Do you still think the Minnesota Vikings are better than their record indicates? Is Aaron Rodgers washed? Should Justin Fields start? How many kneecaps will the Detroit Lions bite? Week 3 will help answer all of these questions and more.
All four NFC North teams play quality opponents this week, and it will be a test to show who’s really in contention for the division. Here’s how each team will show its true colors this week:
Green Bay Packers (1-1)
The Green Bay Packers sit on the NFC North throne, but they’re precariously balanced. The Packers took a nasty loss from the New Orleans Saints in Week 1. Jameis Winston played out of his mind, Aaron Rodgers had the worst performance of his career (regardless of whether or not he took a “double nut shot”), and the Packers failed to score a touchdown.
It looked better for the other teams in the division when the Lions were leading the Packers going into halftime on Monday night. Ultimately, the Packers beat the Lions at Lambeau Field, but they still haven’t shown they can keep up with strong competition.
The Packers are playing the San Francisco 49ers (2-0) in a few days, and they will be put to the test. Will they get destroyed as they did against the Saints? Will they hold them until the second half like the Lions did? Will Rodgers find his groove and throw for four touchdowns?
Whatever happens, it will have significant implications on their season. A win would put them in a great position to take a division lead, but I think the Packers are the trickiest team to pin down because they’ve been so inconsistent.
Also, the Niners are probably the worst of the four teams the NFC North is facing this week. So the Packers could very well beat them, especially if it’s close, and lose to some of the better teams in the league. Still, the Niners are undefeated and better than the Lions, so it’s the reasonable next step to see if they can win after looking awful against the Saints.
Chicago Bears (1-1)
We have a sense of how good the Bears are, but Justin Fields is an X-factor. Could he transform them as a team if he’s named the starter later in the season? It’s especially intriguing for Vikings fans because they reportedly had an interest in trading up for Fields, only to have the Bears snipe him.
The Bears were starting Andy Dalton before he went down with an injury in Week 2. It will be interesting to see if Fields can keep up with NFL speed and if the team has enough weapons to help the rookie out.
It’s a weird time for rookie QBs right now. Trevor Lawrence hasn’t looked good, Zach Wilson threw four picks last week, Mac Jones is blocking downfield, and the Niners have only featured Trey Lance in some offensive packages. Fields has an opportunity to create buzz if he holds his own, considering he just needs one really good game to look better than all the other rookies around the league.
The Bears will face the Cleveland Browns (1-1), who are looking good again this year after finishing 11-5 last season. We’ll see if they are a solid all-around team in this matchup and if Fields is ready for the spotlight. Also, the Vikings will be playing Cleveland in Week 4, so we’ll soon see how Chicago matches up to Minnesota.
Detroit Lions (0-2)
The Lions have looked good for about two to three quarters in both games so far, but they aren’t putting a full 60 minutes together. Jared Goff passes the eye test for the most part, and they haven’t looked bad, barring some mistakes that happen when you have a new head coach.
The Lions are playing the Ravens, so chalk that up as a loss. I don’t think Detroit has a chance at taking the throne this year, but it’s an interesting storyline to follow what their plan at quarterback might be. Is Goff the QB of their future? Maybe, but this year will likely be a flyer to see what Campbell can do as a coach and if Goff has what it takes to work outside of Sean McVay’s offense.
Minnesota Vikings (0-2)
Minnesota’s record is uninspiring, but the point differential tells a different story. They have scored 57 (the most in the NFC North), and their opponents have scored 61 on them. They’ve been one score — or play — away from winning their first two games. But ultimately, they’re still 0-2.
This week, they play the Seattle Seahawks, who lost to the Tennessee Titans in overtime in Week 2 after taking a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter. It was embarrassing, but as a Vikings fan — well, the Vikings are 0-2.
The Titans aren’t a bad team, and the Seahawks still have Russell Wilson and incredible receivers — something the Vikings struggle against. It will be a challenging home game for Minnesota, but it will be the first time they have fans at US Bank Stadium for over a year, and they need to win if they want to have a chance at a playoff run this season. The Vikings are similar to Tennessee in how they run the ball and aren’t afraid to stretch the field.
It will also show whether or not the Vikings can consistently compete with good teams this year. The Cincinnati Bengals may not be a playoff team after their poor showing against the Bears, but the Arizona Cardinals are looking very good, and the Vikings should have beat them last week.
If the Vikings lose this week, I think it’s safe to say they will have dug themself a hole that’s too deep to crawl out of. But if they win, the season is not a loss, and they can rebound. It is the most crucial early-season game and could be the most important game of the year for their morale and seeding.
The Vikings cannot hang around at the bottom of the division with the Lions. They have gone all out for a chance at a playoff run with multiple one-year contracts and limited cap space for the next few years. If the Lions prove they are the real deal, l think this season is a wash for the Vikings. If Minnesota can’t keep up with the rest of the division, they need a fire sale. Trade everybody and rebuild.
Luckily, each NFC North team faces a strong opponent because it’s the third game that often reveals how good a team really is. Nobody is .500 after Week 3; they either have a winning record or a losing record. Fans will know who’s real and who’s not.