Every NFL season there are teams that surprise and come out of nowhere with very little to having no contender expectations. I discuss three teams in the NFC that I believe can make some noise and get into the playoffs that did not last season.
Detroit Lions: (9-8 last season)
The first team is the Detroit Lions out of the NFC North.The Lions finished last season very strong winning five out of their last six games including stunning the Packers, in what ended up being Aaron Rodgers last game as a Green Bay Packer. The Lions also lost four games by four points or less last season, so if a few more of those games were wins instead of a close loss they would have been a playoff team last season. Dan Campbell will be entering his third year as Head Coach and it seems like his culture and coaching is starting to take shape as the Lions started last season 1-6 but had a mid-season turnaround finishing with a 9-8 record.
The Lions have made a large number of additions to their team and roster that I believe have improved their team. On defense they have overhauled their secondary by bringing in free agents Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, and CJ Gardner-Johnson. They also drafted Linebacker Jack Campbell out of Iowa and Defensive Back Brian Branch out of Alabama that should improve a defense anchored by second year defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. On offense, even though they lost Jamaal Williams to the Saints, and traded Deandre Swift to the Eagles, they signed David Montgomery from the Bears and drafted Jahmyr Gibbs out of Alabama.
They clearly love Gibbs as they drafted him number twelve and then traded Swift to make room for Gibbs. They have a very talented wide receiver room with Amon Ra St. Brown, Marvin Jones, Jameson Williams (when he returns from suspension), Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond. In addition to those wide receivers they drafted a very talented tight end in Sam LaPorta out of Iowa. When you look at their roster and the winning this team started to build on from last season, there is a very realistic chance that they win the NFC North and make the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season.
Current betting odds (Betfred)
To win the division: +110
To win the Superbowl +2000
New Orleans Saints: (7-10 last season)
The second team is the New Orleans Saints out of the NFC South. The Saints finished last season winning three out of the last four. The Saints lost four games by four points or less last season, winning one or two of those games could have made them a playoff team last season. They ranked fourth in games missed due to injuries with 268 in 2022, if they keep their roster healthy this year they should be much improved. Dennis Allen will be entering his second year as Head Coach after taking over for Sean Payton. It’s still early in his tenure to tell if he is the man for the job, as he dealt with a plethora of injuries and inconsistent quarterback play which led to them acquiring Derek Carr. Some may scoff at Derek Carr being an upgrade at the position because of his last season with the Raiders but Carr has shown he can take a team to the playoffs.
Some other key additions to their team that I believe have improved their roster are running backs Jamaal Williams and rookie Kendre Miller joining Alvin Kamara in the backfield.Wide Receiver Bryan Edwards will be joining the wide receiver room that has Chris Olave, TreQuan Smith and a possibly healthy Michael Thomas. They have a very talented defense led by Linebacker Damario Davis and defensive lineman Cam Jordan. Their secondary has two very good safeties in Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye then a number one corner in Marshon Lattimore. One last factor that could work in their favor is that the NFC South seems like it will be down this season so they have a very realistic chance of winning the division and making the playoffs..
Current Betting odds: (Betfred)
To win the division: +110
To win the Superbowl: +3500
Green Bay Packers: (8-9 last season)
The third team is the Green Bay Packers also out of the NFC North. The Packers finished last season winning five out of the last six games with their only loss being to the very hot Detroit Lions. They also lost four games by one score or less, they were in many games that could have gone the other way for them. Matt Lafleur will be entering his fifth season as the Packer Head Coach and he has been pretty successful as he has a 47-19 regular season record. I know everyone is thinking well they lost Aaron Rodgers there is no way they will be better than they were last year. Rodgers is an all time great, no doubt about that but he did not have an Aaron Rodgers type season last year. The Packers feel confident in their new starting quarterback Jordan Love and although he has not played much, he has shown some flashes when he has played, notably against the Philadelphia Eagles who had a pretty strong defense last year.
The Packers wide receiver room is young but very talented, Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs have shown potential and will only get better as they are entering only their second year in the NFL. Wide receiver Jayden Reed, tight ends Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft were also added to the offense as they were drafted by the Packers in the 2023 NFL draft. The running back room is very solid with veterans Aaron Jones and AJ Dillion and the offensive line is secure with 6-7 players who can start. The Packer defense has talent from the front seven to the back end secondary, returning players to a solid defense include Kenny Clark, TJ Slaton and second year player Devonte Wyatt, Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, De’Vondre Campbell, Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, and Darnell Savage. The talent is in place for this team, it will come down to how well Jordan Love plays.
Current Betting Odds: (Betfred)
To win the Division: +500
To win the Superbowl +4000