NFL Playoffs Picture 2019: NFC North Teams Ranked

A classic NFC North rivalry has the honor of kicking off the 100th NFL season as the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers on Thursday.

Aside from the season-opener, there are several storylines that should make the division an intriguing affair this year.

Here's what to expect from the NFC North this time around.

Chicago Bears

The Bears have lost defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to the Denver Broncos, with Chuck Pagano coming in as replacement.

Chicago's defense should again be its best asset, with former Packers safety Ha-Ha Clinton Dix and former New York Jets cornerback Buster Skrine moving to Illinois in the offseason.

The duo will join forces with Khalil Mack, who had 12.5 sacks in his first season in Chicago.

On the other side of the ball the Bears have lost running back Jordan Howard, but his gap should be filled by former Seattle Seahawk Mike Davis and David Montgomery, a third-round selection from Iowa State.

Cordarrelle Patterson was signed as a free agent to bolster Mitchell Trubisky's receiving options. According to Oddschecker, the Bears are 9/5 favorites to win back-to-back divisional titles but have the fifth-hardest schedule in the league.

Prediction: 11-5.

Green Bay Packers

At 21/10, the Green Bay Packers are just behind the Bears in the race for the NFC North, despite finishing 6-9-1 last season—their worst record since 2008.

The optimism about the Packers comes as Green Bay ushers in a new era. Matt LaFleur is the new head coach, replacing Mike McCarthy who was fired before the end of last season, after his relationship with Aaron Rodgers broke down beyond repair.

The two-time MVP remains one of the greatest signal-callers the NFL has ever seen but will be 36 in December, and his Super Bowl window is slowly beginning to close.

Green Bay has lost Randall Cobb and Clay Matthews but has added safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage.

The latter was a first-round draft pick along with linebacker Rashan Gary and improvements are expected from the Packers' defense with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine in his second season.

Rodgers' relationship with LaFleur will be key to the Packers' chances this season, but if the duo click they could drag Green Bay back to the postseason.

Prediction: 11-5

Mitchell Trubisky, Aaron Rodgers
Mitchell Trubisky #10 of the Chicago Bears and Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers meet after the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 24-23 at Lambeau Field on September 9, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Dylan Buell/Getty

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are 11/5 to win a second divisional title in three years but remain one of the most inscrutable teams in the league.

Minnesota went 8-7-1 last season, a rather remarkable feat given Kirk Cousins passed for 4,298 yards and 30 touchdowns, while Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen combined for had 2,394 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.

Having handed Cousins a fully guaranteed three-year contract worth $84 million a year ago, the Vikings were relatively quiet during the offseason.

Minnesota drafted center Garrett Bradbury and tight end Irv Smith in the first two rounds and the pair should improve their offensive line.

The Vikings have the 10th hardest schedule in the NFL but should make progress and challenge for the playoff again.

Prediction: 9-7

Detroit Lions

The Lions are 13/1 outsiders to win the NFC North, and for good reason.

In his first campaign as head coach, Matt Patricia had a difficult season, as the Lions' campaign derailed when rookie running back Kerryon Johnson was ruled out for the year with a knee injury.

Detroit went 6-10 and hopes of returning to the playoffs for the first time in three years look slim this. Matthew Stafford enters his 11th NFL campaign with a new receiver in the shape of Danny Amendola, who joined from Miami.

Amendola and former New England defensive end Trey Flowers worked with Patricia when he was a defensive coordinator for the Patriots, and the Lions need both to make an instant impact this season.

Prediction: 5-11

NFL Playoffs Picture 2019: NFC North Teams Ranked | Sports