Home NFL Biggest NFC North questions and a prediction for 2023

Biggest NFC North questions and a prediction for 2023


The last time the top two NFC North teams played in a Week 14 game, and neither was green and yellow, was in 2018. It was also the last time the Green Bay Packers did not make the playoffs.

The division appears to be experiencing a shift in the balance of power, as reflected in Sunday’s showdown at Ford Field (1pm ET, FOX), where upstart Detroit Lions (5-7) take on the division-leading Minnesota Vikings. (10-2). The Vikings could win their first division title since 2017, but it’s not the old Lions anymore. According to Caesars Sportsbook, Detroit is the favorite with 2.5 points. This season, the Lions are 3-0 against division spread and are 5-0 in ATS in their last five games. This is the longest active streak in the league.

“We expect the Lions to have a hell of a homely atmosphere,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said. “They have a lot of good things to do now, and there is much to rejoice at.”

Excitement reigns in Chicago, too, despite the Bears losing their last six games. That’s because Justin Fields is starting to look like Chicago hasn’t had since World War II: a franchise quarterback. Fields is the NFL’s best quarterback in terms of speed, and he adds offensive success to the pass. With a huge number of cap picks and next year’s draft picks, the Bears could be in contention for the division crown in the near future.

But what about next season? Will the Packers continue to regress, and will Aaron Rodgers be next to them? Sportzshala NFL insider Matt Bowen has a choice that may surprise some to win the NFC North in 2023.

Are the Vikings ready to lead the division after this season is over?

Vikings reporter Kevin Seifert: It depends. The Vikings are in the midst of what general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah called a “competitive rebuild” when he was hired in January. In other words, they’re trying to squeeze as many wins as possible from their veteran core – a group that includes quarterback Kirk Cousins, defenseman Dalvin Cooke, wide receiver Adam Thielen, linebacker Eric Kendricks and defenseman Harrison Smith – while they identify and begin developing younger replacements.

If they decide to keep that core largely intact in 2023, they could very well be the favorites to win the NFC North again, especially if the Packers walk away from Aaron Rodgers. If they blow up the roster in the off-season, which is perfectly reasonable if anything, their short-term future will be decidedly less clear.

Key stats: The Vikings’ last nine victories have come by one point, the most consecutive one-point wins in a season in NFL history. And only two teams in history have won 10 games with the same score in one season: the 2019 Seattle Seahawks and the 1978 Houston Oilers.

Who has been the biggest surprise for the Lions this season?

Lions reporter Eric Woodyard: Running back Jamaal Williams, no doubt.

The Lions have brighter players with more popular names, but the arrival of Williams in his sixth season was a huge boost. Williams was the most consistent player on the team, scoring 14 rushing touchdowns and finishing 13th in rushing yards in the NFL (769). In comparison, Williams threw 13 touchdowns in his first five seasons. And his 601-yard season in 2021 was the best of his career so far this year.

Williams said he has prepared his body for this season and is not surprised by his performance. He also benefited from the fact that defensive linemate D’André Swift was limited by shoulder and ankle injuries from Week 4. He is the preferred goal-line defenseman and helped the Lions have the NFL’s highest red-zone efficiency this season (73.9%). ).

“I learn that growing up happens every year,” Williams told Sportzshala last month. “You should never want to feel stagnant, and you should never feel like you’re too good to improve, because you can always get better, no matter how old you are.”

Key statistics: The Lions are averaging 31.9 points per game at home this season, trailing only the Buffalo Bills. They are on track to beat the franchise’s previous mark during the Super Bowl era (31.0 in 1995).

Is Justin Fields the QB franchise the Bears have been waiting for?

Bears correspondent Courtney Cronin: Being a franchised quarterback in a city that hasn’t had one in over 70 years is a big deal. It requires QB to have not only the physicality but also the leadership to inspire the team through the rebuild while giving the fans hope that brighter days lie ahead.

There is growing confidence that Fields, who was lifted nine spots by the Bears to 11th overall in 2021, will be up to the task.

Fields is a dynamic player whose ability to turn nothing into something new allows him to run for over 1,200 yards, which would be an NFL record. Against Green Bay on Sunday, he showed his best game and showed signs of development as a passer. The next step is the most important for the Fields: Winning the games. Fields and the offense have had four innings in their last five games to cap off a winning drive and have failed to do so. When he finally ticks that box, Fields will come close to proving that he is the answer the Bears have been looking for.

Key stats: Fields is the only quarterback since 1950 (before that position designations were tricky) to hit three rushing touchdowns of at least 50 yards. throughout my career. Fields has done this in his last four games.

Will the Packers regression be temporary?

Packers reporter Rob Demowski: It’s not as easy as saying that as long as they have Aaron Rodgers, they’re contenders. And right now, we don’t know what Rogers’ status is for 2023.

Will he give up the guaranteed $59 million and retire? Even if he returns to Green Bay for another year, this season has been proof enough that having Rodgers isn’t the only thing that matters anymore. The Packers thought they built the offense around him to make up for any difficulties the offense would have after they traded All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams and the defense collapsed. Perhaps a change in defense coordinator (Joe Barry) would change what on paper looks like a talented group. And perhaps the arrival of rookie wide receiver Christian Watson will change the Packers’ offense. There are signs that it already is.

But if the Packers turn to current backup quarterback Jordan Love next season, they could have another season of growing pains. Even if Love becomes Rogers’ long-term replacement, she’s unlikely to be an instant success. As good as Rodgers was in his first season as a starter (2008), the Packers lost a few close games en route to a 6-10 record. Their streak of eight consecutive playoff appearances did not begin until Rodgers’ second season as a starter.

Key stats: Watson has eight touchdowns in his last four games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this equals the most touchdowns in four games by any rookie in the past 35 seasons. He is the first rookie wide receiver to do so since Randy Moss in 1998, and the first in any position since running back Clinton Portis in 2002.

Who will win NFC North in 2023?

Bowen: Detroit Lions. It may be an exaggeration to call Detroit here, and I may be a year early, but this is a team that is moving up under head coach Dan Campbell.

“Lions” built an attacking line of powerful moves. There is a talent for catching passes on the perimeter. And Jared Goff can perform certain throws in this system.

The question here is in the defensive side of the ball, where the Lions have young players with an advantage, but not enough of those who create a difference. This is where Detroit should use their draft assets and cap space. The club has five picks in the first three rounds of the draft, including two in the first. And they are currently ranked 11th in the league in terms of cap size. They could add passing rush talent, secondary setters for speed and pace—with ball skills—in secondary roles, and maybe pick the quarterback of the future.

If Detroit can meet their defensive needs with a draft and free agents with direct contributors, then give me the Lions to win the North in the 23rd.

Source: www.espn.com