We’ve come a long way in just a few short months. With the NFL regular season now officially less than a week away, Green Bay Packers fans are starting to feel extremely confident about their team’s potential. Aaron Rodgers has returned and looks physically and mentally fantastic. The skill positions are loaded with talent, and there’s every reason to believe the defense could take a major step forward.
Green Bay is clearly in Super Bowl-or-bust mode, but the path to a title usually starts with a division championship. Most fans and analysts are feeling pretty confident about the Packers’ chances in the NFC North. Now you can add a very assured Mike Florio to that list.
The long time journalist, Football Night in America contributor, and closeted Vikings fan thinks the Packers are the biggest divisional lock in the league.
On PFT on NBC sports, Big Cat (a Chicago Bears fan) stated his belief that the Packers wouldn’t see much competition for the NFC North crown this season, and Florio responded:
I think that would be the most stunning upset out of any division title of this year. I think the Packers win it in a walk. They’re 26-6 under Matt Lafleur, and I know they have issues with the offensive line, [it’s] not as good as it was last year and they lost Corey Linsley. But they still have Aaron Rodgers, and I think Aaron Rodgers is as motivated this year as he was last year to have a big season and eventually walk off into the sunset.
As good as the Packers are, that’s still a pretty bold statement in a league where Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs still exist. But when you really think about it, the case is solid. Let’s go through the other teams.
There is no reason to believe the Chicago Bears will be anything other than average. Yes I understand the Justin Fields hype, and he may be a serious issue for the Packers down the line. But we were talking about this year. Their offensive line is absolutely atrocious, and their defense has never regained its one-season-of-glory form. Perhaps most importantly, there’s every reason to believe that the GM and coach are playing the long game.
Both Ryan pace and mat Nagy are on the hot seat, and the best thing for their job security is to have a strong second half of the season where Fields shows potential, and there’s reason to believe the future is bright. I absolutely anticipate them starting Andy Dalton and struggling through the first half of the season, then making the switch and giving ownership reason to believe that they should be kept in place. There is no way the Bears should cause any divisional problems for the green and gold.
The Vikings are everybody’s quiet little sleeper. Numerous media members think they could come out of mediocrity and challenge Green Bay. I’m not buying it. Yes, Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are fantastic. But their offense of line is absolute garbage until proven otherwise, and Kirk Cousins cannot operate in anything but a clean pocket.
On paper, their defense looks great, but the truth is it’s filled with older veterans on one of your contracts that might not have it anymore. Sure, if Patrick Peterson, Everson Griffen, Sheldon Richardson, and Bashaud Breeland all have career years, their defense might be a real problem, but that’s a pretty big if. They have a first-year offensive coordinator who likely got his job through nepotism in Klint Kubiak and they still have a head coach who wants their offense to be run like it’s the early 1990s.
Minnesota is definitely the biggest challenge to Green Bay in the NFC North. But as long as Cousins is in purple, no part of me believes they will beat a Rodgers-led Packers team.
And then there’s the Detroit Lions.
*Takes a five minute break from writing to laugh about the idea of the Lions winning the NFC North.*
At first glance, Florio’s claim might seem a little over the top. But when you dive in deeper, he’s definitely onto something. Green Bay should be every bit of the team they were the last couple of years and more, and that team has been 11-1 in the division. So take Florio’s advice and head to Vegas to throw a bunch of money on a Packers division crown.