2024 NFC North Predictions: Detroit Lions Defend Crown, Minnesota Vikings Finish Last

Detroit Lions QB Jared Goff looks to pass against the Minnesota Vikings | PHOTO USA TODAY SPORTS

They needed 22 seasons to do it, but the Detroit Lions at last claimed their first NFC North title in 2023.

Since they’re at the top of the heap already, why not stick around to become the final division club to win a repeat title?

The Green Bay Packers have accomplished the feat with two three-peats and a four-peat, while the Chicago Bears (2005–06) and Minnesota Vikings (2008–09) also enjoyed runs early in the North’s history.

Detroit likely won’t cruise to a three-game cushion as it did last season, but the returning personnel (don’t write “restored roar,” don’t write “restored roar”) will be enough to give the Lions the edge in a tight race.

Here’s how the North stacks up, with last season’s records in parentheses.

1. Detroit Lions (12-5)

Yeah, yeah, Lions fans know all about the second half of last season’s NFC Championship game, but we’re not looking that deeply into the crystal ball just yet. In the shorter term, the core they have coming back—quarterback Jared Goff, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, and edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, to name a few—is solid and ready to reload. Staying strong and healthy on both sides of the line will be paramount. The Lions also sought to shore up a shaky secondary by drafting Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw. It all should add up to another big year in Detroit.

2. Green Bay Packers (9-8)

Green Bay Packers QB Jordan Love looks for another big year. Photo source: Getty Images

What will Jordan Love do for an encore under center? 

His progression last season seems to indicate quite a bit, perhaps exceeding his 4,159 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2023. The Green Bay receiving room has hardly changed—that’s not a bad thing, believe it or not—and some shuffling among running backs (Josh Jacobs for Aaron Jones) should keep the attack on the move. Green Bay added Xavier McKinney to a defense that’s experienced but still thirsty to improve on a meager 18 takeaways last season. Only six teams finished with fewer. More big plays on ‘D’ are never a bad thing, especially for a team that had five losses of four points or fewer in 2023.

3. Chicago Bears (7-10)

Chicago Bears number one draft choice Caleb Williams at a press conference at Halas Hall. credits: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The hype and expectations are far different for Caleb Williams than for Love as Williams prepares for his first season as an NFL starting quarterback. 

As much as it stings to find solidarity with those Cheeseheads, though, Bears fans surely would go gaga if the top pick in the draft fares as well as Love did last season. Chicago management has set Williams up to be great from the get-go, adding receivers Keenan Allen and Rome Adunze and running back D’Andre Swift to an offensive stable that already included wideout D.J. Moore. An accomplished, experienced defense backs the offensive arsenal, which must stay on guard for inevitable growing pains. 

4. Minnesota Vikings (7-10)

innesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at U.S. Bank Stadium. credits: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Justin Jefferson, the league’s Offensive Player of the Year two seasons ago, is back with a lucrative extension and a TBD new QB. 

How quickly Jefferson develops a rapport with said signal-caller—veteran Sam Darnold or first-rounder J.J. McCarthy—will go a long way toward influencing the team’s finish at the dawn of the post-Kirk Cousins era. 

A veteran defense, which finished eighth in the league in the fewest rush yards allowed last season, should be a stabilizer. Minnesota was already facing a transitional season before tragedy struck the organization on July 6, when rookie cornerback Khyree Jackson was among three people killed in a three-car crash in Maryland.