The NFC North has undergone major upheaval after both Green Bay and Detroit made the playoffs last season. Minnesota currently leads with the Packers and Lions struggling and the Bears rebuilding. So who can win the division?
by Remy Cabache
The Vikings entered the season viewed as a dark horse to make the playoffs, but they came out of the gate a little soft. In addition, the Packers jumped out to a 7-0 record and seemed to have this division wrapped up. But 3 consecutive losses for the Packers and a 5 game win streak for the Vikings have left the Vikings alone in first place of the NFC North. On offense, Teddy Bridgewater is doing enough. He should’ve had an extra touchdown pass on Sunday if not for drop in the end zone by Kyle Rudolph. Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson have not met their expectations, so the emergence of Stefon Diggs is huge. Furthermore, they just so happen to have one Adrian Peterson; not only that, but he’s playing well too. In Peterson they have a big play threat as well as a key ingredient to playoff success. The other key ingredient to playoff success is a good defense, and yes, Minnesota have that too. The Vikes have been able to shut down opposing offenses, which isn’t a great omen for a struggling Packers offense. Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Linval Joseph anchor this defense and they have played very well. This team is built for a playoff run and are getting hot at the right time. Though they haven’t blown any teams away, they’ve been winning games, and ultimately that’s what matters.
Green Bay Packers
by Tom Parry-Jones
Perennial challengers for the Super Bowl, the Green Bay Packers are under a bit of pressure right now. After winning their first six games, they came back from their bye week and lost to the similarly undefeated Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, before an unthinkable defeat to the worst team in football, the Detroit Lions. But instead of focusing on the negatives from those games, it’s worth remembering that the Packers still have one of the best teams in football – only last season they came within a Brandon Bostick screw-up of going to the Super Bowl. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, despite recent inconsistencies, is very close to supplanting a certain QB who wore #4 as the Packers’ GOAT, and despite the loss of WR Jordy Nelson to an ACL injury early in the season, Rodgers still has guys like Randall Cobb and James Jones to throw to, and TE Andrew Quarless is scheduled to return on Thanksgiving Day against the Chicago Bears. It’s not like the Packers are weak on defense either. OLBs Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews are among the league’s elite defenders, despite Matthews having been played in the middle on a regular basis since the second half of last season, while the same could probably be said for the depth of talent in the Green Bay secondary with the likes of Sam Shields, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Micah Hyde, Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward – and that’s without even mentioning 337 pounds worth of nose tackle B.J. Raji up front. The Packers’ game against the Lions on Sunday was just the first of five divisional games scheduled for the second half of the season. All of these will be crucial to whether they win the NFC North, particularly the matchups against the current division leaders, the Minnesota Vikings, in Weeks 11 and 17.
by Edd Hodsdon
Jay Cutler has played well this season. Alshon Jeffery is healthy, Marquess Wilson has emerged as a legitimate target, and tight end Zach Miller is making big plays. Once Eddie Royal returns from injury, the offense should get even better under offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Rookie Jeremy Langford has emerged as a strong replacement for Matt Forte. When Forte has been available, he has played well in a contract year, but Langford could very well be Chicago’s back of the future. The defense has coped fairly well in a transitional year, keeping the Bears competitive almost every week. Chicago’s defense stepped up against the Rams and helped win the game. Pernell McPhee has been a great pickup, giving the Bears a disruptive pass rusher. Chicago’s remaining schedule is up and down. They host the Broncos, then visit the Packers, hosting San Francisco and Washington before travelling to Minnesota, Tampa Bay and finishing by hosting Detroit. Several of those games are winnable, and Denver and Green Bay are struggling at the moment, and the Bears almost beat the Vikings earlier in the season. The Bears have a lot of room for improvement, but with the NFC North becoming increasingly wide open, they have a chance to make a surprise run at the division title.
by Charlie Anderson
Oh Lions, you seemed so hopeful in the off-season, making big moves, AND LETTING YOUR BEST PLAYER BY A CONTINENT LEAVE THROUGH FREE AGENCY. Great work guys, you did your best. The Lions are basically the Browns of the NFC when you think about it: they fire more coaches than they draft players, they had one of the best Wide Receivers in the NFL playing for them in their prime, and they mess it all up by just being absolutely rubbish. Now there is a limited amount of hope on the horizon for the Lions: they beat the Packers for the first time since 1991, and since he got benched, Matthew Stafford is playing alright; however they’re going to have to win out from now on, and with Oakland, Green Bay and New Orleans on the remaining schedule, they’re probably screwed. Don’t worry Lions, you’ll get ‘em next year.