Week 1: Previewing the Rest of the NFC North Division

September 11, 2016 • Jon Lowe • Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Front Page, Lists, Minnesota Vikings, NFC, NFC North, Predictions, Preview

I mainly focus on covering the Green Bay Packers when it comes to the NFL, and by doing so, I believe that what goes on in the rest of the division is just as important as what goes on with the Packers. I’m not one of those guys who believes you need to beat out the best competition week in and week out (in pro sports more so than college sports) to prove you are worthy of the playoffs, because that is not what matters. All that matters is the standings after Week 17, which is why I root for the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings to lose each week.

So, with that in mind, here is a preview of the match-ups these teams will be facing coming out of the gate:

Minnesota Vikings (@ Tennessee Titans)

This week, the Vikings go to Tennessee to take on the Titans, so a win should be more than attainable for the Vikings. The Titans are in the middle of their rebuilding phase, and I pegged them last week as the second worst team in the AFC to the Cleveland Browns. Offensively, the Vikings should be able to run the ball with Adrian Peterson pretty easily, as the Titans’ defense is improved but still in the lower half of the league. Newly-acquired quarterback Sam Bradford won’t be starting, as long-time journeyman quarterback Shaun Hill will make the start for Minnesota. The Titans’ secondary and defensive line is among the worst in the NFL, and they have no truly-dominant pass rushers or playmakers altogether. Defense is the Vikings’ strength, yet the Titans are surprisingly deep at the wide receiver position. They also have a two-headed backfield in veteran DeMarco Murray and recent Heisman-winning rookie RB Derrick Henry, but the Vikings’ have a great run defense. Overall, despite the matchup being in Tennessee, I think the Vikings’ should win a defensive battle, with a final score of: Minnesota 20, Tennessee 13.

Chicago Bears (@ Houston Texans)

I just realized that the entire NFC North is on the road this weekend against the AFC South, as the Bears take on the Houston Texans. Defensive end J.J. Watt is at full strength for Houston this week, and he will be a nice test for new guard Josh Sitton. I don’t think Sitton and Watt have ever gone up against one another head to head, but if I were the Bears, I would provide help regardless. Offensively, the Bears need to make quick plays to calm the pass-rush, as Watt is not the only guy on that defense who can rush the passer. I don’t think the Bears will have a 100-yard rusher on Sunday, or a 100-yard receiver either. Houston’s defense is that good, and Chicago’s offense consists of an inexperienced backfield and a veteran quarterback in Jay Cutler who will breakdown at any moment. It is up to the Bears’ defense if they want to win Sunday, and they are still in rebuild mode. Running back Lamar Miller is poised for a big day, and All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins is one of the five best receivers in the NFL. Despite that, Houston’s offense is not dynamic enough yet to put up major points. I don’t like this matchup for the Bears, and I believe Houston should win easily with a final score of: Houston 27, Chicago 17.

Detroit Lions (@ Indianapolis Colts)

The Detroit Lions will be traveling a few hours south to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Indianapolis Colts for the final NFC North matchup of the weekend. Unlike the rest of the NFC North, they play at 4:30 (eastern time) instead of 1 P.M. I like this matchup for the Lions in general, and I think the strengths of the Lions are lined up against the weaknesses of the Colts. That said, Lucas Oil Stadium is a tough place to play on the road, and it could help the Colts out enough. Offensively, the Lions should not have trouble, and if they do, Lions’ fans should be alarmed for the rest of the season. The Colts’ defense is that bad, and they are missing star cornerback Vontae Davis for sure Week 1, and have multiple others listed as questionable on defense.  I would trust the passing game more if I were head coach Jim Caldwell, but the running game should be fine. On the other side of the ball, the Colts’ offense should be pretty good, but the Lions’ strength remains their defense. The Colts’ offense could struggle if Andrew Luck throws more than one interception, as the ground game relies solely on a player well past his prime in Frank Gore. I like the Lions’ here, but having it be Week 1 and in Indianapolis, I don’t like them that much. Still, I got to rely on my instincts here, and I think the Lions’ will win in a close one, with the final score: Detroit 24, Indianapolis 21.

Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

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