While the NFC North was home to the league’s tightest division race in 2013, it wasn’t exactly a thrilling ride — with the benefit of a tie, the 8-7-1 Packers eked out the division crown over the 8-8 Bears and the 7-9 Lions. It was the Packers’ third straight NFC North title, but it was by far the least convincing, in large part due to to an injury that limited Aaron Rodgers to only nine games.
Rodgers is healthy and will look to lead Green Bay to a fourth consecutive division title in 2014, but the Packers won’t have an easy path. Major changes were afoot throughout the NFC North this offseason, including a pair of elite veteran pass rushers joining division rivals. When Julius Peppers made the move from the Bears to the Packers, Chicago responded by signing former Viking defensive end Jared Allen.
Elsewhere in the division, the Lions bolstered an already dangerous offense by inking wide receiver Golden Tate to a lucrative five-year contract and selecting tight end Eric Ebron with the 10th overall pick in May’s draft. The Bears added not just Allen, but also defensive end Lamarr Houston and rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller, who will look to help stabilize the defense on a team whose offense features arguably the best duo of wideouts in the NFL (Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery).
Meanwhile, 2013’s last-place finishers, the Vikings, may find themselves on the outside looking in if it turns into a three-team race. But Minnesota’s offseason shouldn’t be dismissed. The team bolstered its defense by inking linemen Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen to long-term deals, then drafting linebacker Anthony Barr with the ninth overall pick. Throw in a potential franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater and this is a roster with upside, even if the club may still be a year or two away from making any real noise.
What do you think? Will the Packers’ streak be snapped in 2014, or will Green Bay sit atop the North again at the end of the regular season?