At the end of the season, I wrote the final part of the 2023 Race for the North. I mentioned that I thought the NFC South played a part in why all NFC North teams had 7+ wins. I felt the NFC North wasn't that good, and games within the division contributed to the win total for each team.
Then the Lions went and reached the NFC Championship, and the Packers went into Dallas, beat the Cowboys, and came close to beating the 49ers.
Now I'm wondering if the NFC North is the best division in the NFC, and is trending to being the best division in football, an honour that currently goes to the AFC North.
The best division in football is a very opinionated and subjective thing, but there is no doubt in my mind, that the NFC North just got tougher to take.
Let's start with the Green Bay Packers, and I'll try my hardest to be objective here.
In my preseason prediction for the North, I stated Matt LeFleur knew what Jordan Love could and couldn't do, and people are underestimating the Packers. Sadly, I was proven somewhat right on this, as I did think Love's first season would limit them. The Packers ran their way to a win over us and the Cowboys, but Jordan Love looked like a quarterback the Packers could have a future with.
Against the 49ers, the Packers had a shot, but then Jordan Love made a mistake with the interception, and you wonder how that will affect him going forward. Matt LeFleur is a great head coach who will coach any doubts out of Jordan Love.
There is no doubt the Packers will always be a challenge for us, and right now, it plays into our players' minds, until we finally beat them again, the Packers are going to be a mighty hurdle for us to overcome. It's a sad fact, but it's a fact, and oh yeah, they have a great head coach, a decent quarterback, a bunch of young wide receivers, and a running back who took a pay cut to remain in Green Bay.
Now to the Lions and why I cringed hard when Baker Mayfield threw an interception on that last drive. We owned Jared Goff and the Lions in our two games against them. Considering the Lions went on to the NFC Championship game, we should feel pretty confident about next season.
The problem here is we will be facing a different Jared Goff. I believe that win against the Rams is a career-defining win. We all know how Jared Goff landed in Detroit, but Goff badly needed to follow that Rams win up with another win, and he did that.
Maybe I'm wrong about Jared Goff, and he is still the same quarterback with a ceiling like the Rams thought. Maybe the Lions benefited from a weaker NFC, and they will fall backwards after they lose Ben Johnson to a head coaching job. However, Dan Campbell coaches them tough, his risky decision-making will cost them sometimes, but so far, it pays off more than it doesn't.
Now to the Vikings, the one team I'm not concerned about. I was down on them in 2023, and they mostly proved me right. Accept that stretch of games before Kirk Cousins got injured. If Cousins returns to Minnesota, the Vikings will be a tough out, as he has weapons like Jefferson and Hockenson.
I believe the Vikings are about to go on the same transition the Lions and we're currently on. I don't see Cousins returning to Minnesota. They have shown they are looking to move on at quarterback, so I think Minnesota will go backwards for a few seasons before there a real threat again. However, if they draft a new quarterback and land that decision like the Texans did, the Vikings will be difficult to beat.
There is no doubt Da Bears improved in 2023, and you wonder what if we had a more experienced and better offensive coordinator. We will improve more in 2024, but sadly, so will our divisional rivals, and that is why the North just got tougher to take.