The Bears traded for Khalil Mack last season, and it tilted the balance of power in the NFC North in their favor.
Chicago won the division last season for the first time since 2010 behind first-year coach Matt Nagy and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Despite a heartbreaking loss to the Eagles in the wild-card round of the playoffs, this team has playoff experience and will be in the mix with the other Super Bowl contenders. The Bears begin the NFL's 100th year against the Packers in the Thursday night season-opener, a game that also will mark a new chapter in Green Bay with first-year coach Matt LaFleur.
Will LaFleur work well with two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers? The Vikings also will be in the mix, and the Lions are working into their second year under Matt Patricia. Minnesota's Kirk Cousins and Detroit's Matthew Stafford can beat anybody, including the Bears and Packers, on any given week. All of that makes this division race even more intriguing than usual.
2019 NFL PREDICTIONS: Standings, playoff projections, Super Bowl pick
Based on SN's picks for the entire 2019 NFL season, here are our predictions for the NFC North.
NFL predictions 2019: NFC North
Chicago added more pieces around Trubisky. Running back Jordan Howard is gone, but the Bears drafted Iowa State's David Montgomery and added Mike Davis free agency. Cordarrelle Patterson is back in the division and gives Trubisky another downfield threat.
The defense added former Green Bay safety Ha-Ha Clinton Dix along with corner Buster Skrine. Mack had 12.5 sacks in his first season in Chicago. Chuck Pagano replaces Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator, and the change is something to monitor early in the season, especially against Rodgers in the opener.
Patricia had an up-and-down first season as head coach in Detroit. Running back Kerryon Johnson impressed in seven games as a rookie before a season-ending knee injury. Stafford enters his 11th season still looking for his first playoff victory, and first-round tight end Dustin Hockenson gives the QB another red-zone target.
Trey Flowers and Danny Amendola joined from New England. Patricia, however, must show progress in Year 2.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are beginning a new era. Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb are gone. Safety Adrian Amos is among the flurry of defensive additions to the roster that continued in the draft with Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage Jr. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was retained, and the unit should be better.
In this case, the best offense for Rodgers will be an improved defense. The fit between LaFleur and Rodgers will be the most scrutinized piece of the puzzle. Can Rodgers return to MVP form with the new supporting cast?
Was Cousins worth the big contract? He passed for 4,298 yards, 30 TDs and 10 interceptions and kept Minnesota around .500. That's what he has done his entire career. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are a 1,000-yard tandem that will continue to thrive with offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.