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The NFC North Is the Best in the NFL and It’s Not Even Close

One month into the season the Packers and Bears head the NFC North, while the Lions and Vikings could easily contend for the division title later this season.

Photo Courtesy of Full Press Coverage

One-quarter of the NFL season is over which allows for more accurate analysis of each team. So far, it appears that the NFC North is the toughest division in football, and it’s not really even that close. Here are a few reasons why:

Combined Record: 10-5-1

In terms of combined records, the NFC North is the top dog. Coming in closely behind them are the NFC West with nine wins and a tie with eight wins between the AFC South/West.

Of course, records don’t quite tell how good a team is at this stage of the season. You could say one team is doing great, only to look at their schedule and see they’ve been playing cupcake opponents. That hasn’t been the case for the teams in the NFC North. A quick breakdown of each teams’ records thus far:

Green Bay Packers – (beat Chicago 10-3, beat Vikings 21-16, beat Broncos 27-16, lost to Eagles 34-27)

The Packers could easily be 1-3 but they managed to beat out divisional opponents, which is huge early on in the season. After a snooze-fest in Chicago, the Packers bounced back to edge out Minnesota, then beat a slumping Broncos squad before losing to a rising Philly team. Rodgers hasn’t been pin-point this season but still has a ratio of 6:1 in terms of touchdowns to interceptions, while throwing for 1,069 yards.

Chicago Bears – (lost to Packers 10-3, beat Broncos 16-14, beat Redskins 31-15, beat Vikings 16-6)

The Bears played in one of the most lackluster NFL games to open the 100th season, yet still only lost by one score to the Packers. They’ve won their last three games, two against cupcake opponents but needed to regain confidence within the offense. With so many headlines swirling around Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky’s trust in each other, it finally clicked in Washington. Trubisky exited early against the Vikings, replaced by Chase Daniel (one of the best backups in the league) who manufactured just enough on offense.

Detroit Lions – (tied with Cardinals 27-27, beat Chargers 13-10, beat Eagles 27-24, lost to Chiefs 34-30)

Detroit is considered a dark horse this season and has already played leaps and bounds better than years past. They had a chance of starting the season 1-0 but let a lead slip away, only to salvage a tie after playing overtime against a mediocre Cardinals team. They bounced back in a big way by defeating the Chargers (playoff hopefuls), then followed that up by beating the Eagles in Philly. Detroit nearly came away with a win against the red hot Chiefs, but again, failed to hold onto a lead late. This team is more dangerous than usual and they’ve played some of the tougher teams so far compared to their division rivals.

Minnesota Vikings – (beat Falcons 28-12, lost to Packers 21-16, beat Raiders 34-14, lost to Bears 16-6)

Minnesota’s offense has only really shown up once this season, in their rout of the Raiders during Week Three. A lot of questions continue to surround Kirk Cousins and his ability to make the Vikings a dangerous team on both sides of the ball. So far, he hasn’t done anything special, but Dalvin Cook has taken the load as one of the top backs in the league. Cook has totaled 410 yards on the ground, averaging nearly six yards per carry, to go along with five touchdowns.

Lethal Defenses

Packers – It’d been some time when you could say one of the strengths for the Packers was their defense. That’s been the case this season, however, making this team that much more capable of making the postseason. Blake Martinez plays all over the field and has a team-high 47 tackles as a result. Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, and Kenny Clark have a combined nine sacks while the rest of the team has three. The Packers also have recorded four interceptions this season, including one by Darnell Savage, a rising rookie in the secondary.

Bears – Known as the Monsters of the Midway for a reason, the Bears entered this season with the best defense from 2018. A couple of pieces left, including Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio, but this team group has been stellar once again. Chuck Pagano’s defense has yet to allow more than two touchdowns in one game with the Redskins finding the end zone twice. The Bears shut down Minnesota’s running game, limiting them to 40 yards on the ground.

Danny Trevathan leads the way with 33 tackles, with Kyle Fuller (25 tackles), Roquan Smith (24 tackles), and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix (21 tackles) right behind him. As a team, the Bears already have 17 sacks with 4.5 coming from Khalil Mack, four from Nick Williams, 2.5 from Roy Robertson-Harris, two from Leonard Floyd, and one sack from Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski, Akiem Hicks, and Aaron Lynch. Clinton-Dix and Fuller have two picks apiece with Clinton-Dix finding the end zone once for a defensive score.

Lions – As mentioned above, the Lions can be considered a dark horse this season, putting together quality wins over the Chargers and Eagles. A depleted defense was up to the task of stopping the high-powered Chiefs and nearly managed to do so. Despite losing to KC, the Lions kept Patrick Mahomes from finding the end zone at all, only the fourth game that feat has been accomplished in his young career.

Tracy Walker has led the way so far with 36 tackles while patrolling the secondary, including three tackles for loss. As a team, the Lions have nine sacks with Devon Kennard accounting for three of them. Christian Jones already has two sacks followed by Trey Flowers, Jahlani Tavai, and Damon Harrison Sr. with one sack each. Romeo Okwara and A’Shawn Robinson also have .5 sack apiece. Veteran Darius Slay has one interception, along with one from Walker as well. Jamal Agnew has provided a spark already with a pair of forced fumbles and a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Philly.

Vikings – Before the Bears took the next step in terms of their defense a couple of years ago, the Vikings had the most fearsome group in the North. While they’ve lost a step to some of their competition, they’re still nothing to take lightly with their loaded roster. Eric Kendricks leads the team with 33 tackles thus far, followed by Harrison Smith with 24 to go along with one forced fumble and one pick.

The Vikings have quietly totaled 11 sacks this season, led by Danielle Hunter with three. Eric Wilson, Everson Griffin, and Linval Joseph have a pair of sacks each while Anthony Barr and Shamar Stephen have one apiece. Anthony Harris also has picked off two passes, both against the Falcons in Week One. The Vikings still have a ruthless defense, despite their 2-2 record.

Offensive Capabilities

Finally, each team has numerous offensive weapons across the board with some being exploited, while others have not.

Packers – Any great team generally has to have a great quarterback slinging the ball around. The Packers have been blessed with top-tier talent at the position for years and Rodgers still has plenty left in the tank. Despite trying to figure out a new system under new head coach Matt LeFleur, Rodgers hasn’t missed a beat yet this season.

His top target has been Davante Adams, hauling in 25 balls for 378 yards. Despite the high production and ability to stretch out the field, Adams has yet to score this season with guys like Geronimo Allison, Jimmy Graham, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling getting more looks in the red zone. Running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have accounted for half of their touchdowns so far.

Bears – The Bears have a mix of talent when it comes to the offensive side of the ball. They’ve surrounded Trubisky (third year in the NFL) with several weapons including Anthony Miller, Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, Tarik Cohen, David Montgomery, and Mike Davis. Among that long list of players, only Cohen, Montgomery and Gabriel have scored, totaling five of their six touchdowns this season. Trubisky has yet to find much rhythm but with Chase Daniel expected to take over (Trubisky with dislocated left shoulder and torn labrum), for now, their offense should see an uptick. Not to mention, the Bears finally have a kicker again.

Lions – Anytime you can match one of the higher-scoring teams in the league, you know you’ve got talent. Matthew Stafford has been in Detroit for what seems like forever, dating back to the Megatron days, but hasn’t had a consistent threat since. Yes, they’ve had Golden Tate for a few years, but even he wasn’t enough for the Lions to be considered “good”. Enter Kenny Golladay who has gotten better every year since being drafted in 2017. This season, Golladay has hauled in four touchdowns, including two against the Chiefs, and has 19 receptions for 243 yards.

Opposite him is Marvin Jones Jr. whose averaging over 15 yards per catch and has scored once. Kerryon Johnson has also provided a needed back to make the running game prevalent again, so far rushing for 251 yards and one score. The Lions have already gotten production out of rookie Tight End T.J. Hockenson, scoring twice and pulled in 11 balls for 166 yards.

Vikings – Already mentioned above, Cook has been a leading force for Minnesota this season. Even after being held to just 40 yards against the Bears, Cook has amassed 410 yards on the ground, averaging nearly six yards per carry, and has scored five times. Cook has also caught 15 balls for 114 yards, averaging a shade under eight yards per catch.

Similar to Chicago, a lot of questions surround the quarterback position.

Cousins has been limited to 735 passing yards, thrown three touchdowns and two picks. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, two of the better receivers in the division, have yet to be exploited. Combined, they have 26 catches for 388 yards and three scores. Both Tight Ends, Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. (rookie), haven’t had much success either, totaling 96 yards on 10 catches. Minnesota has been confined to their run game to this point, but they’ll get even better once they can successfully air things out.

While each of these teams is working through specific issues, they have the talent to dominate on both sides of the ball. When looking at the combined records, compared to whom they’ve played, and the headlines each team has made so far this season, it goes to show the NFC North is the best to this point.

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