The Green Bay Packers were the NFC North divisional champions for three straight years. The team has won 13 games in each of the last three seasons and completely dominated the other three teams in the division in the standings. Long before the season was over, the Packers clinched the home playoff game that goes with the NFC North crown.
Vikings, Lions, and Bears try to unseat the Packers. The division had its last non-Packers champion in 2018 when the Chicago Bears and their dominant defense, led by Khalil Mack, went to the playoffs. The Beats lost the famous double-doink game to the Eagles and quarterback Nick Foles. The Vikings, meanwhile, haven’t won the division since 2017. A four-year stretch without that title, however, is nothing compared to the Lions’ hiatus. They have never won the NFC North. Their last title came in 1993 when they won the long-gone NFC Central.
Five Bleacher Report writers voted for their division winners. The Packers are the obvious favorites in the North after three dominant seasons. But they didn’t receive all five votes.
4 Votes for Packers
Four of the five votes went to the Packers. Green Bay lost a few important pieces in the offseason.
“Despite receiving the majority of votes to win a fourth straight title, some cracks are starting to show.”
– Bleacher Report NFL Scouting Department
Especially the loss of Davante Adams will hurt them because he is one of, if not the best receiver in football and was Rodgers’ bailout guy. Za’Darius Smith signed with the Vikings. The All-Pro offensive linemen Bakhtiari and Jenkins are still recovering from ACL tears, but Jaire Alexander, who missed the majority of 2021, will be back on the field.
“The Packers still have the back-to-back MVP in Aaron Rodgers and a bright young defense with cornerback Jaire Alexander, edge-rusher Rashan Gary and nose tackle Kenny Clark. Yet concern should present on two fronts.
First, the game’s best wide receiver, Davante Adams, is gone. The Packers wide receiver corps is now reduced to Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, second-round rookie Christian Watson and an aging Randall Cobb. Rodgers can work wonders, but he may need to perform miracles this season, especially behind an unsettled offensive front.
David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins aren’t guaranteed to be healthy for the start of the upcoming campaign. With the team’s best blockers possibly out of the lineup, a reworked front won’t be nearly as effective, even with Rodgers behind center.”
– Bleacher Report NFL Scouting Department
The Packers had some issues with the receiving corps and problems with the offensive lines in the past. Aaron Rodgers always did his best job to hide these deficits. The back-to-back MVP is one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game and has always been effective no matter the circumstances.
The Packers’ defense should be excellent in 2022. Defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt and linebacker Quay Walker, both national champions with Georgia, were the team’s first-round picks. Both can help to bolster the suspect running defense. The defensive backfield with Jaire Alexander, 2021 rookie Eric Stokes, and last year’s breakout star Rasul Douglas, will be tough to move the ball against. But because of the aforementioned question marks, the Bleacher Report staff can envision a change.
“Because of these uncertainties, the door is open for another team to pry open and possibly steal a division crown. The Minnesota Vikings are positioned far better than the Chicago Bears or Detroit Lions to do so.”
The Bears didn’t surround their young quarterback Justin Fields with talent in the offseason. In sport, nothing is impossible, but to see the Bears winning the division in 2022, is close to impossible. The Lions, on the other hand, got better. Aiden Hutchinson is a superstar who dominated in college. Brian O’Neill, the Vikings’ right tackle, will have his hands full with the second overall pick for years to come. The Lions should at the very least be able to improve their 3-13-1 record.
Vikings Receive One Vote
The Vikings are the biggest threat to unseat the Packers. In the last four years, the Vikings faced the Packers seven times with Kirk Cousins under center. Both franchises won three of the matchups, and another one ended in a tie. The Vikings go into the 2022 season with a great mix of changes and continuity.
“The middling madness of the Mike Zimmer era is over. This is a team that handed Green Bay one of only three meaningful losses last season. The Packers are the obvious—and warranted—favorite, but a fully healthy Vikings team with a new offensive mind could finally realize its offensive potential this season. Plus, the Adams-less Packers will take a step back.”
– Wes O’Donnell, Bleacher Report
A new head coach brings a new philosophy that probably fits the team better than Zimmer’s. A good quarterback, a bunch of dangerous receivers, and a dynamic running back can be the ingredients for an explosive offense, instead of controlling the game and leading the team to close losses with a bad defense. If the defense allows 25 points, the offense needs to go out with the mentality to try to score 40. Zimmer aimed for 26 in that scenario and fell short too often.
O’Donnell mentioned health. The Vikings weren’t plagued by injuries in 2021, but they missed one important piece – Danielle Hunter. The signing of Za’Darius Smith gives the franchise two terrific edge rushers, so one will be remaining if the other one goes down. If both are healthy, the pass rush duo will be a nasty one to block. Adofo-Mensah also invested in the struggling offensive line and especially tried to fix the right guard spot. The top two draft picks addressed the secondary, another one of the most significant weaknesses.
With a new culture and some reinforcements, the Vikings are primed to finally challenge the Packers and unseat them for the divisional title.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. He chose the Vikings as his favorite team, despite Christian Ponder being the quarterback at the time. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt