First & Long: NFC North Dynamic Changes Without Rodgers, Bears Becoming Highly Skilled at Key Positions, Sweetness Still Sweetest
The Packers and Aaron Rodgers remain at an impasse. With the start of camp less than a week away any decision Rodgers makes about playing or not playing for Green Bay will have ramifications throughout the NFC North. Nobody is sure what Rodgers intends to do, and all we know is that his refusal to participate in any of the team’s offseason workouts has people wondering if he will retire or put his NFL career on hold until he is traded.
Rodgers’s beef with the Packers isn’t about money. The Packers already offered to make him the highest-paid player in the game. The issue is about team control. Green Bay has year-to-year flexibility with the veteran QB and Rodgers doesn’t want to play under the annual threat of the Packers choosing to trade or cut him and ride with Jordan Love.
With their three-time, and reigning, MVP, the Packers are the clear-cut favorites to win the division. With Mr. Rodgers out of the neighborhood, things get a little more clouded. Let’s take a quick look around the division and see if we can’t make a prediction or two:
- Whatever Rodgers decides to do, the Packers are on the precipice of an offensive implosion. Losing key members and drafting the wrong positions has been panic-inducing for the team’s fans. All of their receivers, except rookie Amari Rodgers, are in the final year of their contracts.
- The Vikings have their own quarterback issues, and Kirk Cousins is certainly not feeling any love from the organization. Minnesota could easily collapse, especially if they get off to a poor start.
- In Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, the Bears have two new quarterbacks, GM Ryan Pace drafted two new stud tackles to protect them, running back David Montgomery could have a breakout season, and TE Cole Kmet could be on the verge of stardom. They also have a head coach on the hot seat and a very disgruntled WR1 in Allen Robinson.
- The Lions are simply awful, but with a new head coach and front office, and a surprisingly good draft, they could make some noise in the division with a few breaks. Still, Jared Goff won’t be the team’s answer a QB with what may be the worst group of receivers in the league, and Detroit hasn’t had an offensive weapon at running back since Barry Sanders retired.
Once Aaron Rodgers leaves, the NFC North could be the #Bears' for the taking.
Vikings don't have a long-term QB, Lions have major roster holes, and there's plenty of skepticism around Jordan Love. It will be up to Chicago to surround Justin Fields with enough pieces to succeed.
— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) July 16, 2021
With Rodgers, Green Bay should win the division in a cakewalk with at least 11 wins. The Bears should be competitive, and the Vikings could compete for the division title, too. The Lions will be among the teams contending for the first overall pick in next year’s draft. Let’s say the division shakes out as follows if Rodgers remains in Green Bay.
- Packers 11-6
- Bears 9-8
- Vikings 6-11
- Lions 2-15
If Rodgers sits this one out, that decision will probably cost Green Bay 2-4 wins, which totally changes the dynamic of the division:
- Bears 11-6
- Packers 8-9
- Vikings 7-10
- Lions 2-15
For Matt Nagy, who is fighting to save his job, a Rodgers opt-out could be the best news of the offseason. Even if Rodgers does play, Green Bay’s two-decade run as the best team in the NFC North has probably reached its final season. By hook or by crook, Chicago has a very good chance to be the dominant team in the division for years to come.
Bears News & Notes
- Eddie Goldman is expected to report to camp next week. The defensive end opted out last season due to COVID-19 concerns.
- While Nagy and Pace will start the season on the hot seat, the Bears are becoming a team of highly skilled offensive weapons.
- Fields has quickly embraced Bears Nation and is recruiting new fans to the team.
- The Bears will have a couple of holes to address at the start of camp, including at inside linebacker, safety, and swing tackle.
- That said, the Bears’ defensive line is strong and could be even better than they were in 2018 when the Bears finished 12-4.
- Nagy is expecting big things from TE Cole Kmet this season.
- Get to know running back Khalil Herbert in the Bears’ new online video series “Meet the Rookies.”
There’s a Flag…On the Play
The hype surrounding the Bears’ rookie QB has no limits, including imminent death, apparently.
Scott Morrow, a #Bears fan who survived after being shot recently:
"I was staring at the bright lights thinking of all the things to keep me going … within a couple moments, I thought … I can't die before seeing Justin Fields take the field."
He's on @ParkinsSpiegel now.
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) July 15, 2021
As a minority owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, Rodgers is now a two-sport champion.
Bill Barnwell of ESPN rated the offensive “arsenals” across the NFL and has the Vikings slotted at #5 overall.
The Lions have hit rock bottom in the NFL’s latest power rankings.
NFL News & Notes
Retired running back Eric Dickerson stated he would like the Rams to bring back Todd Gurley.
Zach Ertz is returning to Philadelphia, giving the Eagles two of the top six tight ends in the NFL.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick admitted to “hating football” while he played for the Jets in 2016.
Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones was driven to tears several times while admitting he personally messed up his relationship with former Dallas head coach Jimmy Johnson.
Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith has been named the spokesperson for the newest line of Trojan condoms.
Tom Brady ripped on all the teams that passed on him when he entered free agency before last season.
Deion Sanders wants to be referred to as “Coach Sanders” rather than “Deion.” Sanders is a second-year coach at Jackson State.
Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust
Walter Payton owns the top eight best seasons all-time by a Bears running back. His best performances were in 1977, 1984, and 1979.
- 1977 – 1,852 yards rushing on 339 carries with 14 TDs, good for a 5.5 average yards per carry.
- 1984 – Payton amassed 1,684 yards on the ground in leading Chicago to the NFC Championship game against the 49ers.
- 1979 – Sweetness carried the ball 369 times for 1,610 yards and 14 TDs.
Packers fans may be the most pro-ownership fans in all of professional sports. I guess that’s what happens when you sell worthless shares of stock to your fanbase.
Manitowoc pub puts Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers stalemate on tap with Cry Baby 12 beer https://t.co/PchRVGSATg
— Green Bay Press-Gazette (@gbpressgazette) July 20, 2021
From the Podium
- “I love it in Chicago. I’ve only been to Chicago before I got drafted, one time, and I really wasn’t in the city. The city is nice. Of course, the fan base is really crazy about their Bears. Definitely feel the love from the fan base. The coaches are great. Everybody’s great at the organization. I’m definitely excited.” – Justin Fields
NFL Media just released a great documentary about rookies preparing for the draft that features an incredible segment on Fields. It’s well worth the time to watch if you have 90 minutes to spare.