2020 NFC North Preview: Can The Packers Avoid Slip Ups & Win Their 2nd Straight NFC North Division Title? Will The Vikings Get Enough All Around Contributions From Their Offense & Lock Down a Wild Card Spot? – BlackSportsOnline
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2020 NFC North Preview: Can The Packers Avoid Slip Ups & Win Their 2nd Straight NFC North Division Title? Will The Vikings Get Enough All Around Contributions From Their Offense & Lock Down a Wild Card Spot?

We’re keeping this division preview train going, full speed ahead!

For today’s issue of 2020 division previews, we’ll be discussing the NFC North, and the plentiful surprises that come with it each and every year. This year, we have a clear understanding on who the top teams will be, the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. What remains to be seen if we’ll see both of those teams in the playoffs, but more on that later.

Behind those 2 squads, are the previously hyped Chicago Bears, and the never ending disappointment known as the Detroit Lions. I can’t help but proceed to throw myself in negativity whenever I talk about those 2 other teams, so I’ll save my rambling for later on.

Now, with all my unnecessary dialogue out of the way, let’s do that preview thing huh?

Best Offense: Green Bay Packers

Even though the Packers’s offense still relies on Aaron Rodgers to pull magic out of his own backside once in a while, this offense is still the best offense in the division.

Davante Adams isn’t slowing down anytime soon, but that wide receiver spot opposite the ex-Fresno State star remains a big question mark. Allen Lazard stepped up quite a bit last season, but is he really enough to post a consistent threat on the field? Green Bay doesn’t have the luxury of quality depth at the wide receiver position, so they might be in a bit of trouble if injuries begin to pile up, or if there’s simply a lack of production from that WR2 spot.

Aaron Jones however, is still a scary threat out of the backfield, and should be looked at as a remedy to help curb some of the impact from the absence of a quality WR2.

The Vikings and Lions have some impressive offenses as well, but there’s too many questions surrounding both of those units to keep them out of the top spot.

Stefon Diggs was shipped to Buffalo in the off-season, and Dalvin Cook is set to be paid a healthy amount of cash. Plus, there’s the whole issue of what Minnesota has to offer outside of Cook, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph. Tajae Sharpe was signed this earlier in the calendar year to bring some experience, and dependability in the wide receiver room, Justin Jefferson was drafted in the first round in April’s NFL Draft, but it’s hard to gauge what role he’ll start out with right out of the gate.

Irv Smith Jr. is another young player that has some promise, but it’s too early to tell if he’ll be a major contributor this fall.

As for the Lions, Matthew Stafford and company are still intact, with the addition of rookie running back D’Andre Swift. But too many problems arise on that offense from year to year, so I held off.

Best Defense: Minnesota Vikings

This decision was a bit on the difficult side.

The Chicago Bears still have one of the most talented defenses in the league, and the Packers’s defense full of expensive deals can play with the best of them, but I’ll ride with experience on both the staff and the unit as my pick here.

Linval Josep, Xavier Rhodes, and Trae Waynes all left in the off-season, and not all of them were replaced with a fancy high draft pick or an expensive free agent. Replacing Waynes is 2020 first round pick Jeff Gladney, who should benefit a great deal learning under the tutelage of Mike Zimmer. That doesn’t mean immediate success in his rookie season, but he should develop nicely over the next couple of years.

But other than those 3 departures, this defense is still primed to be as nasty as ever.

Impact Rookie: D’Andre Swift

While examining potential impact rookie choices for the NFC North, there were multiple names that piqued by interest before I settled on Swift. Jeff Okudah and Jeff Gladney obviously stand out as the rookies with the best chance to make big impacts on the field from day 1, but I’m a little bit more in tune with Swift’s potential to make a lot of noise in year 1.

Swift is a violent runner with a tendency to play a bit bigger than his 5’9, 212 lb. frame. His physical running style and ability to explode each time he gets a carry, combined with the skills to catch the ball out of the backfield, make Swift a primary candidate to inevitably receive his fair share amount of carries as the season goes along.

It won’t come easy though, Swift will have to climb his way up the depth chart, and pass 2nd year pro Kerryon Johnson to become the lead back in this pass heavy Lions offense. I believe he’ll do so, especially considering Johnson’s shaky injury history.

The chance to consistently rip off big plays won’t come at first for Swift, but once he does get the chance, watch out.

Sleeper Team: Minnesota Vikings

Be honest, have your heard a lot about the Vikings this off-season? It kind of seems like we’re throwing the Vikings to the wayside, which somehow makes me feel a little upset. When I begin to think though, I understand why the NFC North conversation has shifted away from Minnesota a little bit.

NFC North headlines have been dominated by the Aaron Rodgers-Jordan Love saga, and those same headlines won’t change until regular season football  hopefully kicks off in September.

Even if you take away the Rodgers-Love “controversy”, the trade of Stefon Diggs didn’t gain nearly the amount of traction it deserved.

What’s up with that?

This offense still has Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and a host of other skill players that can make life easy for Kirk Cousins. Although their defense lost a couple of regulars as mentioned above, there’s still plenty of elite talent elsewhere on that side of the ball.

So what’s the problem? Why aren’t we talking about this team enough? This is a team that, just this past January, walked into the Superdome, and knocked off of the best teams in the NFC while combating the infamous rocking environment in New Orleans. They aren’t dead, they aren’t bad, they’re a skilled football team that has the ability to knock off any team, at any time, at any stadium in the league.

It’d be unwise to  sleep on the Vikings, so just don’t do it.

Biggest Disappointment: Chicago Bears

Do you all remember when the Chicago Bears were the talk of the NFC North, only to have their dreams crushed by a goal post?

Yeah, I do too.

Now in the year 2020, the Bears are more of a laughingstock than anything. The vaunted 2018 Bears defense is still mostly intact, but the offense is currently struggling to climb out of the endless pit of mediocrity.

Matt Nagy tried to make the Mitchell Trubisky experiment work, but it just didn’t come to fruition. So instead of adding a capable veteran who can push Trubisky AND give you some quality play when needed, the Bears went out and traded for a backup quarterback who’s swindled teams for cash by riding on the success of his previous stops as a Philadelphia Eagle.

This is nothing short of a travesty. We’re watching one of the NFL’s most popular franchises, waste an extremely talented defense, and an improved arsenal of skill players on the offense as well.

It’s a shame really, Bears fans were at the least, excited about the future even after their heartbreaking loss to the Eagles. Now, they’re stuck pondering if their future will be full of frustration and agony, over joy and excitement.

How Many Teams Make The Playoffs: 1

If you read my 2020 NFC East preview, you’d know that I was cautious with prediction to have 2 NFC East teams in the playoffs. I have that same amount of caution here, but with a little different mindset regarding the 2nd place team in the respected divisions.

Here’s the deal, I’m a little higher on the Eagles than the Vikings. But the gap I personally believe that’s separating the Eagles and Vikings, isn’t exceptionally large, to the point where I can completely write the Vikings off. The NFC as a whole is the most competitive conference out of the NFL’s two, with plenty teams jockeying for playoff spots.

Along with the Vikings and Eagles, the Seahawks, Buccaneers, and maybe even the Rams could be in contention for those 6th and 7th playoff spots. As it stands now, I have the Packers as the only NFC North team making the winter tournament, with the Vikings just missing the cut.

In all honesty though, those 6th and 7th playoff spots are about as close to a toss up as you can imagine.

Pick at your own risk.

Division Winner: Green Bay Packers

Even though the Packers still haven’t found a quality WR2, they’ve scraped by and even excelled in the past without one. So why can’t they do the same now? Green Bay’s defense is still good, although very expensive. The offense has some concerns in terms of wide receiver depth, but the running game can be looked at to be the staple of this offense once again.

The Packers are good, but they’re still a little meh.

Either way, they’re still the best team in the division, so I’ll go ahead and chalk down the Packers as champions of the NFC North for the 2nd straight season.