Aaron Rodgers forcing his way out of Green Bay will have a large ripple effect on the NFC North. There is a chance that Rodgers’ departure will cause a shift in the balance of power in the NFC as a whole. But when it comes to which team can wrestle the division title away from the Minnesota Vikings, there is still a lot to be determined.
Detroit has been building back toward respectability over Dan Campbell, who has made waves for his enthusiasm as coach. Green Bay isn’t to be discounted despite breaking in a new quarterback. Chicago is also a mystery, and its success will be determined by how well Justin Fields can improve at quarterback.
Detroit Aims For Team History
The Lions have long been one of the most sad-sack organizations in the NFC North. Detroit hasn’t won the division since the NFL realigned the league in the early 2000s. The Lions last won a division title when they captured the NFC Central championship in 1993.
What Detroit did this offseason after finishing 9-8 last season was work on rebuilding its secondary. The Lions brought in cornerback Cam Sutton from Pittsburgh and Emmanuel Moseley from San Francisco. Detroit also signed safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. What the Lions did in the draft was a little more controversial.
Detroit traded veteran running back D’Andre Swift during the draft. The Lions used their first choice on Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs, which some observers felt was a risk. Detroit also added a pair of players from Iowa, linebacker Jack Campbell and tight end Sam LaPorta. The Lions received a strong first season from Aidan Hutchinson last season, recording 9.5 sacks and three interceptions for Detroit last season.
Ready for Love
The Green Bay Packers will be in a transition year. With Rodgers gone and trying to turn around the New York Jets, Green Bay’s fanbase will pin their collective hopes on Jordan Love. Love, who is 24, has only started one game in his first two seasons.
Judging Love based on those performances is difficult. As a professional, Love has only thrown 83 passes. Love didn’t add much in free agency to help Green Bay out. The Packers do have several strong veteran running backs who can help take the pressure off Love. AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones are both capable ball carriers who are consistent. Green Bay is hoping that wide receiver Christian Watson will take a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2.
The Packers actually focused more on the defensive side of the ball. Green Bay brought in safeties Tarvarius Moore and Jonathan Owens to help the backend of the defense. The Packers also added an edge rusher in the first round by drafting Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness.
The Packers did add some weapons in the passing game during the draft. Green Bay took two tight ends and a wide receiver in the first three rounds. The Packers will be without a superstar quarterback for the first time since the early 1990s this season. How Green Bay transitions will say a lot about which direction the franchise goes in the future and whether or not they can challenge for the NFC North crown.
Kirk Cousins Wants to Earn His Way
The Vikings had a disappointing end to a wild season last year. In Kevin O’Connell’s first year as head coach, Minnesota went 13-4 and cruised to the NFC North title. The Vikings were quickly bounced from the playoffs by the New York Giants.
There is some thought that encouragement will be difficult for Minnesota. The Vikings won 11 one-score games last season and played in a weak division. Minnesota was able to land a big-time prospect at wide receiver in the first round of the draft, drafting Jordan Addison. Addison, however, has already found himself in hot water, getting in trouble for driving 140 miles per hour in his car.
But, ultimately, Minnesota’s offense will come down to how consistent quarterback Kirk Cousins can be under center. Cousins has a 46-33-1 record as a starter and has struggled in big moments. In the playoffs, Cousins has a 1-3 record. In last season’s loss to the Giants, Cousins completed 79.5 percent of his passes and threw two touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough.
The Vikings were able to add some more people to help out on defense. Minnesota drafted two cornerbacks in the third and fourth rounds. The Vikings are hoping that will make them more consistent on defense. Minnesota also brought in a cornerback in free agency.
Chicago Attempts to Buy Improvement
The Bears had more cap space than any other NFL team entering free agency. Chicago signed linebacker Tremaine Edmunds from the Buffalo Bills. The Bears also brought in former Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards.
But what will make a major difference for the Bears is how quarterback Justin Fields does in Year 2 under coach Matt Eberflus. Fields was able to flex his multi-talented muscles more last season. Fields scored eight rushing touchdowns and ran for 1,143 yards. He also passed for 2,242 yards. Chicago will likely want to see his rushing attempts go down but still utilize that as a threat.
The Bears added some to help keep Fields upright early in the draft. Chicago picked tackle Darnell Wright out of Tennessee to lead off the draft. People are really excited to see Wright play for the Bears. He is a physical player who should be a cornerstone for the franchise whether Fields makes it or not.
In addition, the Bears will look to replace running back David Montgomery. Chicago brought in running back D’Onta Foreman in free agency. The Bears haven’t had a winning season since they went 12-4 in 2018. Chicago did make the playoffs in 2020 but finished with an 8-8 record.