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Packers, Vikings hold substantial edge in NFC North

Ryan Sharp (@RealRyanSharp)

July 29, 2020

Green Bay Packers


2019 Record: 13-3, 1st NFC North

Playoffs: No. 2 Seed — Lost to 49ers NFC Championship

2020 Projected Record: 11-5, 1st NFC North

Playoff Projection: NFC 4 Seed


The Packers won nine games by one score or less in 2019, including four against the Lions and Bears, who combined for 11 wins. Only two of those wins came against playoff teams — one against Minnesota in Week 2, and their divisional round win over Seattle.


Matt Lafleur’s offense did not pair well with Aaron Rodgers, which should have been apparent following the departure of Mike McCarthy.


Prior to joining the Packers, Lafleur spent one season as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee. The Titans finished 27th in total offense with a run-heavy scheme.


Davante Adams was Green Bay’s best receiver in 2019, though he had a middle-of-the-road season, considering Aaaron Rodgers was his quarterback. His 83 catches ranked 18th in the NFL, along with 997 yards (30th) and five touchdowns (47th).

The offense was anchored by Aaron Jones, who ran for 1,084 yards, and a league-leading 16 touchdowns, tied with Derrick Henry.


NFL SCHEDULE


It seemed clear that the Packers should have addressed their need at receiver this offseason, but instead passed on one in free agency, and then used their top two draft picks on QB Jordan Love and RB A.J. Dillon.


Just to be clear — that is a backup quarterback and a supplemental (at best) running back.


With the poor scheme and lack of support, it is hard to tell whether or not Rodgers is regressing.


However, he is still good enough to keep the Packers in games by himself. Paired with a fairly easy schedule, this gives the Packers the edge in the NFC North for 2020.


Minnesota Vikings:


2019 Record: 10-6, 2nd NFC North

Playoffs: No. 6 Seed, Lost to 49ers in Divisional Round

2020 Projected Record: 10-6, 2nd NFC North

Playoff Projection: NFC 6 Seed


Realistically, the Vikings are good enough to win the division.


The departure of Pro-Bowl receiver Stefon Diggs certainly does not help, the addition of Justin Jefferson provides a tremendous offset.


NFL SCORES


The greater cause for concern should be the departure of offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who is now the head coach in Cleveland. Gary Kubiak is not exactly an equal-caliber replacement.


That being said, barring a holdout from Dalvin Cook that runs deep into the season, I don’t anticipate the offense falling apart without Diggs or Stefanski. Don’t forget about Adam Thielen either.


The biggest reason I gave Green Bay the edge in the NFC North is Aaron Rodgers, but the division will likely be decided by one or two games, so don’t be surprised if Minnesota emerges on top.


Chicago Bears:


2019 Record: 8-8, 3rd NFC North

Playoffs: None

2020 Projected Record: 4-12


Remember 2018, when Matt Nagy looked like a genius for making Mitchell Trubisky look like a good quarterback?


Nagy took a huge step back in 2019, and Trubisky couldn’t hit water from a boat.


The Bears finished fourth in team defense, but that barely enough to push them to a .500 record.


Chicago needs a bounce-back year from Khalil Mack, who was the reason it didn’t have a first round pick (again) in this year’s draft, or won’t (again) next year. Mack wasn’t awful in 2019, putting up 8.5 sacks, but yielded nowhere near the production that would make him worth three first-round picks.


Unfortunately, I don’t think the Bears defense will be enough to carry them very far. The offensive woes are just too much.


I’m not sure if Trubisky or Nagy are more to blame for last season. I’m certainly more surprised by Nagy’s regression.


General Manager Ryan Pace thought trading for Nick Foles, and a salary bigger than his male appendage, was the right thing to do to motivate Trubisky into playing well.


While Foles has cemented his role as one of the best backup QBs in the NFL, he is nothing more than that. If the Bears expect Foles to return them to their 2018 status, they are in for a disappointment.


Detroit Lions:


2019 Record: 3-12-1, 4th NFC North

Playoffs: None

2020 Projected Record: 2-14, 4th NFC North


Let me start this one by saying I feel bad for Matt Stafford. The guy is going to retire with Hall of Fame stats, but will probably never see Canton.


He’s just unlucky.


The Lions have been searching for a weapon since they drove Calvin Johnson into retirement, and seem to finally have one in Kenny Golladay, who I would call a top ten receiver. Now imagine what things could look like if Detroit didn’t take like 47 tight ends in the first round.


D’Andre Swift is a welcome addition to the offense, and 

first-round pick Jeff Okudah will almost certainly bolster the defense.


The problem is that all of them are coached by Matt Patricia.


The Lions played in 11 one-score games last year, and went 3-8-1 in those games.


More often than not, play calling and game planning are what gives teams the advantage on close games, and Patricia has yet to figure that out.


Detroit did not have an easy schedule last season (nine games against teams .500 or better), but the 2020 schedule is far harder.


While the roster may have improved, it did not do so enough to have a successful 2020 campaign, especially with Patricia in charge.


Expect something similar to 2019 — a lot of close games, but none of them going Detroit’s way.


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