Seahawks.
Matthew Stafford is back to lead the way in 2017 and the Lions have hopes of pushing for the NFC North title. However, the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings seem more talented and the Lions may regress after outperforming their pythagorean expectation a season ago. This is a big season for Detroit as it hopes to improve rather than take a step back with a lot of the same pieces in place. Continue
The Chicago Bears were one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2016 and aren’t expected to be much better this season. However, there is a fair amount of intrigue with this team after the quarterback additions it made in the offseason.
Mike Glennon was signed to start during free agency, and he will get the reins when the season begins. However, Chicago traded up to No. 2 in the draft in order to secure Mitchell Trubisky, who is seen as the future of the franchise.
The Bears don’t have much firepower on offense, especially with Alshon Jeffery departing in free agency, so it seems unlikely the team puts up many points regardless of who is under center in 2017. Continue
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