Ranking Bears position groups in the NFC North
It figures to be a lean year for the NFC North.
The Packers would have a hard time improving on consecutive 13-3 records anyway, and losing two key offensive linemen could keep them from attaining an early level of dominance. There will also be plenty of scrutiny for Aaron Rodgers after his summer of discontent. Does missing offseason work affect a QB in his late 30s?
The Vikings and Bears both tried to make up ground, but both appear to have stumbled over themselves in ways that leave them even further behind the Packers than last year.
There are numerous prayer groups accepting requests for the Lions before Dan Campbell has bitten a single kneecap. Here’s a position ranking of the NFC North, a division where the champion looks like they could be an easy out in the playoffs this year.
1. Packers 2. Vikings 3. Lions 4. Bears
After all the drafting and signings, the Bears still rate worst at this position in the NFC North. This is only because Justin Fields has not played yet and Andy Dalton has played enough to know he’s not as good as either Aaron Rodgers or Kick Cousins. Is he better than Jared Goff? It’s possible, but Goff has been to a Super Bowl and Dalton has never even won a playoff game.
1. Packers 2. Vikings 3. Bears 4. Lions
It would be easy to place the Vikings first based on the explosiveness of Dalvin Cook, but he has been somewhat injury prone and their depth is not of a quality. The Bears have made great in-roads in the depth factor. Even with David Montgomery’s fierce running style and Damien Williams’ experience, the Bears can’t rate ahead of Green Bay with Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. The Packers know how to use their backs, as well. If D’Andre Swift steps up to where the Lions expected when they drafted him last year, they could be on par with the Bears. They do have depth, as former Packers back Jamaal Williams has been added. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if Williams eventually became the starter.
1. Lions 2. Bears 3. Packers 4. Vikings
T.J. Hockenson rates the best tight end in the division and the Lions have made this position a priority by bringing in Darren Fells as a backup. The Bears could have the best group of three, with Jesse James added and Cole Kmet ascending as starter ahead of Jimmy Graham. Green Bay’s Robert Tonyan is coming off an excellent first year as a starter but is backed up by fossilized Marcedes Lewis. The Packers had hope for Josiah Deguara but he’s on the PUP list. The Vikings had the best tight end group but fouled it up by letting Kyle Rudolph leave as a free agent and then losing starter Irv Smith Jr. to a knee injury. They’ll need Tyler Conklin to step up but he has shown promise.
1. Vikings 2. Bears 3. Packers 4. Lions
Justin Jefferson’s emergence to team with Adam Thielen saved the Vikings from embarrassment after the foolishe mistake of letting Stefon Diggs leave. If Darnell Mooney continues to progress in Year 2, the Bears could be stride for stride with the Vikings, as Allen Robinson rates as a potential Pro Bowl player even if the Bears have avoided paying him. The third and fourth receiver spots for the Bears are total mysteries. They could get a windfall from speed receivers Marquise Goodwdin, Damiere Byrd and Breshad Perriman, or they could get absolutely nothing from them. Even Jefferson isn’t as good as Green Bay’s Davante Adams. Those three top NFC North receivers—Adams, Robinson and Jefferson—would be as good as any group of three from any division. The Packers have nothing beyond Adams. They dredged up Randall Cobb at the end of jhis career now just to please Rodgers. For some reason they insist on short-changing Rodgers in the receiver category. Detroit would be better off not using wide receivers considering the collection they’re making Goff use as targets.
1. Lions 2. Packers 3. Vikings 4. Bears
Without David Bakhtiari due to last year’s torn ACL, the Packers’ line is a cut below the fine wall of talent the Lions can throw up to block for Goff or Swift. If the Lions manage a running game, they have a chance to stay in games they were out of last year even though their receiver corps rates below some CFL teams. Frank Ragnow, Taylor Decker and Halapoulivaati Vaitai are strong blocking the run or pass. They’ll be among the league’s elite if Penei Sewell develops as expected. Green Bay’s strength is versatility among linemen and it keeps them in good stead even with center Corey Linsley gone in free agency. On paper, the Vikings offensive line always looks great, and then games start. Losing their offensive line coach at the outset of camp is a blow, too. The Bears are trying to play with three offensive linemen but rules still allow for five, so it’s probably not going to work. They may need Justin Fields to start for Andy Dalton so they have a passer who can avoid sacks.
1. Bears 2. Packers 3. Vikings 4. Lions
This assessment includes outside linebackers in a 3-4 as linemen, because that’s what they are as edge rushers. The Bears have the potential for total dominance with this group of five—Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols and Akiem Hicks—but they also have solid backups in Jeremiah Attaochu and Angelo Blackson. Green Bay is close, with the Smiths and nose Kenny Clark, but hasn’t filled out the full card and reserves like the Bears. Minnesota has the potential to be better. Then again, it would be hard for the Vikings to be worse than last year. Danielle Hunter is a force in the pass rush. They hope Michael Pierce can help stop teams from trampling through the middle like last season. Detroit’s defensive line could be a strength but even then they’d be last in the division. Michael Brockers, Levi Onwuzurike, Alim McNeill and Trey Flowers are about as good as they’ve been at this position in a few decades, but that’s not saying much.
1. Vikings 2. Bears 3. Packers 4. Lions
Roquan Smith appears on the verge of something great, but sidekick Danny Trevathan appears to have faded. Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr still give the Vikings two players at or close to the top in the division and they’ve made strides toward finding a third who could solve their problems stopping the run. The Packers had problems for years with linebackers but Krys Barnes at least gave them more of an all-around type than they had with Blake Martinez. Now they need others to step up. Lions linebackers Jamie Collins and Alex Anzalone are stronger against the pass than the run.
1. Packers 2. Vikings 3. Bears 4. Lions
Cornerback Jaire Alexander and safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage give the Packers continuity in the secondary and younger talent. If Eric Stokes eventually replaces Kevin King they’ll have even more talent in coverage. The Vikings deserve credit for trying to resurrect the secondary but they went to outside help in Bashaud Breeland, Xavier Woods and Patrick Peterson alongside uber talent Harrison Smith. Throwing in players from other teams, especially someone older at cornerback like Peterson often invites disaster. Detroit youth in the secondary is a potential nightmare until the defensive front begins exerting itself, and then could have time and ability to develop. The Bears still have Eddie Jackson, expect much from Jaylon Johnson, but with Tashaun Gipson in his 30s and both Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley untested there is no doubt this is the weak link to their defense.
1. Bears 2. Packers 3. Lions. 4. Vikings
By far the most important aspect of special teams play is place-kicking. Kick returners have lost importance due to rule changes, so kick coverage units have as well. It’s not hard to render punt returners unimportant with a high punt or one out of bounds. Green Bay’s Mason Crosby was perfect last year, but he only attempted 16 field goals. Cairo Santos missed just two and set franchise records for field goal percentage and consecutive field goals made. The Lions kicking situation was so bad at camp they cut all of them. Detroit punter Jack Fox averaged 49.1 yards but numbers for indoor punters are a bit skewed. The Packers had some of the worst punt and kick coverage units in the league last year and the Bears no longer have spectacular kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson but are only deficient in punt coverage. Add this all together and then take a guess on the rankings.
1. Packers 2. Bears 3. Vikings 4. Lions
Matt Nagy ahead of Mike Zimmer? Zimmer has beaten Nagy once in six games. Nagy always manages to beat the Vikings at their own game. Zimmer could have been 0-6 against the Bears if David Montgomery hadn’t been injured when the teams played at Soldier Field last year. Matt LaFleur’s best coaching move might have been staying out of the Rodgers controversy. Campbell should have talked softly and carried a big stick instead of coming out swinging as he did. He’s putting a target on the young Lions’ backs before they need it.
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