The Green Bay Packers are 0-1, and APC's writers expect them to be a full game behind the rest of the division after this week is over.
On the eve of the first Sunday of the 2014 NFL season, we take a quick look at the games for the Packers' NFC North rivals to see what matchups may decide their games.
The Bears seek to knock off the Packers and win the NFC North for the first time since 2010, and they get to open with a home date against the Bills who finished last season at 6-10.
Facing a Bears defense that struggled to stop the run a year ago, the Bills will look to establish their strong ground game behind the running back trio of C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, and Bryce Brown. The Bears allowed over 2,500 yards and more than 5.3 yards per carry in 2013, the worst numbers in the league.
The Bears may need to try to do the same with Matt Forte, as the Bills also allowed more than 2,000 rushing yards last season. Buffalo's pass defense was much better, finishing second in the NFL in interceptions and fourth in passing yards allowed. Still, starting corners Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore will have their hands full with the tandem of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
Our pick: Bears
The Vikings get to open the 2014 season in a dome, but they'll be outside for their home games this year at the Golden Gophers' TCF Bank Stadium while the Vikings' new building is under construction.
The big matchup here will be the stellar Rams defensive line up against Adrian Peterson and an improving Vikings offensive front. With numerous first-round picks on the line and fearsome pass-rushers in Robert Quinn and Chris Long, Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel will likely have little time to throw unless he and Peterson get the play-action rolling reliably.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams are facing yet another season without Sam Bradford, who was lost for the year with a torn ACL in the preseason. Shaun Hill and company will likely rely on the running of second-year back Zac Stacy, though the Vikings' pass defense was 31st in the league a year ago. We don't see Hill being able to do enough to keep the offense balanced enough to win, though.
Our pick: Vikings
In the first of two Monday Night games on opening week, the Lions face a Giants team that got off to an abysmal 0-6 start last season before finishing 7-3 in the last ten games.
The Giants had numerous offensive issues a year ago, though, as Eli Manning led the league with 29 interceptions and the team as a whole was shut out twice (albeit by the elite defenses of the Panthers and Seahawks). In an effort to try to revive the offense, New York brought in former Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator, but results have been mixed through the preseason.
The Lions, on the other hand, have an entirely new coaching staff, led by new head coach Jim Caldwell. If he can bring some level of discipline to this talented team, the Lions could easily be a contender for a playoff spot at the end of the year. But to do that, they'll need to beat teams that they should, and a home game on prime time against a turnover-prone quarterback should count as a winnable game.
Our pick: Lions