NFC North Preseason Roundtable

  • 2020 NFL Season
  • Chicago Bears
  • Detroit Lions
  • Green Bay Packers
  • Minnesota Vikings
By Sammy Bovitz August 15, 2020 0 Comment
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Going into the 2020 season, it’s worth examining the state of the NFC North. So Brawl’s gathered together contributors from all NFC North teams to discuss the division this year.

First off, which of the four teams will surprise the most people this year? 

Juan Figueroa, Chicago Bears beat writer: I honestly feel like Aaron Rodgers will play with a huge chip on his shoulder and surprise some folks this year. That’s odd coming from a Bears fan, sure, but I think with all the Jordan Love talk he will want to quiet some folks and have a huge year. The Aaron Rodgers-led Packers offense will be the surprise this year.

James Larsen, Minnesota Vikings beat writer: If Matthew Stafford is healthy and able to play by the time the season starts, I would say the Detroit Lions. They’ve had a rough few years and I think they’ll be able to put it together this year, and at least make a run to the playoffs.

Sammy Bovitz, Detroit Lions beat writer: The Detroit Lions have a strong, multidimensional offensive attack that people are sleeping on, and Jeff Okudah completes that secondary. As long as the defensive line doesn’t completely collapse on itself, the Lions are going to surprise a lot of people this year.

Adam Martin, Green Bay Packers beat writer: The surprise team in the North will be the Detroit Lions. With the attacking threats they have they will win more games than last year. They have a good chance of going .500 this year if their defense can improve.

This division doesn’t exactly have a clear hierarchy, so the inter-divisional matchups will really matter this year. Is there a particular matchup that will all but decide the North?

Figueroa: The Bears-Packers rivalry will decide the NFC North, there’s no question.  The Vikings defense lost some big-time pieces, and who even talks about the Lions anymore?

Larsen: I’d have to go with the Packers and Vikings. Both have some of the best players in the NFC North, and I’d expect to see both those teams decide what ultimately happens in the division.

Bovitz: While the Lions and Vikings could both sneak into the playoffs if they play their cards right, the Packers and Bears have the highest upside in the division. If the Packers’ offense can outlast the Bears defense and Mitch Trubisky continues to get dunked on, they’ll win the division handily. But if Trubisky surprises (or Nick Foles starts) and Chicago bears down, the Bears may take the North.

Martin: The divisional matchup that might not decide the North but have a major impact is the Packers and Vikings. Both teams look to be the strongest teams in the division, as they went 13-3 and 10-6, respectively, last year.

Who will be your team’s MVP this season?

Figueroa: Khalil Mack‘s going to have a huge year, and he alone will elevate this Bears defense to championship level.

Larsen: I gotta go with Adam Thielen. As one of the older players on the team, and with the loss of Stefon Diggs, this will definitely be the year where he’s the #1 guy as long as he stays healthy.

Bovitz: As much as I’d love to give it to Jeff Okudah or Kenny Golladay, Matthew Stafford‘s easily the guy who will make or break this team. In the games he played last year, Stafford was incredible, and once again the guys behind him are not inspiring. If Stafford remains under center to guide this stellar offense, he will once again be the team’s MVP.

Martin: Green Bay now has a mad Aaron Rodgers after the draft. You have to think he’ll be playing with a massive “I’m going to show you” chip on his shoulder. Historically he plays well when he feels like this so he should be our MVP this year.

Let’s talk about the young guns. Who will be the rookie breakout this season in the North?

Figueroa: Jeff Gladney of the Vikings will have an immediate impact simply based on the need to instantly put him in. The Vikings lack depth at DB so he will get a ton of playing time and opportunities.

Larsen: Definitely [Vikings receiver] Justin Jefferson. The guy looks like a beast. While it will take him a little while to get things going, I think he’ll have a great second half of the season.

Bovitz: When the Lions first drafted Georgia running back D’Andre Swift, I was skeptical. But after watching the film and reading about the man, it’s clear that Swift will add yet another dimension to this offense. The fact that he can both break out for huge runs and be a fourth or fifth receiver makes him the running back Stafford wishes he had at any point in the last decade.

Martin: The rookie breakout will be D’Andre Swift of the Lions. He looked like a quality running back in college and he will have the opportunity in Detroit. The Lions have had problems with Kerryon Johnson and his injuries so Swift can make an immediate impact.

Who has the best offense in the division?

Figueroa: The best offense has to go to the balanced attack of the Vikings. Even with the loss of Stefon Diggs, their ability to run the ball and the fact they still have Thielen in the passing game will push them over the edge.

Larsen: For the best offense, I’d have to go with the Minnesota Vikings. Between having a solid QB in Kirk Cousins, a great running back, and solid receivers/tight ends, they have a lot of potential to be great this year.

Bovitz: The Vikings are a well-rounded offense, sure, but I’d give the slight edge to the Lions. For one thing, Matthew Stafford has been leading this offense for years, and without Stefon Diggs, Kirk Cousins may be even less comfortable than he was before. While Dalvin Cook is great, the double-edged attack of the shifty Swift and dependable Kerryon Johnson gives the Lions a rushing attack to be feared for the first time in eons. Kenny Golladay was quietly one of the best receivers in the league last year. He’s paired with the perenially underrated Marvin Jones Jr. TJ Hockenson and Jesse James aren’t great on their own, but they’re both solid options and Hockenson has room to grow. Throw in an offensive line that doesn’t need a ton of duct tape, and I take the Lions any day.

Martin: The best offense in the North is the Detroit Lions. Although it sounds crazy to say about a team that went 3-12-1 last year, it’s probably true. Matt Stafford is a great QB who will throw loads of touchdowns. They have two great wide receivers in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, plus two capable running backs with D’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson. They also have an okay O-Line. The reason they won’t win games is because of their poor defense.

What about on the defensive side? 

Figueroa: The best defense is no question the Bears. The Vikings losing Everson Griffen to the Cowboys sets them back tremendously, really hurting their front 7 which was their strength. The Packers defense made some noise early on in the season but trended down towards the end of the year.

Larsen: I’d say the Chicago Bears. With all the incredible players they have across the board, the Bears have one heck of a defense. If it weren’t for their offensive trouble, the Bears would be the favorite to win the NFC North.

Bovitz: It has to be the Bears. Khalil Mack’s elite talent anchors that stellar front 7 and that secondary’s fantastic. They can truly challenge anyone. It’s really a shame that this team’s being held back by the one player they went all-in on.

Martin: The best defense in the North is easily the Chicago Bears. They have a top-quality defense, and throwing Khalil Mack in there makes it even better.

Time to make a decision. Who’s taking the North?

Figueroa: If the Bears can fix their issues on offense that would make them the best team in the North. The Bears and Packers will ultimately decide the division, but I give a slight edge to the Bears.

Larsen: I think the Packers are going to do it. They had a good year last year, and I think Rodgers is going to come out as aggressive as ever. The Vikings will make it tough, but I see the Packers taking the division.

Bovitz: While the Vikings, Bears, and even Lions will put up a fight, it has to go to the Packers. People forget that this team went 13-3 last year and almost went to the Super Bowl. They still have questions on both defense and offense, but they are the most well-balanced team in the North. The Bears have a great defense but shaky offense, the Lions are vice versa, and I am not confident in the Vikings this year. The Packers will take it.

Martin: The Green Bay Packers will win the NFC North again this year. It will be close between them and the Vikings but the Packers will just eke it out. Chicago has a poor offense and Detroit a poor defense, which will count them both out.

 

Thanks to Juan Figueroa, James Larsen, and Adam Martin for taking part in this roundtable. The NFC North should be fascinating this year. The season kicks off for the division at 1 PM eastern time on September 13th. At that time, the Packers will be taking on the Vikings and the Bears will visit the Lions.


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