Latest NFC North Preview

Who will win the NFC North?

By: Andy Davies

The NFC North is a division with tremendous history. The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears are two of the three oldest franchises in NFL history, with the Detroit Lions not far behind. We have seen the Packers and Bears lift a Super Bowl but the Minnesota Vikings have failed to win a Super Bowl and the Lions have yet to even make the big game.

The division has been predominately the Packers’ in recent years, winning 7 of the last 10 division titles. Can anyone dethrone Green Bay this season?

Here is a preview of the NFC North

Chicago Bears (2020 Record: 8-8. Lost in Wildcard Round)

The Bears fans have reason for optimism and are going to the season with plenty of excitement. However, there is also distaste from the fanbase as to who is their starting quarterback is in week one. Andy Dalton will start against the Rams as first-round pick Justin Fields is made to wait, despite his impressive preseason. He was taken eleventh overall in the draft, with Chicago trading up to select him. Perhaps head coach Matt Nagy is wary of not putting a rookie QB up against the excellent Rams defense on their debut. Maybe he is honouring the tweet the Bears made that Dalton was QB1, a tweet made before they drafted Fields. 

Offensive lineman Tevin Jenkins was taken in the second-round in the team’s best attempt to protect their quarterback. Wide receiver Allen Robinson was franchise tagged this offseason, which keeps him there for one more year. Darnell Mooney will want to build on an impressive rookie season. Alongside Free Agency signing Marquise Goodwin, there is a quietly good receiver room in Chicago. 

Defensively, Khalil Mack’s numbers have declined since his career year in 2018 but the linebacker is still a threat. Along with defensive end Akheim Hicks, these are two defensive studs at the Bears’ disposal. There is not just Mack and Hicks. Safety Eddie Jackson as well as linebackers Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn are three great options for the Bears on the defensive side of the ball. 

Can the Bears get back to the playoffs? This is something many felt the team didn’t deserve last year despite starting the 2020 season 5-1. A schedule featuring the Rams, Cleveland Browns, Packers twice, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Seattle Seahawks is a tough ask for anyone and this is likely to be nine losses. This would mean they would have to win all the other games just to end the season 8-9. Fields has the chance to come in mid-season and make a difference. However, this may be late not only for the Bears’ season but also for Nagy’s job.

Prediction: 2nd in NFC North.

Detroit Lions (2020 Record: 5-11. Missed out on playoffs)

When Jared Goff is your biggest headline offseason addition, there is something wrong. There has been something wrong for many years in Detroit. Only the Cincinnati Bengals have waited longer for a playoff win than the Lions. 

Goff was the first overall pick for the Rams in 2016 but with the exception of the 2018 season that saw them reach the Super Bowl, he has been nothing more than an average quarterback. He is going from throwing to Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods to now passing the ball to Free agency signing Tyrell Williams, fourth-round selection Amon-Ra St.Brown, and Kalif Raymond, who arrived as a free agent from the Tennesee Titans. They also brought in tight end Darren Fells as backup to T.J. Hockensen, who scored 6 touchdowns and recorded 723 yards from 67 receptions. The Lions did add Penei Sewell seventh overall, who can be a gamechanger between the trenches. However, the offense will still have plenty of issues. The Lions also lost wideouts Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones in the offseason, further adding to Goff’s woes. He does not feel like the type of player that new head coach Dan Campbell would like, considering Goff’s quieter personality and Campbell talking in his first press conference that he wants to bite people’s kneecaps. 

Detroit were 32nd in total points and total yards allowed (30th in passing yards allowed, 28th in rushing yards allowed). They have not done enough in the preseason to address this. The Lions have a lot of troubles ahead this season and Campbell has a tough task on his hands. 

Prediction: 4th in NFC North.

Green Bay Packers (2020 Record: 13-3. Lost in NFC Championship)

The Packers offseason was dominated by talk of Aaron Rodgers leaving the franchise, for either retirment or another team. Both he and wide receiver Davante Adams, who were so exceptional in 2020, posted the same post which referred to the Michael Jordan Netflix documentary ‘The Last Dance’. It is likely that Rodgers, last season’s MVP, will spend just one more season in Green Bay. Can he go out with a second ring? 

Rodgers requested a trade on draft day, which dominated the media that day. The boyhood 49ers fan is likely to have done this with the hope of San Francisco trading for him. Taking Trey Lance third overall put an end to these hopes. The Denver Broncos were often seen as the team with the best chance but after months of speculation, he decided to stay put in Green Bay. Many Packers fans were extremely frustrated during last year’s draft, when the team selected Rodgers’ replacement in Jordan Love instead of a wide receiver. This is a position that Rodgers and the Packers fanbase have wanted for a while now. A true WR2 is something that Rodgers has missed, playing a big role in why they have lost in back-to-back NFC Championship games. 

Running back Aaron Jones resigned, with a four-year $48 million deal agreed. Tight end Robert Tonyan, who scored 11 touchdowns in 2020, was initially placed on a second-round restricted free agent tender, before signing the tender for $3.4 million. The Packers also traded for former player Randall Cobb, who will want to improve on the three touchdowns he scored in both the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Amari Rodgers was taken in the third round to add some depth to the receiver room that also features Allen Lazard and Marquez Vantes-Scantling. Lazard impressed at times last season, with 3 touchdowns and 451 yards but injury meant he played just 10 games in 2020. Vantez-Scantling continues to struggle for consistency.

The offensive line could be an issue for the Packers and Rodgers. Cory Linsley, widely considered one of the NFL’s best centers, departed in Free Agency for the Los Angeles Chargers. Left tackle David Bakhtiari will miss the opening 6 weeks of the season at least, after being placed on the PUP list. Can the line protect Rodgers, who was the 25th most sacked quarterback in the league? This shows what impact the losses of Linsley and Bakhtiari could be. 

Defensively was where Green Bay struggled in the playoffs. Cornerback Kevin King had a poor game against Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship. Eric Stokes was taken in the first round to add some competition and depth to the position. In their 3-4 scheme, nose tackle Kenny Clark, Za’Darious Smith are both brilliant at what they do. Cornerback Jaire Alexander is one of the best shutdown corners in the league, with the Rams’ Jalen Ramsey arguably the only player to do it better than Alexander.

The Packers will win this division with ease but it is the question of whether their defense can take them any further than the NFC Championship. Rodgers will be on a mission to end on a high with the Packers. However, with the strength of the Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams, and the potential surprise outfit of the Washington Football Team, they may find it hard to even make the NFC Championship game this year. 

Prediction: 1st in NFC North.

Minnesota Vikings (2020 Record: 7-9. Missed out on playoffs) 

The Vikings began the 2020 season horribly, starting 1-5 before winning 5 of their next 6 games and ending the season 7-9. Wide receiver Justin Jefferson recorded 1,400 yards, breaking the record of most receiving yards recorded by a rookie. He scored 7 touchdowns, with fellow receiver Adam Thielen recording 14. Their offense developed last season, with Kirk Cousins throwing over 4,000 yards, 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. However, his vaccination status may detriment his and their season.

Players not getting vaccinated may affect several teams, but Cousins’ stance is the biggest headline maker along with Lamar Jackson and Cole Beasley. If he is not careful, they may not be scared to put third-round pick Kellen Mond in the starting role during his rookie season. Cousins, a fourth-round pick in 2011, knows more than anyone how a late draft pick can make the most of their opportunity. 

Running back Dalvin Cook will hope to continue on from his impressive 2020 season. He had career-best numbers in both yards (1,557) and rushing touchdowns (16), stats only beaten by Derrick Henry last season. He will be excellently protected by 2021 first-round selection Christian Darrisaw, who is said to be an “animal in the run game”. He will hope to be fit for week one. 

Minnesota was 27th in total yards allowed in 2020 (25th in passing yards allowed and 27th in rushing yards allowed), with only three teams allowing more total points than the Vikings. The top three players for the Vikings for sacks recorded were Yannick Ngakoue, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Eric Wilson. They are all no longer with the franchise. Even with them in the roster, the most any player got in 2020 was 5.

Eric Kendricks missed time last season and the Vikings also lost Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr, and Michael Hughes to injury. Michael Pierce opted out due to COVID-19. All of these players except Hughes are returning for 2021. This will surely make a huge difference to the defense, something that will be hugely welcomed by head coach Mike Zimmer. 

An opening six games against the Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals, Seahawks, Browns, Lions, and Carolina Panthers gives the Vikings the chance to start 4-2. They then face the Dallas Cowboys, Ravens, Chargers, Packers, 49ers and Lions. There is likely to be one or two wins out of these next six games. This would have Minnesota at either 5-7 or 4-8. The Vikings then face a tough end to the season, where they face the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rams, Packers as well as twice facing the Bears. They could lose four out of these five. Looking at the schedule, the prediction here is that their 2021 record will be either 5-12 or 6-11.

Prediction: 3rd in NFC North

What Vikings Fans Should Think About Aaron Rodgers’ Return

Aaron Rodgers returns to Packers training camp

by: Grant Schwieger

Over the last three months, Vikings fans have been in some sort of state of euphoria. When news broke on draft day that Aaron Rodgers wanted out of Green Bay, Minnesota (and Detroit and Chicago) erupted in jubilation. Was this finally it? Had Green Bay’s run of constantly possessing an all-time great QB to come to an end?

The next 90 days saw the Vikings bring home a potentially solid draft class, continue to bolster their defense, and add another wide receiver. Aaron Rodgers did nothing over that timespan to indicate he was excited about returning to the Packers either. Then rumors of Davante Adams being unhappy with his contract started spreading. The purple Kool-Aid was flowing faster than the Amazon River. Unfortunately, to the dismay of the rest of the NFC North, Rodgers was able to work it out with Green Bay and did indeed report to Packers training camp this week. So, what does all of this mean for the Vikings and their fans?

Without Rodgers, Green Bay likely would have been expected to finish behind Minnesota in the standings, and the betting markets reflected that when it appeared the reigning NFL MVP was on his way out. However, a season with no Rodgers in the division may have given the Vikings a “false sense of hope”.

With a Rodgers-less Packers team likely not posing much of a threat, the only NFC teams clearly ahead of Minnesota would be Tampa Bay and whichever teams make it out of the NFC West between Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco. The Vikings very well could be able to compete with these teams but would certainly not be favored in any game against them. Now that the Packers have Rodgers back under center, the Vikings have their own litmus test right in front of them in the division. If Minnesota is unable to compete with Green Bay during their two matchups in 2021, then they already know that any Super Bowl dreams are just that, a dream.

That is not to say that the Vikings cannot go toe to toe with the Packers, because they can. They managed to win in Green Bay in 2020 with 50% of their defense being “practice squad” players, and Zimmer’s defense is undoubtedly better this season. Nonetheless, In the event that Rodgers is still on another level and the Packers run away with the NFC North, however, the Vikings then know that they do not stand a chance to compete with the Bucs, Chiefs, and Bills of the world and can temper their expectations accordingly. Vikings fans know plenty about having a false sense of hope and how much that can sting, so being realistic is the best way to combat that.

So, Aaron Rodgers is back in Green Bay for what he insinuated was his “Last Dance.” The rift between him and the Packers organization has not gone away, and he has made it clear he still does not want to be there long term. Vikings fans have been obsessed with the latest update on that saga since April, but now should focus solely on the team in Minnesota. If the Vikings cannot take care of their own business, what happens across the border in Wisconsin will not matter. If Minnesota is to have a successful season, they would need to beat teams of Green Bay’s caliber no matter what, and now they will have that chance twice, or maybe even three times, this coming season. Should Vikings fans be happy Aaron Rodgers is going to be in green and gold again in 2021? No, but what would be sweeter than Minnesota being the team to bring an end to the Rodgers era with The Pack?

What is Jared Goff’s ceiling and floor?

Could the Lions QB be a star in 2021?

By: Ladarius Brown

In an NFL offseason full of storylines, one of the bigger ones was that of the trade between the Rams and Lions. The Lions moved on from arguably the best quarterback in franchise history in Matthew Stafford in exchange for Jared Goff. Both quarterbacks needed a change of scenery for varying reasons. For Stafford, it is about the chance to play for a Super Bowl contender. In the case of Jared Goff, it is about trying to start anew someplace else. Now that Goff is in the Motor City, what are the floor and his ceiling? Let us start with his floor

Floor: Jared Goff in 2016/Carson Wentz 

The Rams made the quarterback out of the University of California the number one overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He started seven games that year, losing all seven. Goff threw for 1,089 yards with a 54.6% completion percentage and five touchdowns to seven interceptions. A large part of his shortcomings in his rookie year fell upon the offense around him. In 2016, the Rams had the worst offense in the NFL. Also, the fact that Jeff Fisher was his head coach for the preponderance of that year did not exactly help matters either.  

In that same 2016 NFL Draft, another signal-caller was taken after Goff by the Eagles in Carson Wentz of North Dakota State. Wentz had a better rookie campaign than Goff based on passing yards and completion percentage. Wentz started all 16 games, throwing for 3,782 yards with a 62.4% completion percentage and 16 touchdowns to 14 interceptions in 2016.  

Even with his less than stellar rookie year, Goff’s career is comparable to Wentz’s based on the numbers. Having Wentz as the floor for Goff does not mean I think Wentz is terrible. The Wentz comparison for Goff is that Wentz can only get better, given his new surroundings. Goff is in the same situation.  

Ceiling: 2017-2018 Goff/Matt Ryan 

Given Goff’s floor, I love his ceiling because the Goff we saw in 2017 & 2018 were two of the best years of his six-year career. Combined in those two years, Goff had 8,492 passing yards (fifth-most), 60 touchdowns (tied for fourth), and averaged 273.9 passing yards a game (sixth-most). Also, he was tied with some quarterbacks named Drew Brees and Tom Brady for the most wins at 24 in 2017 & 2018. My point, this was peak Jared Goff, and it was amazing. He was also was the starting quarterback in the Super Bowl 2018. 

With this celling comes with a disclaimer since his production picked up once Sean McVay came to Los Angeles. I am banking on that on the high end, Goff can produce similar numbers for the Lions as he did for the Rams in those two years consistently. The disclaimer comes in is if he can without Sean McVay on the sidelines. I may not be sold on head coach Dan Campbell, but I am on the offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.  

Lynn, a former offensive coordinator with the Bills and head coach of the Chargers, brings 20 years of coaching experience. In his four years as Chargers head coach, they were in the top 10 all four years. It helped to have quarterbacks in Philip Rivers and 2020 Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert, but it does not take away from Lynn’s coaching ability.  

As we travel back to college, Goff’s NFL comparison was Matt Ryan, and it turned out to be spot-on as both players are very accurate passers and excel in the pocket. Also, both Goff and Ryan are over 6’4” and have been to a Super Bowl, both on the losing end, and both came into the league under defensive head coaches. Looking at Ryan’s career, he was the league MVP in 2016, Goff’s rookie year. Ryan is still playing at a high-level entering year 14 and Goff could be the next Ryan. If Goff can take advantage of his new opportunity in Detroit, his career will bounce back.  

3 reasons why the Chicago Bears could get back to the playoffs

Bears return to the playoffs in NFC North?

By: Ian Evans

The Chicago Bears had themselves quite an interesting 2020-2021 NFL season. They started the season 5-1 through the first six weeks. However, that changed in rather quickly as they immediately went on a six-game losing streak and quickly dropped to 5-7. The Bears would end up finishing the regular season at 8-8 and just barely clinching playoff birth as a wildcard. 

Their one and playoff game last season was all too fitting for Chicago. There were dropped passes, missed opportunities, and costly penalties which ultimately ended their season as they lost to the New Orleans Saints 21-9 in the Wild Card round. Did I mention that they also lost on Nickelodeon? That can’t be fun. 

However, there are some bright spots for the Bears in 2021. They finally moved on from Mitch Trubisky and signed Andy Dalton to start at quarterback. Chicago fans had to be elated when they drafted sensational Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with the 11th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. And made some subtle moves during the offseason adding Damien Williams, the speedy Marquise Goodwin, extended their consistent kicker Cairo Santos, and adding Desmond Trufant to replace Kyle Fuller who they released this past March.

For Chicago, this upcoming season has some promise, and if the correct pieces fall in line they could find themselves in the playoffs in 2021. Although they have the third most difficult strength of schedule, there are some positives for Bears fans to look forward to this season, especially after having quite possibly the best draft in 2021. From aspects such as their division to their stout defense, these are the three reasons why the Chicago Bears could get back to the playoffs.

1. The Current State of the NFC North

It’s no secret that the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers have a relationship to repair. There is some speculation that the reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers could end up leaving the Packers for a variety of reasons. But one of the main reasons why the Bears have had trouble winning the NFC North (besides 2018) is because of him. In his entire career, Aaron Rodgers is 22-5 against Chicago. For a team that’s trying to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 15 years, they would love to see him go.

If Rodgers does end his tenure in Green Bay, this opens up the door for the Bears immediately. Why? Because the rest of the division is rather weak. The Lions are rebuilding after trading long-time Detroit Lion Matthew Stafford to the Rams and now have Jared Goff as their quarterback of the future. The Lions are not in “win-now mode” and most likely won’t be a threat in the 2021 NFL season. 

The only roadblock for the Bears if Rodgers does leave is the Minnesota Vikings. This team is led by Dalvin CookAdam Theilen, and their emerging star Justin Jefferson in an offense that ranked fourth in yards (6,292) and yards per game (393.3). However, there are still some questions surrounding Kirk Cousins and his ability to lead as the starting quarterback. They had a great draft and even added veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson to their secondary, but their defense did rank 29th in team defense last season. I think it’s safe to say their defense won’t have a major jump this upcoming season.

If everything falls in place with Rodgers leaving, the Vikings remaining inconsistent, and the Lions playing for draft picks, then the Chicago Bears should find themselves in the driver seat to win the division and in the playoffs for the second straight year. 

2. A Potential Top-10 Defense (Or Better)

This defense deserves a lot of credit for how they have played in recent years. If it wasn’t for this defense the Bears would never have made it to the playoffs. Why? They were ranked in the top half of the league in yards allowed per game (344.9, ranked 11th), passing yards allowed per game (231.6, ranked 12th), rushing yards per game (113.4, ranked 15th), and points allowed per game (23.1, ranked 14th). 

This defense is only getting better even without the presence of Kyle FullerKhalil Mack has an incredible supporting cast around him with, Roquan Smith and Akiem Hicks helping him on the defensive line. The secondary consists of Desmond TrufantEddie Jackson, and the recently signed Artie Burns. In the pass rush and pass defense, this team has the potential to wreak havoc and cause problems for opposing offenses. 

This defensive roster has the potential to be in the top ten instead of just barely scraping the top 15. If this defense plays as good as they are on paper, they should be able to compete with anyone in the league.

3. Plenty of Young and Improving Offensive Talent 

The young talent for the Chicago Bears, especially on the offensive side of the ball is impressive and they’re only getting better. The future could potentially look extremely bright with the offensive talent they have drafted and improved. 

As I previously mentioned, the team drafted Justin Fields from Ohio State who could potentially be their quarterback of the future. If Andy Dalton fails to play well, Fields could not only see the field but also find a way to win the starting job. Having a former college sensation under center would raise the level of excitement in Chicago.

Besides Fields, there are other prospects that can make an immediate impact this year. Darnell Mooney out of Tulane University is a player with crisp route running and speed who is only improving. He broke the Bears’ receiving record for a rookie, and his expectations for his sophomore season are high. Cole Kmet has the potential to be a consistent tight end for them and Anthony Miller could be motivated to play well as has a lot to prove after it has been reported that he’s on the team’s “bubble.”

Then there are the two talented offensive tackles Chicago drafted in Tevin Jenkins from Oklahoma State and Larry Borom from the University of Missouri to help boost their pass protection (which they desperately needed). This gives Dalton the time to throw to the reliable hands of Allen Robinson and time for David Montgomery and Damien Williams to actually produce in the ground game. These young guys could be carrying this offense in 2021.

If the young talent can improve their game with consistent quarterback play from either Dalton or Fields and their running back and receiving core boost their level of play from last year, this offense has the potential to be sneaky good. Granted, it depends on a lot of moving pieces and other aspects, but the potential is there. The young talent in Chicago is another major reason the Bears make the playoffs in the upcoming 2021 NFL season.

Why Jordan Love could be a Pro Bowler if Rodgers is moved

Jordan Love Pro Bowl bound in 2021?

By: Reese Nasser

Second-year quarterback Jordan Love could be the QB1 in Green Bay quicker than anyone anticipated. Longtime quarterback Aaron Rodgers hasn’t shown any indication that he is willing to return to the Packers and a trade could still be on the horizon.  

The Green Bay Packers may have no option but to go all in on their former first-round pick. 

The Packers shocked much of the NFL when they chose to trade up and draft Love with the 26th pick of the 2020 draft. Originally, there seemed to be a sense of hope that Love could follow a path like Rodgers did when he first arrived in the NFL. Sit behind an all-time great quarterback and retain as much information as he could until it was time to take over. Green Bay envisioned a long-term plan when selecting Love but it seems as if things could change rather quickly. 

So the question must be asked; what level could Jordan Love play at if he is given the QB1 spot? There is potential that he could play at the level of a pro bowl quarterback.

The Packers have an offense that is top-loaded with talent. The trio of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and Robert Tonyan can keep up with the NFL’s best defenses. With a group like that surrounding Love, he could find instant success in the league. A Pro Bowl trip could be in Love’s near future and here’s why.

A Year with Rodgers

Even with Rodgers’ future in Green Bay uncertain, Love was still able to learn from him for an entire season. As we’ve seen numerous times in just the last few years, quarterbacks that have been able to sit behind such accomplished quarterbacks have done very well in the NFL. 

Patrick Mahomes may be the most notable player to sit for a season and then be prepared when jis opportunity arrives. While there are no expectations for Love to play anywhere near the level of Mahomes, he could shock the NFL in a manner somewhat similar to that of Mahomes. 

Aaron Rodgers is arguably one of the single greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and he has been a QB1 for as long as he has become he knows the game better than most. 

Many young quarterbacks could benefit greatly from sitting behind a quarterback such as Rodgers and it could prove to be a pivotal factor in Love’s career. 

Coaching Impact 

Head coach Matt LaFleur has quickly become one of the best offensive masterminds in the NFL. After spending time with the Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Rams, and the Tennessee Titans before arriving in Green Bay, LaFleur has had the chance to work with some of the league’s best quarterbacks and best coaches, from Matt Ryan to both Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. The knowledge that LaFleur has gained up to this point could allow for Love to transition into a starting role easier. 

Love doesn’t necessarily fit the typical mold of quarterbacks that LaFleur has had in the past but that doesn’t mean that he couldn’t fit an offense around him. Love has proven to be capable of throwing the ball deep and accurate, something that current Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is elite at. 

LaFleur’s ability to make any offense that he touches turn into an at least average unit would not be different here. 

With Love at the helm, LaFleur could potentially unlock another level to this unit. Love would be an upgrade over Rodgers in terms of athleticism. He ran a 4.74 40-yard dash and frequently made plays with his legs while in college. In his final season at Utah State, he rushed 81 times. He almost scored nine touchdowns with his legs. The addition of an athletic quarterback has revolutionized offenses all throughout the NFL, and this could happen in Green Bay. 

Everything that Love has encountered up to this point in his NFL career has prepared him to be great. The offensive weapons that Green Bay has assembled will allow Love to lean on them when he struggles. A security blanket in Davante Adams and a quality running back in Aaron Jones could also help mask any issues that Love has in his game. 

The coaching staff surrounding Love has proven to be prepared to let the quarterback learn the NFL game. They drafted him with him being the eventual QB1 and they clearly have an idea for what he can become. If Love can quickly grasp the NFL game, a Pro Bowl nod may be in his near future. 

3 things to know about Lions defense under Aaron Glenn

Aaron Glenn will help the Lions defense

By: Jake Rajala

The Detroit Lions didn’t just have an aching defense in 2020. Last season, the Lions had their worst defense in franchise history. Matt Patricia, who specialized in orchestrating the defense, was axed from the Lions in the middle of the season. The new head coach Dan Campbell brought over his former co-coach Aaron Glenn from the New Orleans Saints to build a new defensive unit.

Lions nation begs to ask: what exactly are they getting from Glenn? Well, I believe Glenn is the picture perfect DC for Detroit. The former Saints DB coach can bring the right intensity and improve the personnel in the building. Here is what to know about the new look Lions defense.

  • Jeffery Okudah taking the next step

It’s safe to say that Jeffery Okudah was a major disappointment for being the third overall pick in last year’s draft. The former Buckeye was benched numerous times and he couldn’t keep pace with opposing stud wideouts. 

Glenn’s specialty lies in coaching defensive backs. In New Orleans, Glenn helped another OSU CB in Marshon Lattimore rise to be one of the league’s top CBs. Lattimore won Defensive Rookie of The Year, routinely locked down Mike Evans, and Julio Jones, plus helped him foster a ferocious mentality. 

Okudah wasn’t just a high draft pick, but he assumed the CB1 role in numerous moments of his rookie season. It will vastly help the defense if their true no. one CB isn’t a liability, but a star. 

  • Speed is the name of the game

The New Orleans Saints defense was one of the most aggressive, athletic units in the NFL. Glenn has made it clear that he wants to transfer the same aggressive approach used in NO over to DET. The Saints MLB Demario Davis had the top season for a LB in 2019. The Saints were very creative with the blitzes from the secondary. Janoris Jenkins occasionally came off the edges on blitzes, as did S/LB Malcolm Jenkins. 

Expect to see Jamie Collins being in various, good positions to harass QBs and a real career reboot out of the high paid LB. Glenn will also use the Lions safeties (Will Harris, Tracy Walker) on safety blitzes, as he did with his safeties in the Big Easy.

  • Aggressive defense in 2 minute drill

Unquestionably, Glenn will bring lots of philosophy over from New Orleans. One of the notorious tactics that the Saints defense did was blitz-heavy in 2-minute situations.

The Saints DC Dennis Allen liked to apply pressure when offenses had to drive the length of the field to score. Instead of letting the QB sit back and read the field, Allen would send the house and hopefully force the QB to make a quick throw. Allen learned this idea under former Saints DC Gregg Williams (who had a historically bad play with it) and expect Glenn to bring the same strategy learned under Allen to Detroit.

Ranking the Head Coaches of the NFC North

NFC North coach hierarchy headed into 2021

By: Ladarius Brown

This division has a brand-new coach in the Motor City and one who could be under immense pressure this season. Also, two coaches will have the chance to prove they can develop a quarterback. That being said, here are head coaching rankings for the NFC North.  

4. Dan Campbell, Detroit Lions 

This is Campbell’s first full-time head coaching gig after being an interim head coach for the Dolphins in 2015 after the firing of Joe Philbin. He went 5-7 in this time there. The biggest goal that he has to accomplish is not so many winning games. Campbell has to change the culture there. Since 2000, they have the 2nd fewest wins in the NFL with 119 wins. The last time they won a division was 1993, six years before Campbell’s rookie season in the NFL. 

They traded arguably the best quarterback in their franchise’s history in Matthew Stafford and replacing him with Jared Goff. I am not saying Goff is the answer for the future of the Lions but given his age (26), he could be. There is talent on this roster, including RB D’Andre Swift, TE T.J. Hockenstein, and CB Jeff Okudah. Throw in the fact their offensive line has three 1st rounders (LT Taylor Decker, C Frank Ragnow, and their 2021 1st round pick: RT Penei Sewell).  

Campbell has former Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn as his offensive coordinator, a move that I love. Lynn is a great offensive mind and what happened last season in Los Angeles was not 100% on him. Seeing how he works with Goff and what he can do with the run game. If the Lions want to turn it around, it has to be on the defensive side of the ball. Veterans such as LB Jaime Collins, DE Trey Flowers, and DT Michael Brockers, who was acquired via a trade with the Rams, will be leaned upon to turn it around. They might have to bite some kneecaps and wear racing helmets but it can be done. 

3. Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears 

Before diving in, Nagy won a division with Mitchell Trubisky under center and that, on its own, was great. When it comes to Nagy, I think he has won games despite having a general manager in Ryan Pace who is still somehow gainfully employed. Outside of trading the farm for All-Pro LB Khalil Mack and hiring Matt Nagy as head coach, the Ryan Pace era is nothing to write home about. Nagy has bailed out Pace since being hired. Why do I say that? Before hiring Nagy from the Chiefs in 2018, Pace was 14-34 from 2015 to 2018 as a general manager.  

Nagy inherited Trubisky and turned lemons into a palatable tasting pitcher of lemonade. Then, Pace trades for Foles because he was supposed to be an upgrade over Trubisky. Yet, it was the equivalent of trading in a unicycle for a bicycle: you can travel slightly further. Foles was not bad but it felt as though the Bears did not have direction at the quarterback position, a feeling that has been lingering for some time. However, in this year’s draft, something happened. 

The Bears traded up after quarterback Justin Fields was still left on the board and they drafted him. This was a move made more so by Pace at the behest of Nagy. Nagy wanted to bring in his guy, a luxury he was not afforded when he was hired. Nagy could be higher on this list but I cannot because of his play calling. The Bears’ offense was and is not a juggernaut but, in some games last year, it was bad and with Andy Dalton starting the season at quarterback and Fields somewhere along the way, he has to get it right in this department.  

2. Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings 

Zimmer is one of these coaches who I feel gets overlooked for some reason. Entering year eight as the head coach of the Vikings, he is the longest-tenured coach in the NFC North. In his tenure, his teams have never finished last in the division (two 1st place finishes, two 2nd place finishes, and three 3rd place finishes). One thing that I like about Zimmer is that for a coach with a defensive background, he is well-rounded and is evidenced by how he has drafted because, since 2014, the Vikings have had nine 1st round picks and, of those nine, five were on the offensive side of the ball and four on the defensive side.  

He has the 3rd most wins amongst Vikings head coaches all-time (64) behind Bud Grant (158) and Dennis Green (97). This year, he could win the division for the 3rd time in eight years because this team looks stronger on defense and, I almost forgot, they have RB Dalvin Cook. Cook has been a reliable back for Zimmer and this Vikings offense, especially the last two years. In 2019 & 2020, Cook had a combined 2,692 rush yards, 29 rushing touchdowns, and averaged 96.1 yards/game. He was 2nd to Titans running back Derrick Henry in all of the above stats in that timeframe.  

I can make a case that this could be Zimmer’s best team since 2017 because of the emergence of WR Justin Jefferson. Entering his 2nd year, Jefferson is coming off 1,400 yards receiving in his rookie campaign. Despite the youth of his defense, he has a strong veteran presence, led by safety Harrison Smith. It is no conjecture to say Zimmer could be a Coach of the Year candidate by season’s end.  

  1. Matt LeFleur, Green Bay Packers 

When you have back-to-back 13-win seasons in your 1st two seasons as a head coach, that is pretty impressive. Also, having a future 1st ballot HOF quarterback in Aaron Rodgers helps too. This is not to say that LaFleur is not a great head coach because you can see how the Packers have improved entering year three. Under LaFleur, they are running the ball more as is evident by finishing in the top 10 in the league in average time per drive. They finished 1st in 2019.  

For further proof, RB Aaron Jones has two 1,000 rushing yard seasons (2019 & 2020). In his 1st two years in the league, he had 1,176 rushing yards combined. The defense improved from 18th in 2019 to 9th in 2020. Also, throw in that they have WR Davante Adams, an All-Pro last year with 1,374 receiving yards and 18 receiving touchdowns. There is a reason, an obvious one, as to why I mentioned these elements. 

If you were binging on Netflix or HBO Max, Aaron Rodgers stated he wants out of Green Bay or hinted at the possibility of retirement. Now, they have Jordan Love, their 1st round pick in 2020, taking the majority of snaps in OTAs. The longer Rodgers is a no-show, the greater the likelihood that Love will be the Week 1 starter at New Orleans. LaFleur will lean on his run game, his top 10 defense, and his All-Pro WR should Love be the guy. The biggest question surrounding this franchise is Can LaFleur mold Jordan Love enough to be loved by Packers fans.  

Why Minnesota can take over the division for the first time since 2017

By: Jeremy Trottier

The Minnesota Vikings have been pushed out of the top of the division for three seasons in a row now, primarily due to Green Bay becoming a powerhouse.  However, that could all change this season, as the Vikings could be primed to take over the division this season.  From offseason moves to the development of currently rostered players, this could definitely be the case.

In this article, I will be going over three reasons as to why the Vikings could put a stranglehold on the NFC North, and knock the Packers off the top.

Aaron Rodgers Developments

As most of us know by now who follow NFL news, the Rodgers-Packers situation has turned increasingly sour for the majority of the offseason.  From Rodgers supposedly mocking the Packers GM, to the media speculation surrounding it almost every single day, this situation is devolving seriously quickly.  If Rodgers is going to leave the NFC North and go to the AFC, that automatically puts the Packers in a hole as they will not have their MVP and Super Bowl winning QB.

The odds of this happening according to betting lines is pretty high as of now actually, as the Packers are not favorites in many games they should be favorites in, which shows they expect some massive decline, likely for this reason.  Granted, the Packers are not completely in a fish out of water scenario without Rodgers, as Jordan Love could be ready to take the reigns, but if he fails then they are in huge trouble come regular season games.

Exceptionally Strong Draft Class

In my opinion, the Vikings did an absolutely phenomenal job drafting this year both for immediate impact and for the future.  With their 1st round pick as well as four 3rd round picks, they made a huge impact in the first half of their draft.  

Starting off with Christian Darrisaw, who many saw going within the top 15 more than likely of the NFL draft.  Being able to pick him up at pick 23 in the first round is absolutely fantastic value, and his presence at the OT spot cannot be overlooked.  Then they picked up Kellen Mond, which honestly makes a lot of sense for the long term.  Bringing in a relatively raw QB prospect to learn behind Kirk Cousins for a few seasons before likely taking over is a great future investment, or if Kirk were to get injured this year specifically having that depth is great news.

Guard Wyatt Davis is another player who could have gone in the first round, however he fell all the way to pick 86 for the Vikings, which is a steal no doubt. Any player with the prestige of Ohio State, especially those in the trenches, are great pickups most of the time.  Finally the Vikings brought in two defensive studs who can most definitely help in one way or another.  Chazz Surratt to fill in one of the linebacker spots when needed, and Patrick Jones II who can either start immediately opposite Danielle Hunter, which would be monstrous, or in place of him if he leaves.

Development of Current Players

Finally, we have their development and the amount of young playmakers they have.  The primary two being Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook, Jefferson being a sophomore this coming season and Dalvin Cook only being 25.  Both of these players have had absolutely massive impacts on the team, Jefferson being the runner up for OROY and Dalvin Cook being one of the top backs in the league.

With another year to develop Jefferson and giving him true rookie training camps, he should turn out to be even more effective in the league, potentially breaking out to be one of the top receivers in the game.  As well as Dalvin Cook, who on his current trajectory is already a top player in the league before the true RB prime ages of about 27-29 normally.  

Why the Packers can win the NFC North without Rodgers

So you are telling me there is a chance

By: Corey Hietpas

The Packers have enjoyed major success in the NFC North for quite some time now. Green Bay has been the division champion for 7 of the last 10 years, which includes two straight in 2019 and 2020. Clearly, their division champion streak is now in jeopardy with MVP QB Aaron Rodgers threatening to hold out of this season though. As a Packer fan, I am a bit worried about the state of the team without Aaron Rodgers, but after further investigation, I believe the Packers can still be NFC North champions by season end for the following reasons.

The Packers have a top-10 defense.

Green Bay has studs at all the right positions on defense. They have, at worst, a top-3 CB in Jaire Alexander. They have a great pass rusher with Za’Darius Smith. They have arguably the best safety duo in the league with Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. Lastly, they have one of the top NTs in the league in Kenny Clark. The only position group to worry about is the LBs as they have Kamal Martin at the top and Krys Barnes as the 2nd string. Martin was a 5th round draft pick in 2019 and Barnes was a UDFA also from the 2019 class. Looking at the DC, the Packers have finally decided to move on from Mike Pettine and hire Joe Barry. Barry is known as a sort of LB guru and has been a big part of the successful Rams’ defense of recent years. If the Packers had a top 10 defense under extremely conservative Mike Pettine, it’s more than likely it’ll be at least as good under Joe Barry. 

Green Bay has a great supporting cast on offense.

Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, Robert Tonayan, and now Amari Rodgers are going to be the focal points on this Green Bay offense. It’s fair to say that Adams is in the argument for the best receiver in the league, and Aaron Jones is in the top-10 RB conversation. Those two alone make the Green Bay offense as dangerous as it is. Robert Tonyan has only had one good year, so far, but he looked very good as a red zone threat and a chain-mover throughout all of the 2020 season. Amari Rodgers should fill the slot receiver void that has seemed to plague the Packers since the departure of Randall Cobb. Now, pair all these weapons with a top-tier OL, and you have the recipe of a high-scoring offense. We already saw the extreme success this offense had last year, and now they are another year in Lafleur’s scheme, and they have added playmakers. I would not be surprised if this was the number one scoring offense again, assuming Rodgers is back. If Rodgers is not back, it still has the makings of a top-10 offense, which is a huge step back but still very good. 

Jordan Love has shown improvement in year two

As reported by Rob Demovsky, Jordan Love has shown signs of progress and looks improved and more comfortable in year two. Specifically, Aaron Jones is the one who was quoted to have said that Love looks more comfortable. Of course, it’s very early in the 2021 season, but it’s very promising that players are already noticing a difference with Love. If he can be a serviceable starter this year, it’s not out of the question to see the Packers have a top-5 offense yet again.

3 reasons why the Lions will have a better defense in 2021

Detroit Lions defensive outlook

By: Reese Nasser

The Detroit Lions sent out a defense that was more than lackluster last season. The defense was ranked 26th in the NFL. They also ranked in the bottom five of almost every defensive statistical category.  They ranked last in every defensive touchdown category. 32nd in points, yards, and both rushing and passing touchdowns. They also ranked last in red zone touchdowns given up. The defense also gave up 6,700 yards. 
After an off-season full of changes, the Lions defense is slowly starting to look up. They have made changes for the better and while it may take time to develop, this unit should eventually be a force to be reckoned with. Through both free agency and the draft, the unit on the field this season will look vastly different. Here are three reasons why the Lions defense will be better in 2021 than it was in 2020. 

Revamped Defense

Through both the draft and free agency, the Lions added strong defense players. Detroit traded for defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who will be a focal point on this side of the ball. They also re-signed star defensive end Romeo Okawara. Romeo had nearly half of the teams total sacks with 10 last season. The Lions also selected Romeo’s younger brother Julian Okwara in the 2020 draft. They will hope to see more of a breakout performance in Julian’s second year. He only appeared in six games during his rookie season and was plagued by injury. 

The duo of Brockers and Okawara will not only be the faces of the defense but will also be expected to be the leaders of the defensive line. 

The Lions also chose to go heavy on defense in this year’s draft, using four of their seven selections on defensive players. Most notably, in an effort to solidify the defensive line even more, Detroit went back to back with defensive tackle selections, Levi Onwuzurike at pick #41 and Alim Mcneill with pick #67. Onwuzurike opted out of the 2020 season but in his three seasons at the University of Washington, accounted for 16 tackles for losses and 7 sacks. Mcneill played three seasons at NC State where he was an anchor on the defensive line. In only 32 games, Mcneill was a disruptive player with 77 tackles and 17.5 tackles for loss. He also added 10 sacks. Both of these rookies will be expected to perform day one and one of them will have a starting job come the start of the season.

The Lions clearly saw the defensive line as maybe their biggest weakness so they did what they deemed necessary to fix it. They are also taking an approach of building with the line and then up.

Coaching Changes

Lions new head coach Dan Campbell is said to be a defensive minded coach. Campbell also brought longtime defensive coach Aaron Glenn in to be the Lions new defensive coordinator. Glenn spent the last five seasons as the secondary coach for the New Orleans Saints. There is hope that with both Campbell and Glenn working on this defensive unit, they will see drastic improvements from last season. 

Nearly the entire set of defensive coaches will be new from last season. Each member will attempt to implement their way of defending and if done correctly, this group could be very dangerous. The Lions have made it clear that they want to be a gritty team that wins in the trenches and with these new hires, they are headed in that direction. 

New Scheme

With Aaron Glenn being brought in as the new defensive coordinator, there is potential that a new defensive scheme will be implemented. Coach Campbell has noted that the team will play a variation of a 3-4 defense. The scheme that they use should be based around the players that they are using. In order to have a successful defense, players must be in a scheme that they are best utilized for. In the Lions projected scheme, both outside linebackers will be used more as extra rushers. They will be going around the defensive ends and going to the backfield. This change may result in some extra sacks, which the Lions desperately need after only having 24 throughout the entirety of last season. 

This new defense, while being freshly incorporated, could be exactly what this unit needs. A change in how they approach the defensive side of the ball could prove to be extremely beneficial. 

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