Thoughts From Around the NFC North

| March 22nd, 2022

The odds above are from DraftKings Sportsbook.

Green Bay Packers

  • The story of the Green Bay off-season is Aaron Rodgers. The second he decided to return to the club, he cemented their frontrunner status for not only the NFC North but for the NFC, generally. (They run side-by-side with Brady’s Bucs.) Barring injury to the signal caller, the Packers will be in the 2022 postseason.
  • Has any draft pick caused more organizational turmoil than the Jordan Love pick? Sure, it alienated one of the greatest (and emotionally fragile) quarterbacks in the history of the sport. But also, the kid clearly can’t play. If he could, the Packers wouldn’t be doing advanced calisthenics to contort around Rodgers’ emotions. If the team viewed Love as capable, they could have dealt Rodgers for multiple first-round picks, replenishing Love’s supporting cast, and likely still maintaining their contender status.
    • Stacey Dales and I had a rather contentious Twitter exchange when the Packers took Love. She “reported” Rodgers was fully onboard with the selection. But of course, he wasn’t. People like Rodgers – and I’m sure you know a few – harbor everything. They stew with every perceived slight. They don’t use it for motivation; they use to be upset. Still awaiting the formal apology from Dales.
  • Rodgers has a history of making the weapons around him better but that’ll be put to the test in 2022. The Packers will likely address wide receiver in the draft but until they do, this is the weakest collection of outside targets they’ve rostered in quite some time, with Allen Lazard as their top current option for next season.
  • And don’t count me among those criticizing Green Bay for dealing Davante Adams. They got a first and second-round pick and now don’t have to pay him $30M a season. There is no reason to believe Adams will replicate his Rodgers production with Derek Carr. Rodgers aggressively fed Adams, with the most accurate arm in the league.
  • Green Bay’s defense was solid in all the standard categories and mediocre in the advanced metrics like DVOA. But their special teams sabotaged them in 2021. Pat O’Donnell is not a game changer. Rich Bisaccia, while a great leader, is not a game changer. The Packers need to strengthen the bottom of their roster – the core of specials – and that will need to happen over the closing days of free agency/draft season.

Minnesota Vikings

  • Kirk Cousins is still the quarterback. Thus, the team has a definitive ceiling. But we should all marvel at what he’s achieved in the sport. Warren Sharp put it in one Tweet: “Kirk Cousins has a 59-59-2 record as an NFL quarterback, performs slightly above average, and has made $231,669,486 in his career.”
  • Minnesota has a new head coach but as long as they stay committed to Kirk, they are in win now mode. This became even more clear when the Vikings were unable to trade Danielle Hunter prior to his $18M bonus becoming guaranteed on Sunday. (This is why Ryan Poles traded Khalil Mack THIS off-season. When you’re trying to retool a roster, you have to clear payroll when it’s possible. There’s no guarantee that Mack would have had the same value a year from now and Poles couldn’t take that chance.)
  • The off-season approach taken by the Vikings is receiving harsh, and I believe appropriate, criticism from their media.
    • From Ben Goessling: “This week, the Vikings opted not to follow through on the considerations they’d had, however briefly, about a hard reset, instead making moves to keep veterans on their roster while clearing enough cap space to sign several free agents and perhaps satisfy the Wilf family’s stated expectation the Vikings be “super-competitive” 8in 2022.”
    • From Chip Scoggins: “The team’s salary cap quagmire has created dueling agendas that make ownership’s win-now objective a tug-of-war with reality.”
    • From Mark Craig: “The Packers are the team to beat in 2022. The Bears and Lions are eyeballing 2023. And your new Vikings regime has stuck itself somewhere in between as a team still giving full chase to the distant Packers in 2022 while staring down the probability of falling short and finding itself a year behind the rebuilds in Chicago and Detroit in 2023.”

  • As will be discussed below, quarterback determines where a team is in their “championship cycle”. There can’t be a hard reset in Minnesota until they realize Cousins is not the guy. And they don’t seem to be anywhere near that conclusion yet.

Detroit Lions

  • There was no way to watch the Lions play football (as a fan of the club) in 2021 and not have some optimism. Dan Campbell kept a terrible roster competitive weekly, even while struggling to grasp some basic concepts on the sideline. But talk of a “rebuild” is premature in Detroit until they find their quarterback of the future. It is not Jared Goff. If they use the draft to secure their future at the position, they are likely three seasons away from contention.
  • The D.J. Chark signing was one of the craftier of the free agency period. It would have been easy for the Lions to panic in the wake of the mindless Jacksonville splurge at the position and overpay Chark to come to Detroit. But they held firm and locked down a player with significant upside on a one-year deal. It is a minimal commitment and, if he delivers, they have multiple options to keep him around.
  • From Dave Birkett: The Detroit Lions liked their three-win team so much from last season that they’re bringing just about everyone back in 2022. The Lions re-signed another of their free agents Thursday, ESPN reported, agreeing to a new deal with backup quarterback David Blough. Blough is the 10th free agent and second quarterback from last year’s roster the Lions have re-signed or agreed to a contract with in the past nine days. The Lions signed backup Tim Boyle to a one-year deal before the start of the free agent negotiating period Monday. Along with Boyle, the Lions have re-signed safety Tracy Walker, linebacker Alex Anzalone, receiver Josh Reynolds, center Evan Brown and safeties C.J. Moore and Jalen Elliott, and agreed to contracts with edge rusher Charles Harris and receiver Kalif Raymond. So far, the Lions have made one free agent addition, agreeing to a one-year deal with former Jacksonville Jaguars receiver DJ Chark.”

Division Prediction (3/22/22)

Green Bay Packers 11-6

Minnesota Vikings 8-9

Chicago Bears 7-10

Detroit Lions 5-12

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