The NFC North will look differently with the subtraction of former Green Bay Packers and current New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the first time since 2008 as the starting quarterback. At the time of writing, the NFL season is only 50 days away and questions need to be asked for each team in the division.
1. Minnesota Vikings: Is 2023 Cousins last season in Minnesota?
The Vikings won the NFC North division for the first time since 2017 in 2022 after finishing with a 13-4 regular season record. Minnesota lost in the wild-card round to the upstart New York Giants in an upset that was perhaps the most prominent of the 2022 postseason.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is approaching his sixth season in Minnesota and has since posted solid statistics as the franchise quarterback. Since joining Minnesota, Cousins garnered 4,000 plus yards for four out of his five seasons. Cousins posted prolific quarterback ratings throughout his time in Minnesota by garnering ratings of 99.7 (2018), 107.4 (2019), 105.0 (2020), 103.1 (2021) and 92.5 (2022), respectively.
Cousins’s statistics are formidable, but they haven’t translated to winning as the franchise has only been on two trips to the postseason since Cousins arrived in 2018. The former Washington Redskins (now known as Washington Commanders) quarterback has had elite-level talent throughout his Minnesota tenure with the likes of former Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, former Vikings wideout Adam Thielen, former Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs and former Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Cousins is entering the final year of his current deal and there haven’t been talks of an extension that will likely take place next spring. If the Vikings aren’t contending in the NFC this year albeit in a weak division, 2023 might be Cousins last in Minnesota.
2. Detroit Lions: Is the Dan Campbell hype warranted?
The Lions finished the 2022 regular season strong by winning eight of its last 10 games and having a winning record for the first time since 2017. Lions head coach Dan Campbell took over the helm in 2021 and has led the Lions to a 12-21 overall regular season record.
Campbell and the Lions lost key offensive pieces during the offseason such as the 2022 rushing touchdown leader running back Jamaal Williams, running back D’Andre Swift and wideout DJ Chark. Fortunately, they filled those voids with the addition of former Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery, veteran wideout Marvin Jones and 2023 NFL draft second-round pick tight-end Sam Laporta.
Detroit defensively ranked last in the NFL in total defense in 2022 and lost defensive backs Jeff Okaduh and cornerback Mike Hughes in the offseason. The Lions picked up former Philadelphia Eagles safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton to fill the voids. Detroit hopes 2022 first-round pick defensive end Aiden Hutchinson can make a leap in 2023 after a promising rookie season. In 2022, Hutchinson tallied 9.5 sacks, 3 interceptions and was elected to the PFWA All-Rookie Team.
Since the trade of Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets from the Green Bay Packers in the offseason, the consensus is that Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff is the clear top quarterback in the division. The other quarterbacks in the division include an unproven Jordan Love in Green Bay, an inconsistent Kirk Cousins in Minnesota who underperforms in the postseason and Justin Fields in Chicago who isn’t a solid pass thrower just yet. Goff has proven success in the playoffs by leading the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl in 2019.
Campbell and the Lions are favored to win the division in 2023 and with prominent changes made to improve their roster, high expectations are being set on the upstart team in Detroit.
3. Green Bay Packers: What should Green Bay expect from Jordan Love?
Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love is officially the franchise pass thrower since the departure of Aaron Rodgers during the offseason.
The 2023 season will be Love’s first season as a starting quarterback and he will kickstart a new era in Green Bay. What can the Packers expect from their 2020 first-round draft pick?
Love started in only one game during his NFL career thus far which was a matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2021 season. In the game, Love completed 19 of 34 passes for 190 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception in the loss. The Green Bay quarterback played in other games to simply fill in for Rodgers when he went down for an injury or if a game was out of hand.
In the games Love played, he displayed strong pocket presence and confidence, standing at 6-foot-4 and 224 pounds. Love has a big arm but it needs a little more polishing as he grows more into the starting role.
The Packers are in rebuild mode following the departure of four-time league MVP Rodgers, and 2023 should be focused on developing Love.
4. Chicago Bears: What’s going on with the pass protection for Justin Fields?
Bears quarterback Justin Fields and the Bears finished with a 3-14 record in the 2022 regular season and ranked 28th overall in total offense. Chicago’s lack of offensive production is due to their inexperienced and fragile offensive front. In 2022, the Bears ranked fourth in sacks allowed with 58 total sacks.
The Bears’ offensive line consists of Nate Davis at right guard (signed during the offseason from Tennessee), veteran Cody Whitehair at center (suffered a knee injury in 2022), Tevon Jenkins at left guard (played right guard in 2022), Braxton Jones at left tackle (elected to 2022 PFF All-Rookie Team) and Darnell Wright at right tackle (first-round pick in 2023 NFL draft). The core on the offensive line are young, but their development as a unit are crucial for the success of the run and passing game.
Chicago elected to not draft Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young in the 2023 NFL draft despite having the number one overall pick, which conveys full faith in Fields as the franchise quarterback.
If the Bears want Fields to improve and make him operate more in the pocket, then a competent offensive line is essential for the growth of their young quarterback.
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Featured image courtesy of Lions.com