Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

The Detroit Lions are beginning to separate themselves from the rest of the NFC North. However, there’s plenty of season left for things to change; here are reasons to be optimistic and pessimistic about every team in the division through six weeks. 

Chicago Bears (1-5) 

Optimist: The best-case scenario for the 1-5 Bears is to keep losing. The Matt Eberflus era has run its course and the team has to have seen enough from quarterback Justin Fields to know he won’t be the face of the franchise as they hoped. Already in possession of the Carolina Panthers’ first-rounder in the 2024 NFL Draft, the Bears need to tank hard, secure high picks and add two franchise-shifting players to this directionless mess. 

Pessimist: Depending on your viewpoint, winning might be bad for the Bears, who, as of Week 7, hold position for both the first and second overall picks in next April’s draft. The Bears are a bad team, ranking 19th in the NFL in scoring (21.3) and 29th in points against (29.3), so losing to rip it all down for a rebuild seems like the only option for a positive future. A few wins down the stretch might throw a wrench in those plans, though, and down the stretch, it’s certainly a possibility. Only three of the Bears’ 11 remaining opponents – Detroit Lions twice – have a winning record, sporting a combined mark of 29-34. 

Detroit Lions (5-1) 

Optimist: Tied for the league’s best record while boasting a top-10 offense (28.0, 4th) and defense (18.8, 9th), the Lions have already shown they’re for real. They also have a two-game lead in the NFC North with a win in hand over the second-place Green Bay Packers (2-3). Furthermore, the Lions have a chance to cruise to a division title and a high seed in the NFC, as only the Atlanta Falcons have an easier remaining strength of schedule, per Tankathon

Pessimist: A lot can change in 12 weeks and metrics won’t increase the Lions win total. They may have an easy path to the playoffs, but their remaining schedule has its challenges, including tough matchups against the Baltimore Ravens (4-2), Dallas Cowboys (4-2) and New Orleans Saints (3-3). Detroit also has five games remaining against divisional opponents, the Packers, Bears (2x) and Minnesota Vikings (2x), three teams they’ve never swept the season series from in the same year.

Green Bay Packers (2-3)

Optimist: Jordan Love may be the future, but he’s had few chances to show what he’s capable of with a full, healthy complement of weapons. However, with RB Aaron Jones and WR Christian Watson seemingly ready to take the field in Week 7 after hamstring injuries forced both to miss time, that’s about to change. Only the Houston Texans, Lions and Falcons have a more manageable schedule than the Packers the rest of the way, offering Love the opportunity to prove he’s the man to follow the great Aaron Rodgers.

Pessimist: Ranked 13th in offense (22.6) and 22nd in defense (22.6), the Packers haven’t been particularly impressive on either side of the ball and maybe that’s who they are. They haven’t won a game in over a month and are coming out of their bye off back-to-back losses, looking overmatched in a one-sided affair vs. the Lions (34-20) before laying an egg against the lackluster Las Vegas Raiders (17-13). The Packers have been sloppy and inconsistent at best and if that doesn’t change, easy remaining schedule or not, they’ll be staring at another playoff-less year. 

Minnesota Vikings (2-4) 

Optimistic: The difference might be luck when comparing the Vikings’ 5-1 start through six weeks in 2022 to this season’s early sluggishness. According to Tom Bliss, a data scientist for the NFL, no one has had more misfortune than Minnesota when it comes to dropped interceptions, passes, field goals against and fumble recoveries, which calculates to a -113.5 percent net win probability, worst in the NFL. That kind of poor luck can’t last, especially for a Vikings team a year removed from a 13-4 finish and a division title. 

Pessimistic: The Vikings have lost one-score games to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (20-17), Los Angeles Chargers (28-24) and Kansas City Chiefs (27-20). However, they struggled to beat the still-winless Panthers (21-13) and Bears (19-13). With star wideout Justin Jefferson out at least another few weeks with a hamstring injury, the Vikings could dig a hole too deep to crawl out of. 

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