Last time we began our journey in the NFC with a quick stay out west. Now we’re going to take a look at the NFC North division where rivalries are different here. The Packers vs the Bears have the league’s oldest rivalry. This season a new chapter in this historic battle will be written. Meanwhile the Lions have a new QB for the first time in over a decade. The Vikings have the same QB, but that might end up being a problem. Lots to talk about so let’s go ahead and jump into it.
Green Bay Packers
Much of the news surrounding the Packers this offseason had to do with disgruntled QB Aaron Rodgers. Frustrated with the franchise the QB requested a trade and threatened to sit out the season. In the end the two sides came to an agreement which looks likely that this will be Rodgers last year in Green Bay. Despite an uncertain future as long as the Packers have Rodgers they stand as the best team in this division. He’s arguably still the best offensive player in the division. The offense once again should be expected to be firing on all cylinders.
For years the defense was what kept the Packers away from the Super Bowl. That wasn’t the case last season as the defense took some positive strides. Now they weren’t an elite unit by any stretch of the imagination, but they ceased to be the major liability of season’s past. The secondary is much improved and could end up being one of the better units in the league. The Packers will hope to get some more pass rushing this season as it’s clear that they are all in on this season. The Super Bowl is clearly the major goal for this team. Especially since there’s no guarantee that Rodgers is on the team next season. At the very least expect this team to win the division for the third year in a row.
Not to be outdone by the Packers, the Vikings have experienced a bit of a headache with their own QB. Kirk Cousins has been in the headlines due to his refusal to get the Covid vaccine which puts his availability in any given week at risk. It’s caused a bit of a rift between the player and the franchise which is the last thing this team needed right before the season. Besides that, the Vikings offense does look geared up for a strong season statistically. Davin Cook and Justin Jefferson are the two biggest threats on the offense, but we mustn’t forget about Adam Thielen as well. If not for Rodgers this would easily be the best offense in the division.
The days of the Vikings boasting an elite defense are over and last year was a major setback. But there are still some pieces on this defense that could suggest a nice bounce back. Don’t expect them to reach their lofty heights of a few years ago, but being around a top 10 defense isn’t out of the question. Danielle Hunter and Sheldon Richardson should lead the defensive line eager to wreak havoc. On the back side Patrick Peterson was brought in to make their secondary more formidable. A division title isn’t out of the question for the Vikings especially if everything clicks. But the big worry would be the availability of Kirk Cousins as the season progresses. This gives this team a wide range of possible outcomes that aren’t all good. They could make the playoffs or suffer through a disappointing season.
To many fans of the Bears relief the era of Mitch Trubisky is finally over. The Bears decided to go in a new direction and drafted Justin Fields to be the new starting QB. While Chicago will likely take things slow with him, you should expect to see him start at some point this season. In the meantime, the starter will be Andy Dalton whose task will be to manage the offense until Fields is ready. David Montgomery and Allen Robinson will be the main two weapons that the Bears will rely on this season. The Bears traditionally aren’t particularly known for their offense and that trend looks like it will continue this season as well.
What the Bears are known for traditionally is having a dominant defense and even at times a great special teams’ unit. Chicago does have Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith so there’s potential to have great games. But just like the Vikings, it would appear the days of the Bears defense being elite are in the past. The pass defense was a major problem last season and while there should be some improvement in that area don’t expect a major change. That unfortunately limits the ceiling on how good this defense can be this season. It’s a transitional year for the Bears and thus any real expectations of a division title or playoff spot should be put on hold for the future. Instead, this season will mainly be about the development of Justin Fields.
The days of Matthew Stafford are over as the Lions traded their former QB to the Rams for Jared Goff. Goff will take over as the starting QB as he hopes a change of scenery will help kickstart his career. He teams up with new head coach Dan Campbell in an attempt to help rebuild this football team. The Lions drafted Penei Sewell, a left tackle, with their first pick who should anchor their offensive line for years to come. This should help opening up running room for D’Andre Swift who finished up his rookie season strong last year. Other than that, the Lions will mainly be relying on unproven talent offensively. Goff usually favors tight ends in the passing game which should mean TJ Hockenson has a big year statistically. With Stafford gone the offense will likely take a step back this season.
It doesn’t look much better on the defensive side of the ball as the Lions ranked near the bottom of the league last season. Detroit traded for Michael Brockers as well as signed free agent Quinton Dunbar to help with their defensive woes. But neither player is at a level that will significantly improve the defense. Opposing offenses generally scored with ease against Detroit last season and it will likely be more of the same this year. The Lions did spend a bit of draft capitol on defense so the goal should be their development. With a roster desperately needing an injection of talent, look for the Lions to be at the bottom come seasons end. Goff appears to be a stopgap for the QB position which means the Lions might draft one next season. As for this year Lion fans better buckle up for a long season.