We are drawing closer to the start of the NFL season, as all 32 teams have reported to training camp. There will be so much to anticipate this year, including a new 17 game regular season. Rookies like Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be fun to watch. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face an insane amount of pressure as they try to repeat as champions. Of course, we will all be watching for this year’s breakout star. As we count down the days to the opening kickoff, let’s preview the divisions. Today, we are looking at the NFC North.
The Green Bay Packers ran away with the division in 2020 and it wasn’t remotely close. Green Bay made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game before a questionable decision by head coach Matt LaFleur ended their season on the spot. Part of the “Last Year” talk also must center around Aaron Rodgers holding out, asking for a trade, and threatening retirement before ultimately deciding to report to training camp.
Behind the Packers were the Chicago Bears who somehow made the playoffs and were an example of how weak the NFC was in 2020. They were bounced in the opening round of the playoffs by the New Orleans Saints, and it wasn’t close. Minnesota seemed to take a step back despite the breakout season by rookie receiver John Jefferson and the Detroit Lions did what they typically do. The talk of the North was dominated all year long by the Packers.
Favorite to Win in 2021
The Packers sit at the top of this list and there is no question about that. Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and Aaron Jones make for an explosive offense. They chose Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes in the first round of the draft, who may prevent them from getting burned by Tom Brady and the Bucs in the playoffs. There will be a sense of urgency for this team to win before Rodgers packs his bag and walks out in 2022.
After them, the Bears have the nod as they will debut Andy Dalton as the starting quarterback. However, it’s just a question of time before first round pick Justin Fields starts taking the snaps. It’s a toss-up for third as the Lions have a new head coach and quarterback. The Vikings are an enigma so it will be interesting to see if they improve this season after regressing under Kirk Cousins in 2020.
Offensive Player to Watch: Justin Jefferson
This dude was incredibly exciting to watch in 2020 and had a season that was very comparable to the rookie season that Randy Moss had in Minnesota. He was deserving of NFL Rookie of the Year honors, but the award went to Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert instead. Jefferson could join the elite list of wide receivers in only his second season. He was clutch in big spots and knows what it takes to win after coming out of college as part of the LSU team that defeated Clemson in the National Championship.
Defensive Player to Watch: Khalil Mack
For my money, Mack is the most exciting defensive player in the National Football League. His presence was especially felt in the Bears win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year where Mack was all over Brady.
Prediction: Packers (14-3)
The Packers are winning this division and if they don’t, it could be the most disappointing story in the league. If you’re thinking the Bears could steal the title, you might want to get your head checked.