NFC North ranked 2nd-toughest division in NFL

Bryan Perez
NBC Sports Chicago

Every team in the NFL starts the regular season with playoff aspirations. It's no different for the Chicago Bears in 2018, but their road to the post-season may be a little more difficult than most.

According to NFL.com, the Bears play in the second-toughest division in the NFL.

2) NFC North: Vikings, Lions, Packers, Bears

This is no longer the Aaron Rodgers Invitational. The Vikings kept all the best parts of their NFC title game squad while upgrading at quarterback, defensive tackle and the No. 3 receiver spot. Matthew Stafford has the perfect combination of scheme continuity, weapons and a bolstered offensive line to enjoy a career season. Rodgers is due for another MVP campaign that reminds everyone he might be the most talented ever at his position, while the Bears finally look interesting again.

Chicago's anticipated revival is the key. I don't need to watch another six-minute montage prior to a Bears-Packers national television game calling it the sport's greatest rivalry before another 38-13 target-practice sesh for Rodgers. If the Bears' hype pans out, the NFC North has the highest ceiling of any division: Two true title contenders and two dreaded "teams no one wants to face."

The Bears don't want to just be a team that no one wants to face. They want to be contenders, and the NFC North will be the ultimate test for coach Matt Nagy and QB Mitch Trubisky on the path to contender status. 

Former coach Mike Ditka offered his opinion on the NFC North in a recent sit-down with NBC Sports.

"In the National Football League you have to look at your division, that's where it all starts," Ditka said. "You got Green Bay, you got Detroit, you got Minnesota, you got Chicago. Now Chicago has to understand they got to come out of the six games with Minnesota, Detroit and Green Bay with at least four wins. At least four. If you come out 5-1 or 6-0, fantastic, but that's going to determine how you play the rest of the league."

No one is expecting the Bears to finish 5-1 or 6-0 in the division this year. They only won five games, total, in 2017.

A more reasonable expectation for Chicago is a 4-2 finish in the North. If they can sweep the Lions while splitting with the Packers and Vikings, meaningful games with playoff implications will be in the cards for December.

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