2024 NFC North Offseason Predictions
The curtain closed on the 2023 season for all NFC North teams as the Detroit Lions suffered the same fate as the Green Bay Packers a week earlier — defeat to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs. With the season concluded for all four teams, it is time for an NFC North season review and a look forward to what to expect in 2024.
2024 NFC North Offseason Predictions
The NFC North looked like a weak division, with slow starts for three teams and one runaway leader. Then, it closed up before the Lions stretched out to a comfortable division title. In 2024, this promises to be a closely contested division, depending on the success of the moves each team makes during the offseason. I don’t think there will be a runaway winner in the division, and just a few wins will separate all four teams.
Can the Lions make it back-to-back division titles in 2024? It’s something they’ve never done in the Super Bowl era. Are the Packers poised for another era of dominance with Jordan Love? Are the Bears set to become truly competitive again, and are the Vikings set to tumble to the bottom of the division? I will answer those questions as well as give a review of each team’s season.
Playoffs Lost in Championship game to San Francisco
Draft Position 29th
The Lions did it. Dan Campbell brought Detroit a division championship for the first time since 1993 and followed it up with a first playoff win since 1991.
It was undoubtedly a successful season for Detroit, but after winning two playoff games and having a 24-7 lead at halftime in the championship game, the Lions were on the brink of their first Super Bowl. Missing out will be disappointing, but the challenge for Campbell and his team is to do the hardest thing in the NFL. Repeat a successful season.
A first-place finish sees a tougher schedule in 2024 in the form of games against the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Lions don’t have two draft picks in the first round for the first time since 2021 but still have four picks in the Top 100.
Detroit’s success has much to do with their drafting, with Jahmyr Gibbs, Sam LaPorta, Brian Branch, and Jack Campbell all significantly impacting the team in their rookie seasons. Gibbs, LaPorta, and Campbell made this year’s All-Rookie team, with Gibbs and LaPorta selected to the Pro Bowl. LaPorta impressed enough to gain second-team All-Pro honors in his rookie season. Adding those players to the likes of Aidan Hutchinson, Peneii Sewell, and Amon-Ra St. Brown, the Lions have shaped this team impressively through the draft.
After starting the season with a statement win over Kansas City, the Lions faltered against genuinely good teams. There was a 38-6 humbling against the Baltimore Ravens and a narrow loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Wins against the Rams and Buccaneers in the playoffs proved they could win the big game. However, losing to the 49ers from such a strong position will test Campbell’s coaching as the team looks to regroup for next season.
Predictions: Detroit has no critical players set to hit free agency and well above $50 million in salary cap space. They couldn’t be much better places to strengthen the roster further. The doubt surrounding the team has been with the coordinators, with OC Ben Johnson’s name particularly hovering around HC vacancies and appearing to be the favorite for the Washington job. Johnson’s offense is the strength of this team. Losing him would be a big loss, although he is expected to remain in Detroit as of January 30th.
A tougher schedule means I don’t think the Lions win as many games in 2024. They will still be a good team, but 10 wins is the maximum I can see.
Green Bay Packers
Playoffs Lost in the Divisional round to San Francisco
Draft Position 25th
It started slowly, but the Packers found their groove in the first season post-Aaron Rodgers. I believe it’s too early to anoint Jordan Love the next great Packers QB, but it was as good as anyone could have expected from his first season. Over 4,000 passing yards and 32 touchdowns are the numbers of a starting-caliber NFL quarterback.
A large portion of the credit for Green Bay’s season should go to HC Matt LaFleur, who performed wonders in the second half of the season with a very young offense. LaFleur stepped out of the shadow of Rodgers and proved he could get an offense playing without the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Six wins from the last eight games secured the Packers’ playoff berth with a statement win over the Super Bowl-bound Kansas City Chiefs. There was also a disappointing loss to the New York Giants. The season’s highlight was a big upset win at the Dallas Cowboys in the Wildcard round.
Green Bay was on course to go one better, leading San Francisco into the fourth quarter of the divisional round. However, the 49ers flexed their muscle and showed why they are the best team in the NFC. The comeback was complete with 10 unanswered points in the fourth to win 24-21.
Going into the 2023 season, I expected the Packers to lean on their defense. That didn’t happen as a roster full of talent underperformed, causing DC Joe Barry to be released from his duties. If his replacement can get the unit playing to the level it should be, I would expect Green Bay to be competing for the division title.
Predictions: The Packers have to work to get into a positive salary cap. However, the young team has no key players hitting free agency. With some shrewd FA signings and a good draft, Green Bay can be competitive again and should be around that 10-win mark, which might be enough to top the division.
Draft Position 11th
The reigning NFC North champions were dethroned and only looked like putting up a fight for their crown for a brief moment after a five-game win streak turned around a slow start. Minnesota had to deal with losing Kirk Cousins from Week 9 and Justin Jefferson for seven games in the middle of the season. The Vikings still had a chance to make the playoffs going into the season’s final game, but ultimately, the season fizzled out over the last month.
It’s the third offseason for GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, and it promises to be a huge one that could define his time in Minnesota. The other three teams finished the season with more momentum and reasons for immediate optimism than Minnesota. The Vikings need Adofo-Mensah to get big decisions right this offseason like he did drafting Jordan Addison.
Undrafted rookie Ivan Pace was a great find. Both Addison and Pace made the PFWA All-Rookie team for 2024. It all starts at quarterback. Do the Vikings bring back Kirk Cousins or draft a QB they believe can begin for them in Week 1? There’s also the small matter of the best defensive player (Danielle Hunter) hitting free agency.
Do the Vikings look first and foremost at remaining competitive with a returning Cousins and Hunter, or do they roll the dice on a rookie QB and rebuild the defense without their current star player? The fear of Brian Flores being poached for an HC job seems to have passed, which is great news for Minnesota.
Bringing in a rookie doesn’t mean the Vikings can’t compete. It just leaves the Vikings with an unknown commodity at the game’s most important position. Kevin O’Connell’s offense has a vast array of weapons for any new QB to work with, which gives them a chance.
Predictions: Cousins leaves town, and the Vikings draft a rookie. Which one? That depends on how high they can trade up. I suspect they will try for Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels, but it might have to be Michael Penix, JJ McCarthy, or Bo Nix.
Hunter is re-signed, and the majority of the free agency money goes on strengthening the defense. Flores showed what he could do with a roster that lacked depth and talent. Give him all the tools he needs to ensure the Vikings can compete with their rookie QB.
Draft Position 1st (via Carolina) and 9th
Chicago finished at the bottom of the division again, but with more reason for optimism this year. A 0-4 start was turned into a 7-10 season, with some much-improved performances down the stretch in Matt Eberflus’ second season as head coach.
Chicago has the number one pick in the draft for the second year in a row courtesy of last year’s trade with Carolina, as well as their own top 10 pick. D.J. Moore was an excellent addition from the Panthers trade and gave the Bears the WR1 they needed in a division packed with talented receivers.
After two tradebacks, the Bears ended up with OT Darnell Wright (All-Rookie team), DT Gervon Dexter, and CB Tyrique Stevenson. All three did okay in their rookie season but didn’t show anything special like Will Anderson Jr – who they could have taken at number one – did for the Texans. That should be considered when deciding what to do in the draft.
With $46 million in cap space to work with, the Bears are well-placed to try and compete in the division again – if they have a good off-season. The first order of business for GM Ryan Poles is to secure star CB Jaylon Johnson to a long-term contract. There should still be plenty left to add a couple more difference-makers to the roster as well.
Predictions: Chicago drafts QB Caleb Williams with the first overall pick and looks to trade Justin Fields to add more draft capital. Does Williams have the talent to drag the Bears to the playoffs in his rookie season? Possibly, but it’s a big ask. It feels more realistic around the 7/8 wins mark and would be a good start.