It’s been a two-horse race for the division title this season in the NFC North. Typically a tight, competitive division, this year two teams in the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings have dominated while the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears have underwhelmed.
The Bears have an elite defense but have been held back by restrictive quarterback play. While the Lions have a top-tier quarterback, but the overall play of the team has been lacking. And with Matt Stafford now on IR, performances have dropped off even further recently.
The Green Bay Packers look as good as ever with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, and the Vikings, despite a rocky start, have rallied to regain control of their season.
Four teams with opposing outlooks going into the festive period, but what will each team be asking for this Christmas?
NFC North – Detroit Lions
Its been a bad season for the Lions. It started with a lot of hope and optimism, but has fizzled out to a feeble finish with Matt Stafford going down injured and ending the season on IR. The organization has already confirmed they’ll be retaining head coach Matt Patricia for next season, despite his arguably underwhelming start to his head coaching career in Detroit.
There is talent on this Lions roster. Kerryon Johnson is a dynamic running back when healthy and Kenny Golladay is emerging as a legitimate number 1 receiver. Where the offensive line is concerned, the old saying “you’re only as good as your weakest piece” is very apt in the case of the Lions. Four of the five starters are at worst solid and at best very good. From left to right it looks good. At LT you’ve got Taylor Decker, LG Joe Dahl, Frank Ragnow is a stud at center and Graham Glasgow is a solid RG. Then we get to RT with Rick Wagner, the oldest and least-talented of the group.
The Lions should be asking Santa for a Rick Wagner replacement for Christmas. They’ll be in the perfect position to land either Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs or Alabama’s Jedrick Wills. Both are natural Right Tackles and would be a perfect fit to grow on this talented, young offensive line.
NFC North – Chicago Bears
In the offseason of 2018, the Bears made a big move to go and get Khalil Mack, trading two first-round picks for arguably the best EDGE rusher in the NFL. He added to a loaded defense and now that entire unit in Chicago has become one of the best in the league. They say defense wins Championships…but you at least need a quarterback capable of getting you there first of all.
Opinions were fairly split on Bears’ quarterback Mitch Trubisky coming into this season. There had been some good flashes and some really bad flashes. But combined with an elite defense, the Bears thought he was sufficient to lead the team to big things. Turns out he’s not.
But without a first-round pick you’re unlikely to find the long-term answer and there are other holes on offense in particular that need addressing. You could look at a guy like Teddy Bridgewater in free agency as the answer, but I don’t believe a new quarterback will be top of Matt Nagy’s Christmas list.
Trubisky is still a young guy who needs as much help as he can get, one of the best accompaniments for a young quarterback is a talented tight end. There may not be any elite tight end prospects in this class, but that’s okay because the Bears first pick will be coming in the second round. Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins is near the top of the tight end class this draft cycle and could be a great weapon down the seam for Trubisky. He has a good frame and great hands, factoring in his huge catch radius he can elevate the play of even the most erratic quarterbacks.
NFC North – Minnesota Vikings
After a rocky start to the season, and multiple players voicing their concerns regarding their usage and the team’s style of play, the Vikings have rallied and have been one of the more impressive teams in the NFL since. Star wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen were the players in question. Diggs let his feelings be known about his usage, and Thielen was candid about the amount of times the team was running the ball. Since then though, the offense has been rolling. Both Diggs and Thielen have been playing like we know they can. And young, stud running back Dalvin Cook has looked like one of the best backs in the league.
One of the team’s talented and previously more reliable units, the defensive secondary, has faltered this season. Most notably, the performance of former All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes has fallen off a cliff. This class is deep at cornerback and a replacement for Rhodes is what the Vikings have got at the top of their Christmas list this off-season.
One of the more talented cornerback prospects in this class just so happens to be not only a great scheme fit for the Vikings but also the younger brother of one of the team’s star players. Trevon Diggs, younger brother of star receiver Stefon, should be right near the top of the Vikings’ Christmas list. He’s a long, physical corner with fantastic ball skills thanks to his receiving background.
NFC North Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers has been one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL over the last 15 years. He’s consistently performed at the highest level despite not having elite talent around him on offense. His O-Line is great and it seems the Packers’ have hit on a backfield of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. However, they still need help at wide receiver.
Their current top four receivers consist of Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdez-Scantling. They’re lacking a speedy, shifty slot weapon that can create with the ball in his hands. Luckily for the Packers, there are a few in this class who could be near the top of their Christmas wish list.
Penn State’s KJ Hamler (should he declare) is one of the most dynamic and exciting receiving threats in the class and should be available for the packers at the end of the first round. Other players like Jalen Reagor could be available in the second round. Whatever direction the Packers choose to go in, they will have quality options to remedy this deficiency on offense.