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Cory's Corner: NFC North Is NFL's Best

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Cory's Corner: NFC North Is NFL's Best

Is this really the NFC North? 

Remember when this division was a pushover? It was merely an appetizer for the Packers en route to yet another division title.

Not anymore because the NFC North is the best division in the league. That’s not hyperbole, it’s true. Every team is at least .500 and three out of the four teams have a positive point differential with Detroit sitting at -1. The only other divisions that have three positive point differential teams are the NFC East and AFC West. But the difference is the worst teams are -45 and -66.

There is also one other marker of how well this division has been: quarterback play. Aaron Rodgers is ranked as the No. 5 passer according to Pro Football Focus. Matthew Stafford is No. 8 and Kirk Cousins is No. 11. Granted, Mitchell Trubisky is ranked No. 40, but if you believe that’s how good Trubisky really is, then you’re a fool. Trubisky is ranked No. 16 in passer rating with 13 touchdowns and six picks. He is leading an offensive renaissance in Chicago and has looked pretty impressive so far.

So what does that mean for the Packers? First of all, it means that they picked a bad year to struggle out of the gate. In past years when Green Bay stumbled at the start of the season, all it took was a simple “R-E-L-A-X” quote and the Packers beat up the rest of the teams for the division crown. Rodgers has led the Packers to five division titles since being named the starter in 2008.

Hopefully you purchased plenty of NFC North championship gear because the road to another division title is a lot tougher. In addition to outscoring quality quarterbacks, Rodgers must also navigate thorny defenses in Chicago and Minnesota. To make matters worse, the Bears beefed up their defense by adding elite linebacker Khalil Mack in an effort to play keep away from the Packers.

The Vikings have the best collection of talent in the division. Just from a pure 1-53, Minnesota might be one of the best teams on paper in the NFL. However, you don’t play games on paper because Dalvin Cook hasn’t really showed much and Cousins is due for a hiccup game. The Bears have the division’s biggest X-factor in Tarik Cohen. He can get the ball in space on a handoff or on a pass and will cruise into the secondary. Whenever I see Cohen’s versatility, I think of Tyreek Hill.

Even when Mack went to Chicago, I thought the Bears would still flounder for a couple years before competing again. I never dreamed that the Bears would be competing for their first division title since 2010.

The craziest thing about this is Minnesota. The Vikings advanced to the NFC Championship Game a year ago and upgraded at the game’s most important position but still don’t look like a better team.

The Packers have plenty of execution issues from dropped passes, sideline miscommunication and enough lack of discipline to make your head spin.

In the past, the Packers would still be doing all those things but would be able to win a dreadful division. This is the new-look NFC North and Green Bay better strap it up because they aren’t handing ut division titles anymore.



Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (27) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

RCPackerFan's picture

The NFC North is a lot tougher then most figured. The Bears and Lions have been the more surprising of the teams.
The Lions are a hard team to figure out. They got blown out by the Jets in week 1. Gave the 49ers their only win on the season. Beat the Patriots easily. Lost to the Cowboys, beat the Packers and Dolphins.
Their 3 losses have come to teams with losing records. Their 3 wins have come against teams with winning records.

The Bears getting Mack was huge for them. It gave the team energy and the defense has played lights out. The problem is still Trubisky. He is better in year 2 but he isn't a great QB right now.

The Vikings are about where I figured they would be.

The division is within reach for all 4 teams. If this remains competitive down the stretch it will be interesting to see what happens.

Turophile's picture

While the Vikes have been the closest competitors to the Pack for years, they have become less boom/bust recently. As for the Bears and Lions, there is nothing like being beaten almost every year, to provide incentive to get better (that, and a hefty bunch of higher draft picks).

I'm just hoping that down the road the Packers figure out a succession plan after AR. If they don't, the Packers could emulate the old Lions/Bears for several years, and that would be excruciatingly painful.

4thand1's picture

It took the rest of the division years to catch up. The Bears and Lions are now respectable. The lions have a running game and are USING IT, with a featured back. The Bears after years of sucking finally have high draft picks paying off. It had to happen, it always does it's just the law of averages everything equals out eventually.

carusotrap's picture

What is this so-called "running game" of which you speak? I've heard rumors of such things. How does one acquire this schematic unicorn?

Razer's picture

...The lions have a running game and are USING IT, with a featured back...

IF the Packers knew how to effectively run the ball and committed to a run game, we would be the best offense in the league. Over the last years, teams have basically played us to pass, cheating to coverage and pass rush. Defenses have relied on our vertical route tendency and Rodger's addicting to big play passes and it is the default way to play us.

Either it is ego, lack of knowledge or stupidity that keeps us from making defenses play all our weapons. We have faster, taller WRs, very good TEs and an array of pretty good runners and yet teams drop back into coverage and rush the passer. If it isn't for Rodgers fitting passing into tight windows we would be a 'B' grade offense. There is so much more that this offense could do.

Johnblood27's picture

Our TE suck.

Graham looks old and slow.

Lewis is old and useless as blocker or receiver.

Lets get real here, the Packers do have some pretty good weapons, TE is not one of them.

I would like to see Tonyan running some routes, he cannot look slower than Graham, Lewis or Kendricks.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

If you don't use it lose it... MM loves to save all his so called fantastic plays and then when he uses them the player drops the ball. Graham should have a minimum of 4-5 Tds.. M.Lewis should have 100 to 200 yards and 2 TDs. But to date only 1TD to Graham and 0 yards and 0 Tds and 0 passes thrown to him. Disgusting. And L.Kendricks who was supposed to be this multifaceted TE that can play multiple matchup issues hasn't been used enough or not trusted enough to catch the ball. If I was coach you would have seen multiple 3 TE sets and we would ALWAYS score in the Red zone.

Rak47's picture

Graham is on pace to match his best years in N.O, And I can't recall the last time I saw a Packer TE get behind a defense and catch and run for 54yds on 1 play much less go over 100yds for the game. The TE's are not the problem especially with Graham getting double and triple covered in the red zone constantly which opens up huge windows for Adams, Allison, and Cobb to exploit. And Tonyan, btw is not going to draw any double coverage much less triple coverage to help the offense right now. Imho, Tonyan is right where he needs to be learning and trying to improve.

mrtundra's picture

The Black and Blue Division returns! I just wish The Packers were the dominant team in the division. We can look stellar one game and look like something the cat dragged in, the next. We need to upgrade our pass rush, our Safety play and utilize our run game more if we want to win anything soon.

Razer's picture

I rambled through a frustrated rant and you checked off the 3 key things for this team to improve. So true and well said.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

I just don't think McCarthy is using the TEs properly, probably because he never had a decent one since he started back in 2006. J. Finley was a 1 game playoff super star..who dropped way way too many 3rd down passes that killed the drives to move the chains. And that TE coach we have is supposed to be one of the best coaches...something stinks in Green Bay...must be that moldy MM play card.

Since '61's picture

With our defense improving this is the time to utilize our running game more effectively. I would feature Aaron Jones, especially in the first half and early in the 3rd quarter. If we have a lead and the defense is tired after chasing Jones I would pound with Williams and wear down the opponent and the clock.

Every team in the league knows that we are a pass first offense and they are prepared to stop it with pass rush and drop back into coverage. It's time to change it up. We're going on the road and we need to keep the ball away from the home offensive units. Our RBs are good enough to take over a game if given the chance and with Rodgers throwing quick passes to keep the defense honest we should be able to execute a ball control offense in these upcoming games. Just take what the defense gives us. This would give our defense a chance to stay fresh and make stops. It's time to play smart football with confidence. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

Johnblood27's picture

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak...

The RB are willing, but the OL is weak.

Our OL is simply not a good run blocking unit.

If we are going to run the ball I would like to see Patrick at RG and some traps and counters run.

LeotisHarris's picture

It takes a big dog to weigh a ton...

Buford ate a fat newt.

Our OL is not a good unit with Bulaga. If he goes down, we're screwed.

If we are going to run the ball, we need to take the RPO away from Aaron, because it will always be a pass.

If we're going to run a trap, I'd like to see 65 Toss Power Trap.

4thand1's picture

Aaron Jones 23 carries for 131 yards. This would be a dream come true, and frankly the only way they can win on Sunday.

Lare's picture

Unfortunately, it is only a dream. McCarthy and Rodgers live for one thing, and that is to throw the 30-40 yard pass downfield.

LeotisHarris's picture

I dunno, man. Aaron is dating Danica, so maybe he's living for more than throwing a 30-40 yard pass downfield.

stockholder's picture

The Qbs are better. Stafford, Cousins, Trubisky all have caught A-Rod. The icing on the cake is their youth. Compared to A-rod. A-rod days of MVP are gone. Put a different name on the back of A-Rods jersey. You'll know this guy is in the twilight of a great career. He's getting weaker. Stafford continues to show he can hit the hanker chief down the field. His Wrs are not dropping balls. Seriously this team does have a chance to win the division. The difference now will be the defense. But if we rate the qbs in this division. Stafford, Cousins = A-rod, Trubisky. By no means is this an attack on A-Rod. We just have to admit it.

4thand1's picture

I would take AR over Stafford, Cousins, and especially Trubisky any day. I won't admit they're his equal.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

Who Cares ??
The RAMS are rhe #1 Team and the PATRIOTS are the #2 or #3 Team in the NFL. Is this article some type of FEEL GOOD about the Packers are playing?

Ife we get are butts kicked by the RAMS or NE..I don't care how you want to sugar coat it .... It will spell W.E. S.U.C.K

Doug Niemczynski's picture

I can take a couple more losses, but let's at least show we can play right there with the top teams.

Kb999's picture

No dominant team this year in the North. A lot of mediocrity. The Packers could win the North but they are not head and shoulders above the rest.

4thand1's picture


Bert's picture

Maybe the best or most competitive division because of the parity among the four teams. Not because any of the teams are real powerhouses.

Rak47's picture

That makes sense , them beating each other up early in the season. By season's end there will be at least 23 wins 23 losses and 2 ties. Right now they've accounted for 2 wins 2 losses and 2 ties. So 11 of the division's 13 wins have come outside the division, although I agree there are no Powerhouse teams in the division and much closer parity than in years past. The North doesn't even have the most wins but the 4th most among all divisions in both conferences.

TheBigCheeze's picture

"Minnesota might be one of the best teams on paper in the NFL"--------not even close.......these chumps have been the BENEFICIARIES of all the terrible, inept officiating, where the Packers have been the victims.....FACT!!!......

gr7070's picture

I feel dumber for reading this article.

The Chiefs, Chargers, and Broncos are ranked 1, 3, and 5 by Football Outsiders. All three above our highest rated NFC North team.

Chicago, Green Bay and Minnesota are 6, 15, 16.

Yes, Oakland is terrible at 29. Exactly 1 spot behind Detroit.

Terrible article. Again.

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