Toughest, easiest four-game stretches in the NFC North in 2024

Yardbarker

With the NFL’s 2024 schedule released, here are the toughest (and easiest) four-game stretches for each team in the NFC North.

Chicago Bears

TOUGHEST – Weeks 13 to 16: at Lions, at 49ers, at Vikings, vs. Lions 

Following an eventful offseason, including the addition of No. 1 pick Caleb Williams, the franchise’s new face, expectations are high for the Bears. However, to meet them, they’ll have to find a way to thrive over tough stretches of their 2024 schedule. They have a brutal backend that includes six games against divisional opponents over the season’s final eight weeks. 

One such stretch begins and ends against the reigning NFC North champion Detroit Lions, with road contests against the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers and rival Minnesota Vikings sandwiched between. If the Bears believe they’re for real, finding a way to survive three games against two of the favorites to win the NFC while not overlooking the Vikings, whom they’ve lost six of their last eight games against, is a must. 

EASIEST – Weeks 5 to 9: vs. Panthers, vs. Jaguars (London), at Commanders, at Cardinals 

Only the Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8) had a winning record among the teams Chicago will face from Weeks 5 to 9, and even they enter the 2024 season on shaky ground. Meanwhile, their remaining three opponents, the Carolina Panthers, Washington Commanders and Arizona Cardinals, went a combined 10-41 last year. 

With their bye week (Week 7) mixed in, the Bears must take advantage of this area of the schedule if they hope to be in the division hunt late in the season. In what’s bound to be a highly contested NFC North, Chicago needs to secure as many wins as possible outside the division, especially early. 

Detroit Lions 

TOUGHEST Weeks 14 to 17: vs. Packers, vs. Bills, at Bears, at 49ers 

Should the Lions accomplish the unthinkable and repeat as NFC North division champions, they’ll have to come up with wins against several tough opponents down the stretch. 

Last season, the Lions made an improbable run, nearly landing them in the Super Bowl. With expectations in 2024 sky-high, Detroit won’t sneak up on anyone, so repeating last year’s feats or adding to them won’t be easy. There will be tests earlier in the season. Still, the Lions’ season might ultimately depend on how they fare against division foes, in the budding Green Bay Packers and revitalized Bears, and proven contenders the Buffalo Bills and 49ers. 

EASIEST – Weeks 1 to 4: vs. Rams, vs. Buccaneers, at Cardinals, vs. Seahawks

While many would argue that it’s not how you start but how you finish that matters most, in the NFL, a poor start to the season usually spells doom for any team, no matter how talented. The Lions’ first four games aren’t necessarily easy, but it might be the least stressful stretch of their schedule. 

Aside from the Cardinals (4-13), who played over half of 2023 without quarterback Kyler Murray, the Los Angeles Rams (10-7), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-8) and Seattle Seahawks (9-8) all finished over .500 last season. Considering the road ahead for Detroit, all four are winnable, especially with three coming at home. After Week 4, eight of their remaining games are against teams that finished with a winning record, including four division winners in the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Bills and the defending NFC champion 49ers.

Green Bay Packers

TOUGHEST – Weeks 11 to 14: at Bears, vs. 49ers, vs. Dolphins, at Lions 

Last season, the Packers started 3-6 before winning six of their final eight games ahead of a remarkable playoff run. The turnaround began in Week 11, with the Packers earning several tough victories against challenging opponents down the stretch, which they’ll likely have to do again in 2024. 

After finishing 17th in the NFL in yards against in 2023, a revamped Packers defense highlighted by offseason acquisition safety Xavier McKinney will face potentially their stiffest test from Week 11 through Week 14. First, they’ll travel to Soldier Field to take on the rival Bears, who might be hitting their stride by that time behind No. 1 pick Caleb Williams and a host of offensive weapons. Meanwhile, after that, they’ll face the top-three-yard producers in the NFL from a year ago in the 49ers (second), Miami Dolphins (first) and Lions (third). 

EASIEST – Weeks 2 to 5: vs. Colts, at Titans, vs. Vikings, at Rams

If the Packers are to meet expectations in 2024, they’ll need to avoid a repeat of last year’s slow start. They’ll have an opportunity to do so after opening the season against the Philadelphia Eagles in Sao Paulo, Brazil. 

Over the next four weeks, they’ll face three teams — the Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans and Vikings — that missed the postseason in 2023. Meanwhile, each team will likely start a rookie or second-year quarterback. Then, Green Bay has a tough matchup in L.A., but the Aaron Donald-less Rams, who ranked 19th in defense last year, could be vulnerable.

Minnesota Vikings

TOUGHEST – Weeks 2 to 5: vs. 49ers, vs. Texans, at Packers, vs. Jets (London) 

Last season, the Vikings’ slow start cost them late in the season after the team’s now-former quarterback Kirk Cousins suffered a season-ending injury. In what’s likely to be a highly competitive NFC North division, they can ill afford a poor start, but avoiding it will be an uphill climb.

After opening the 2024 campaign on the road against the New York Giants, the Vikings will face three straight playoff teams in a row, including the Super Bowl runner-up 49ers, the upstart Texans and the Packers. Then, they’ll hop the pond to take on the New York Jets and presumably former MVP QB Aaron Rodgers in London. 

It’s far from an easy stretch, and with rookie signal-caller J.J. McCarthy likely leading the charge, the Vikings could be in store for another rough beginning. 

EASIEST – Weeks 13 to 16: vs. Cardinals, vs. Falcons, vs. Bears, at Seahawks 

There are no easy stretches for a team that finished 7-10 a year ago. However, following a midseason streak of four road games in five weeks (Week 8 through Week 12), a possibly bright spot opens up for the Vikings.

From Week 13 to Week 16, Minnesota will match up against the Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Bears and Seahawks, who combined to go 27-41 in 2023. Meanwhile, three of those games will come within the friendly confines of U.S. Bank Stadium. If the Vikings are still in the playoff picture, this could be an opportunity to capitalize on. 

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