In the second installment of a two-part series, Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar arranged a hypothetical defensive unit for a "five-year dynasty" team. Farrar wrote:
If you wanted to build a team from the league's current talent pool that would win the most games over the next five seasons, which players would you choose? Which players are both established enough to show great potential and young enough to be relied upon to produce over the next half-decade?
Farrar lined up Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr in the 4-3 defense alongside Oakland's Khalil Mack and Carolina's Luke Kuechly.
Like Mack, Barr can play credibly at both the linebacker and pass-rusher positions, and though his sack totals haven't yet approached Mack's, he may possess the more complete overall game over time.
The defensive linemen selected were Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon, Rams defensive tackle Aaron McDonald and Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short.
Aside from Barr, the only other NFC North player to make Farrar's dynasty roster was Lions cornerback Darius Slay, who was slated with Seattle's Richard Sherman and Denver's Chris Harris. Farrar selected Arizona's Tyrann Mathieu and Seattle's Earl Thomas at safety.
ESPN NFC North reporters unanimously project Vikings to playoffs
Approaching the 2016 season, ESPN's four NFC North beat writers have collaborated on a number of Q & A roundtable discussions. Most recently, the group unanimously predicted that both the Vikings and the Packers will make the 2016 playoffs.
Lions reporter Michael Rothstein said the Vikings are the best team in the division. He wrote:
*The Vikings' defense should be the best in the division. Minnesota has the best running back in the league and a potential star in Bridgewater. The makeup of the Vikings is strong, and as long as [Adrian] Peterson continues to play at a level close to what he's reached in the past, the Vikings have a good shot of going back-to-back in the division. Two teams will make the playoffs from the NFC North: the Vikings and Packers. It will come down to the final two weeks of the season to decide which team wins the division and which ends up on the road in the first round. *
Ben Goessling predicted that the division will once again "come down to a battle" between the border rivals.
I see both teams going north of 10 wins to reach the playoffs. It could be one of the two high-profile matchups between the teams – the Week 2 Sunday night tilt to open U.S. Bank Stadium or the Christmas Eve matchup at Lambeau Field – that tips the division.