The NFC North finished fifth in our final Divisional BES Rankings of 2016 with a of score 2.39 and produced one BES Top-10 team, the division champion Packers (10-6). However, that doesn’t tell the full tale of how the season unfolded for the NFC North.
The Vikings (8-8) jumped out to a 5-0 start, enjoying two separate stints atop our rankings. They opened at No. 1 in our Week 2 Rankings, later reclaiming that spot in Weeks 5-6. Unfortunately, injuries decimated their offensive line, causing them to gradually fall out of playoff contention.
The Lions (9-7) were one of the more exhilarating teams to watch in 2016 with seven come-from-behind wins. They had control of the NFC North in Weeks 10-14, ranking as high as No. 4 in BES Overall, before a three-game losing streak tore the division title from their clutches.
Here’s how the NFC North finished in our final Week 17 report of 2016:
HOW THEY FINISHED
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The Lions had, by far, the worst Pass Protection score (2.17) in the division. Meanwhile, the Vikings and Packers had sub par showings in Ball Control. Consequently, these factors led all three teams upgrade on the offensive line and at halfback.
The Bears, despite finishing 13th in BES Offense, saw all three of their quarterbacks depart in free agency. That forced them to address the position with urgency this offseason.
The Vikings promoted former tight ends coach Pat Shurmur to offensive coordinator. Shurmur briefly served as the interim offensive coordinator in place of Norv Turner who resigned last November.
On Shurmur’s watch, quarterback Sam Bradford completed 74.5% of his passes vs. a 66.5% completion rate under Turner. Most importantly, the Vikings offensive (minus special teams and defensive scores) points-per-game average jumped from 16.1 under Turner to 18.9 under Shurmur.
NOTABLE PLAYER TRANSACTIONS
We’ve maintained that our data can provide a framework of how teams might approach the draft and address needs. Here are the rookies we feel will have the most impact on each team’s weakest area(s) in BES performance:
NFC NORTH BALANCE OF POWER
The fight for the NFC North is shaping up to be a three-team brawl among the Packers, Vikings and Lions. The Packers are perennial contenders but it’ll be interesting to see how the losses of T.J. Lang and JC Tretter impact their offensive line.
The Vikings improved offensively which is scary considering their defense is one of the league’s best. Meanwhile, the Lions solidified their offensive line while also improving their defensive front-seven. Lastly, though the Bears made some intriguing moves, it’s doubtful they make any significant noise this season.