It's been another exciting season in the NFL. At the beginning of each year, each team/fanbase has a slue of expectations for their team whether you're in the middle of a rebuild, seeing how rookie talent pans out or plotting for contention in the playoffs. Regardless of the team, expectations always change. Injuries, free agency and coaching changes all play a role in how a team re-evaluates their priorities, and there's never a shortage of any of those three in this league.
I don't think anyone in Chicago had as high of expectations as to what the season panned out to be. The Bears have not gone above .500 since 2012 when they finished 10-6 and haven't won the NFC North since 2011 when they went on to lose to the Packers in the NFC Championship game. Many Bears fans expected another .500 season, at best. That being said, the addition of Khalil Mack and Matt Nagy did wonders for the Bears. Selected to his fourth Pro Bowl this year, Mack was the head of a defense that lead the league in points allowed per game (17.7)
That being said, the offense kept the team from breaking through. I don't think the fanbase, or the team for that matter, expected Mitch Trubisky to top the league. But ranking 21st in pass yards and 21st in total yards really doesn't cut it. Hopefully following some offseason development, Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard, Mitch Trubisky, Allen Robinson and Tre Burton can continue to develop and continue their success into the 2019 season. Finding a new kicker might not be that bad of an idea either.
After a devastating loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Conference Championship in the 2017-18 season, the Minnesota Vikings looked to improve from there and eventually make it either back to the Conference Championships or even further. What no one expected, however, was for the Vikings to completely miss the playoffs.
Much has been said about the Vikings' new quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Washington Redskins let Cousins walk out the door when his free agency arrived, opting instead to acquire the former Kansas City Chief Alex Smith in a trade. Including this season, Cousins has never had more than 9 wins in a season and has only made the playoffs twice. The Vikings signed Cousins to a three-year, $84 million guaranteed contract which drew some questionable looks from fans, to say the least.
That's not to say that the entire blame falls on Cousins' shoulders for the Vikings' shortcomings. The offensive coaching staff had misused their star players for the better part of this season and many of those same players battled injuries on and off. The defensive didn't dominate in the same way that it had in years past, yet remained within the top 10 in most defensive categories. With a new offensive coordinator and a year of experience under their belt, it'll be interesting to see how the Vikings can move forward.
The last two years have been both frustrating and unfortunate for the Green Bay Packers. In the 2017-2018 season, Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in Week 6 against the Vikings (which eventually lead to the revision of the Roughing the Passer rule) and the Packers ended their season 7-9 with a respectable performance from DeShone Kizer. Rodgers returns in the 2018 season opener against the Bears and experienced what many thought was a season-ending knee injury only to come back and win the game.
The Packers only continued to struggle from there. Lot of it could be tacked up to injury, as Rodgers was having to work without both Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb. Davante Adams had another stellar season, but the Packers missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Many Packers fans were quick to blame their woes on Head Coach Mike McCarthy, despite leading the Packers to a Super Bowl victory in 2010 and a 125-77 record over a 13 year span. The Packers fired McCarthy after Week 13 and the Packers finished their season 6-9-1. With an expected healthy roster heading into 2019 and a new head coach, the pressure is on Rodgers to perform and prove to Packers fans he still has what it takes to lead their team.
I can't remember the last time the Lions were competitors in the NFC, let alone for the entire NFL. This year was seemingly no different. Finishing the year 6-10, the Lions ended up dead last in the NFC North and never really proved at any point that they were ready to take the next step.
I wouldn't call this year a "sell" for the Lions, but they have definitely been reevaluating the personnel on the field. Kenny Golladay had an exceptional year, leading the team in receiving with career-highs in yards, touchdowns, and receptions. The Lions trading Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles for a third round pick was somewhat in response to contract situations (Tate was surrounded by a young up-and-comer and a contract with two years remaining) but could also be seen as the Lions trimming all non-essential personnel in preparation for a rebuild.
The Lions have been one of those teams that have teetered between competing and tanking but haven't really been successful at doing either. In the Matt Stafford era alone, the Lions have only made the playoffs three times and have lost in the Wild Card round each time. As a bottom-half team in the league, it'll be interesting to see if the Lions will ever fully commit to a sellers mentality or simply ride within this gray zone of mediocrity.