Who Wins the NFC North in 2023-24?

Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier - Detroit Free Press

This season, there will once again be no NFC North team involved in the debates over the Super Bowl. The Packers and the Lions failed to make the playoffs and the Vikings imploded against the Giants in their Wild Card game, continuing Minnesota fans’ long wait for a first Super Bowl. But next year, at least three of the four teams in the NFC North will definitely be considered when betting fans weigh up their Super Bowl picks, as there are clear signs that the NFC North is undergoing a resurgence.

This season was the first time since 2019 that two of the teams in the NFC North finished with a winning record, and the third team, Green Bay, had an 8-9 record. The Vikings, the Detroit Lions, and the Packers are all in contention next season, and Chicago, with the first pick in the 2023 Draft, are in a good position to improve on their 3-14 record from this year’s regular season.

Vikings Have Plenty to Build On

Losing the Wild Card game to the Giants was a massive disappointment, but there is plenty of cause for optimism among Minnesota fans after a season in which their team finished with a 13-4 record, tying up the NFC North title way before the end of the regular season and winning the title for the first time since 2017.

While Kirk Cousins will always have his detractors, he had a solid campaign, utilizing one of the strongest offenses in the NFL. They were ranked seventh overall in terms of points scored in the NFL, and assuming that they can keep that offense together, we can expect more of the same in 2023.

The problem for Minnesota is on defense. The ability of the Vikings defense to pick up takeaways at key moments papered over the cracks, and against the Giants, Minnesota had no answer. But if they can sort out their secondary and interior defensive line, the Vikings can mount an even stronger challenge in 2023.

Packers Will Be Back

Packers fans are now in the familiar post-season Aaron Rodgers limbo, in which the three-time NFL MVP leads everyone on an increasingly tedious journey through his thought processes, at the end of which, he may or may not decide to stay in Green Bay for another year.

However, whether he stays or goes, the Packers can be expected to improve next season. Rodgers played most of the season with a broken thumb, so that may partially explain his poor performances, but even if he moves on, the price that other teams will have to pay will be enormous and that will give the Packers plenty of options as they look for his replacement.

Either way, the Packers wide receiver group improved dramatically at the end of the regular season and their strong running game was a welcome surprise. The Packers will be back.

Detroit Here to Stay

The biggest reason why the NFC North has suddenly become a major force in the NFL is the resurgence of the Detroit Lions, the traditional underdogs of the Division.

nfc north minnesota vikings
Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier – Detroit Free Press

Dan Campbell’s team had the familiar terrible start, but having lost six of their first seven, the Lions suddenly went on a winning spree, winning eight of their last ten, including an extremely impressive victory over the Packers when they knew they couldn’t reach the playoffs.

They ended up as one of the most dynamic teams in football, finishing fifth overall for points scored, an impressive achievement given their dreadful start. If they can play as they did in the second half of the regular season throughout the 2023 campaign, they could even become Super Bowl contenders.

Beware the Bears

The Chicago Bears were the only team not to come close to a winning record in the NFC North, finishing with a dreadful 4-13 win-loss record, but having the first pick in the Draft puts them in a strong position. There are multiple teams in this Draft with more than one first-round pick and if they plan their strategy correctly, Chicago could end up with a bunch of first-round picks.

Unlike many other teams in the Draft, the Bears do not definitely need a new quarterback, and that gives them some leverage. It would not be a surprise to see the Bears emulate the New York Jets and significantly strengthen their team in just one Draft, making them serious NFC North contenders next season.

Since the NFC North was formed for the 2002 season, it has produced only two Super Bowl teams: The Chicago Bears team that lost to the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI and the Green Bay Packers of the 2010 season, who beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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