NFC North Preview
After a long offseason, we are just under a week away from the start of the NFL season. In the NFC North, with Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, the Bears look to reverse their luck, the Vikings are healthy again and the Lions are hitting the reset button.
The Green Bay Packers took the NFC North crown for the second season in a row last year and are eyeing another title. However, can one of the other three unseat the cheeseheads at the top? Only time will tell, so let’s take a look.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers went 13-3 last year and once again they fell short in the NFC Championship game, this time to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 2020 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers is back after an offseason where he wanted to get out of Green Bay. The offense is once again led by Rodgers, Davante Adams and Aaron Jones. Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins headlines the offensive line, however, left tackle David Bakhtiari starts the season on the PUP list after tearing his ACL last year.
The defensive side of the ball is also unchanged with Kenny Clark, Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander leading the way. They also added cornerback Eric Stokes out of Georgia to the secondary, who should fit in well.
The schedule will be tough, but look for the Packers to win the division again.
Last year, the Bears were able to sneak into the playoffs, however, they were dismantled by the Saints in the Wild Card game, 21-9.
Matt Nagy enters his fourth year as head coach and his seat is the hottest it’s been. There is plenty of talent offensively led by Allen Robinson and David Montgomery, but the question remains at quarterback. Will it be the rookie Justin Fields or veteran Andy Dalton?
The Bears defense will look to return to 2018 form, as Sean Desai takes over as defensive coordinator. Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith still headline the unit, but the Bears lost All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller during the offseason, so Jaylon Johnson will have to make a big jump in his second year.
Andy Dalton will start week one, but Justin Fields was more impressive in the preseason. However, with a tough schedule, it will be another middle of the pack year for Chicago. But the future looks bright for the Monsters of the Midway.
Last season, the Vikings finished third in the NFC North where injuries plagued the entire team. Kirk Cousins will need to have another big year for Minnesota.
In 2020, Cousins threw for 35 touchdowns, his career-high in one season. The offense is filled with playmakers, led by Pro Bowlers Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson, along with Adam Thielen. However, the offensive line remains a concern, first-round pick Christian Darrisaw has dealt with injuries throughout the summer.
Defensively the Vikings added some more talent in free agency, signing veteran corner Patrick Peterson, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and welcomed back long-time Viking Everson Griffen. Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr, who missed the 2020 seasons due to injuries, aim to return to the field with the purple and gold and make an impact.
The Vikings face a tough road ahead, along with the injury bug hitting the team again, it might be another long year.
After the 2020 season, the Lions fired Matt Patricia after three seasons and hired Dan Campbell.
The Campbell era got off to a hot start when Campbell during his first press conference said “we’re going to bite a kneecap off” when talking about the identity of the team.
It was a tough offseason for the offense as star quarterback Matthew Stafford was traded to the Rams and in exchange came Jared Goff. Kenny Golladay also left during free agency and headed to the Giants, leaving tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back D’Andre Swift as the main weapons.
On the other side of the ball, the defense is another area for concern, specifically at cornerback. Second-year corner Jeff Okudah will need a big jump after a disappointing rookie year. The front seven, led by Michael Brockers, Trey Flowers and Jamie Collins Sr. could give opposing offensive lines fits.
While Campbell brings new aggression and looks to Detroit, it will be another rough year as the Lions might be biting more kneecaps than getting wins.
Matthew Scalzo is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org