Tyler Julson: NFC North prediction — Pack wins, Vikings take wild card

Published 10:09 pm Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Notes from the Sports Desk by Tyler Julson


Now that I’m over one year into my position at the Tribune, I thought it was time I start regularly writing a column and sharing my incredibly bad and biased sports takes with all of you instead of just keeping them to myself.

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The Albert Lea Lakers and American Legion Post 56 baseball teams will soon be starting their postseason play. The Lakers have taken the Pioneer League by storm during their second season of existence. As of now, the Lakers have an incredible record of 26-4 and with the postseason approaching, I expect their level of play to get even better.

Head coach Michael Keeran put together an astounding roster of talent in preparation for the year and hopefully he will be back to have another go at the success this year’s team has already seen.

The American Legion Post 56 team is also in the middle of its sub-state tournament after a successful regular season. Albert Lea finished the season at 8-4 after a rough patch of games just before the playoffs. The team still managed to get a four seed and will host the sub-state tournament throughout this week.

If you have the time, be sure to stop out and watch both teams in action at their next home games. It won’t be long before we’re stuck with the cold weather again and wishing we could enjoy the outdoors.

At the professional level, the Twins are doing almost exactly what I was expecting, but the opposite of what I was hoping. About two weeks before the All-Star break I saw the Twins had a fairly easy schedule, while the Indians had a tough set of games. I predicted the Twins would be within four games in the American League Central Division by the time the break rolled around and, although they didn’t quite get to four, they cut the Indians lead in half and had us fans excited for the second half of the season.

Unfortunately, we’ve been brought back down to earth after getting swept by the Royals to open the second half. Unless the return of Ervin Santana can turn things around, it seems like it’s going to be the same old same and the Twins will finish the season like they normally do.

Speaking of doings things like they normally do, how about Tiger’s performance at The Open last weekend? I was so absorbed into watching Tiger Woods climb the leaderboard on Sunday, I think my house could have started on fire and I still wouldn’t have left my chair. I love to watch golf regardless, but if Tiger is in contention, my schedule is cleared.

Leading up to the start of the NFL season, I plan on writing a small breakdown of each division and giving my predictions for the season, ultimately giving you my complete 2018 season prediction before the season starts.

This week I was torn between starting with the NFC North — because we’re in Vikings territory, or the AFC West — the division of the Chiefs (my favorite team). After a little internal deliberation, I decided on the NFC North.

I think it’s obvious at this point; this division is a two-horse race. The Vikings and the Packers are going to compete at the top, the Lions will dwell somewhere around .500 and the Bears will still be looking to find their identity with second-year starter Mitch Trubisky.

Minnesota opens its schedule with a gauntlet of stellar opponents, including a home game against the 49ers and away games against the Eagles, Packers and Rams. I predict a rough start for the Vikings — maybe going 2-4 or even 1-5, but they’ll use a second-half run for the ages to finish strong and grab a playoff spot.

Believe me, I’m not ripping the Vikings just because they’re the Vikings. I know people like that and it drives me up a wall. Last year was not a fluke; the Vikings are going to be a very good team again this year. However, there’s a guy in Green Bay that no one should ever bet against.

The Packers, with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, are going to be a force no matter what they put on the field for defense. As long as Rodgers is at the helm, the Packers win the division this year, but in a very close race.

There’s not much to say about the Lions and the Bears. I think Matt Stafford is an underrated quarterback, but he doesn’t have the skill positions around him to do anything special. I like the move on bringing Matt Patricia in as head coach, but his success remains to be seen.

As for the Bears, I think they’re just going to be a “meh” team again this year. They might upset a team or two, but they have no real shot at making any runs. Trubisky is not going to be this team’s saving grace.

In the end, I predict it comes down to a one-game difference between the Vikings and the Packers, with the Packers edging the Vikings out. However, the Vikings will still grab the fifth wild card spot.


NFC North final predictions

1. Packers 12-4 (No. 3 seed in NFC)

2. Vikings 11-5 (No. 5 seed in NFC as Wildcard)

3. Lions 7-9

4. Bears 3-13

Tyler Julson is the Tribune sports reporter. Contact him at tyler.julson@albertleatribune.com.

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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