The NFC North is one of the most, if not the most, prestigious division in all of the NFL. From the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears 13 and nine world championships putting them first and second respectively out of all 32 teams to the Minnesota Vikings four Super Bowl appearances in the space of 10 years and the Detroit Lions dominance of the sport in the 1950s. The division definitely packs a powerful historical punch, but let’s look at the current state of the NFC North and ask, does the division’s immediate and long term future hold the same success?
What Is the State of the NFC North in 2020?
As of right now, Green Bay appears to hold all the cards for this season, currently holding a two-game lead over the Bears, who have been in freefall this season. Green Bay’s inability to beat good teams, though, is bound to cost them in the post-season, and this will end up being a wasted season for the NFC North
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay’s future is all dependant on one simple question that we are unlikely to know the answer to for a good couple of years. Was trading up to take Jordan Love worth it? The thought process behind that decision seems simple, Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for a few years before taking the reins and going on to have a career which will see him inducted into the Hall Of Fame on the first ballot so the theory is that this sitting time could also help Love in the same way it helped Rodgers and whether it can or not will go on to determine the next decade for the Packers organization.
Whether or not Love is the guy won’t matter, however, if the Green Bay defense can’t improve over the next few seasons. Following the firing of Dom Capers, there was hope that the Packers would improve on that side of the ball. This has, however, not been the case, and this team still is way too reliant on the offense to make a truly sustained push and hand the keys off to Love in a good situation where he can thrive.
From the outside looking in, Chicago is in the biggest danger of falling off a cliff edge. In 2018, their offense was about to do just about enough to allow their high-powered defense to win them the game. At the start of this season, this appeared as if it would be the case again, but recent weeks have shattered that belief leading to the team losing four straight to fall to 5-5 when they were 5-1 just a month ago.
It is clear that until Chicago can fix their offense, which they won’t do until that offense finds a clear leader, they are doomed to wasting one of the best defenses the league has seen in years. Mitch Trubisky has proven he is not the captain the Bears offense needs, and Nick Foles is nothing more than a Band-Aid to cover the ax wound that is the Bears quarterback room.
Very few teams in the league have had a bigger identity shift than the Vikings. From what was one of the strongest defenses and an average offense carrying them to the NFC Championship game in 2017, their defense has since collapsed. While some of this can be attributed to injuries, it is undeniable that the Minnesota defense is anywhere near as good as a few years ago. This has forced the Vikings to become a team that relies much more on their offense, and to be more precise, Dalvin Cook, to keep them in games.
The 2017 Vikings however remain yet another member of the long line of teams that proved that, so long as your offense doesn’t fail you on a consistent basis, a strong defense can help you find some success. With an offense that shows signs of potential, should their defense return to their 2017 form, they could give teams around the league some sleepless nights.
This Lions team is better than recent records would suggest. However, they won’t become serious playoff contenders until one fundamental change is made. Despite being one of the greatest coaches of all time, Bill Belichick’s coaching tree is comprised of nothing but people who have failed or underperformed as head coaches. With his performance as the head coach of the Lions, Matt Patricia has added his name to this list.
Teams constantly overcome adversity, but the toughest to overcome is poor coaching, and up to this point, Detroit’s defense has done nothing but underperform since the arrival of the defensive-minded Patricia, and their offense is not quite strong enough to overcome this hurdle, and the only way they can become true contenders is to cut off the head of the snake and fire Matt Patricia.
True Future of the NFC North
In a division where all four teams are just a few pieces away from being at a minimum, a playoff contender, the future of the NFC North looks strong. This, however, is reliant on teams allowing themselves to be good. Something which is, of course, easier said than done.