Green Bay Packers: Why team is a lock to win NFC North in 2018

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 17: Aaron Rodgers
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 17: Aaron Rodgers /

With a division full of unknowns, the Green Bay Packers will win the NFC North in 2018 — if Aaron Rodgers is healthy.

Recent history tells us the Green Bay Packers will be in the playoffs following the 2018 NFL season. Eight of the last nine seasons, the Packers have made postseason play, winning a Super Bowl in 2010 and five NFC North titles during that stretch.

But history won’t be the only reason Green Bay makes another trip to the playoffs in 2018. With quarterback conundrums and a new coach in Detroit, the Packers have a paved road to the division crown if they can stay reasonably healthy. That has been a challenge for Green Bay lately, but there are a bevy of factors working in the Packers’ favor.

What are those factors? Let’s look at the rest of the division, going team-by-team, and figure that much out.

Chicago Bears: They’re a mess

No offense to general manager Ryan Pace, but his overhaul of Halas Hall is still a work in progress. He fired head coach John Fox this offseason and brought in Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator, Matt Nagy.

Nagy was an All-American college quarterback at Delaware and played some in the AFL, so he should be able to better guide second-year signal-caller Mitch Trubisky, who was lauded by many TV analysts last season, albeit throwing seven interceptions against seven touchdowns and holding onto the ball way too long (he was sacked 31 times in 12 games). Which is fine; he was a rookie. It just remains to be seen if he will progress the way the Bears hope.

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Chicago needs to fill multiple wide receiver spots, offensive lineman, defensive backs and add another linebacker—i.e. lots of holes to fill. Their defense finished in the top 10 in total defense, but that’s not good enough to topple the Packers. Chicago should have some salary cap room, but they need to continue to build through the draft.

Detroit continues to be Detroit

Okay, the Detroit Lions made a big move and got a great defensive coach in Matt Patricia. Patricia is a proven commodity and may very well be a fine head coach one day, but he has two things working against him.

First, he is a Bill Belichick disciple, and they have not fared well as head coaches (please see Josh McDaniels, Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis, who failed at Notre Dame and Kansas). The second is more obvious: He is in Detroit. The Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991 and haven’t won the division since 1993. Matthew Stafford is an extremely capable quarterback, but the Lions are average at wide receiver right now, and this is a passing league.

Detroit was 9-7 last year, but that’s a little deceiving. The schedule was favorable, with wins against the scuffling Cardinals, Giants, Browns, and Buccaneers. The only team they beat of consequence was the Vikings (Rodgers did not play in their wins against the Packers).

Minnesota needs a quarterback

The Vikings have a big decision to make at the quarterback spot. Teddy Bridgewater (who likely won’t be re-signed), Sam Bradford and Case Keenum will all be free agents. It’s likely time for Bridgewater to move on. He’s been injured, and the Vikings can’t afford to carry two quarterbacks with a history of injury if they decide to ink Bradford to a new deal (Bradford only started two two games last year, and has been oft-injured throughout his career).

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Keenum won 11 games and took the Vikings to the NFC championship, but has never been a full-time starter. It’s one thing to step in as a backup and rally the troops; it’s a totally different animal to be “the guy” from the start of training camp. Keenum has never proven he can do that. Bradford is veteran player, but can you rely on him? Both are tough calls.