It’s May. Typically in Titletown that means the offseason is in full swing as fans comb through the upcoming schedule and sharpie in the Green Bay Packers for another playoff berth.
It didn’t go as planned last year, and superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers departed. Now, with Jordan Love taking the reins, outsiders and national pundits are frantically running away, all but showering dirt on Green Bay’s grave before Week 1 has even arrived.
Shame on them. The Packers can win an NFC North that is truly up for grabs with no juggernaut.
When taking a quick glance at FanDuel, you’ll see that the Detroit Lions are the favorite to win the division with odds resting at +145. Ah, yes, the same Lions team that hasn’t won a division crown since the Clinton administration. They haven’t had a whiff of the playoffs since our beloved Harambe was still roaming the Cincinnati Zoo.
Now, I’ll grant you that the Lions could’ve folded after an abysmal 1-6 start in 2022. Instead, they bought into head coach Dan Campbell and finished the season 9-8. That 9-8 record wasn’t good enough to make the postseason. But after beating Green Bay in Week 18 to end its season, you’d have thought the Lions just won the conference.
Then there’s Chicago.
A franchise so pathetic that Bears fans celebrated having the No. 1-overall pick as much as they celebrated their lone Super Bowl in 1986.
It’s a fanbase starving for relevance at quarterback. As a result, they have hitched their wagon to Justin Fields. The same Justin Fields that ranked 34th in DVOA among quarterbacks, 32nd in completion percentage, and 25th in passer rating. But he can run!
Yes, Fields was first among quarterbacks in rushing yards. But how sustainable is that? Go check Robert Griffin III’s longevity or look at injuries to Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray last year and get back to me. And for the record, both Jackson and Murray are way more established passers than Fields.
Bears fans will cry that there aren’t, or weren’t, weapons around Fields. But that narrative can get tossed into the rubble of Solider Field once it’s bulldozed and replaced with a Portillo’s and a new stadium goes up in Arlington Heights.
Chicago traded a second-round pick for wide receiver Chase Claypool last year and traded for star wideout D.J. Moore as part of the trade circulating around the No. 1-overall pick. They also signed former Green Bay tight end Robert Tonyan and drafted Cincinnati wide receiver Tyler Scott in the fourth round. Excuses no more. It’s prove it time for Fields as a passer.
There are almost as many unknowns about Fields as a passer as there are about Packers quarterback Jordan Love. Yet more seem people smitten with Fields than No. 10 in Green Bay.
Make it make sense.
Lastly, we have the belle of the ball in the division from 2022: The Minnesota Vikings.
It’s a narrative that even Vikings fans — no, Minnesota sports fans — will agree was inevitable.
You go into a new season optimistic but guarded. Minnesota fans have been wounded far too often from seeing the same movie over and over.
The Vikings (insert Wild, Timberwolves, Twins as well) start the season better than expected. Yay! Minnesota fans slowly but surely get sucked in, buying into this year being different because why the hell not?
Minnesota claims the north in a down year for Green Bay and are hosting a playoff game in which they are favored in. It’s against Daniel Jones and the New York Giants. What could possibly go wrong?
You know the ending. They know the ending. We all know the ending.
Give that fanbase credit because they will peel themselves off the deck and stand in the ring for 12 more rounds in 2023 only to see another predictable ending.
Is Kirk Cousins supposed to strike the fear of God into Packers fans since Rodgers is gone? Newsflash: He doesn’t.
Vikings fans give Packers fans a hard time for the franchise only winning one Super Bowl apiece during the Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers eras.
Have they looked in a mirror? This franchise hasn’t appeared in a Super Bowl since Roots debuted. Yet they boast like they have the Kansas City Chiefs’ staying power.
It would be a shame if in a couple years Jefferson took the Stefon Diggs route. Let’s put a bookmark on that topic for now, though.
All of this circles back to the Packers.
The over/under win total for the season is 7.5. They start the season facing Chicago, the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Detroit, Las Vegas Raiders, and Denver Broncos. Six teams, none of which made the playoffs last year.
But neither did the Packers.
Does that mean Packers fans should be intimidated with the prospects of facing quarterbacks Justin Fields, Desmond Ridder, and Derek Carr to start the season? Why can’t this team start 2-1 or even 3-1? Because Rodgers is gone and they are destined to fail?
The reality is that the NFC North isn’t the AFC North. There isn’t a Cincinnati Bengals with Joe Burrow. It’s a division up for grabs and, because of that, the Packers have as good a chance as any. Accept it.