The 2022 NFL regular season is just hours away from officially kicking off and historic division rivalries will once again be renewed. For the NFL’s “Black and Blue Division”, also known as the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers have held the crown as best team going back to 2019. Can they stay atop the division for a fourth year in a row? Or will competition from the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, and even the Detroit Lions shake things up?
Every team in the NFC North looks different than they did in 2021 in some way, shape, or form. How do they stack up heading into this season? Here are our power rankings for the division heading into week one.
Green Bay Packers
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2021 record: 13-4
The Packers are still the top team in the North, but have lost some firepower over the offseason. Gone is star wide receiver Davante Adams and linebacker Za’Darius Smith, as well as coaches such as Nathaniel Hackett and Luke Getsy. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers isn’t showing signs of slowing down just yet, but his receiving corps took a hit when Adams was dealt to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Green Bay still boasts one of the best defenses in football and will likely be in every game they play. But it could be a reach for them to hit 13 wins again this season given some of their departures this offseason.
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2021 record: 8-9
Enough was enough for the Minnesota Vikings. After a lackluster 2021 season, the team shook up its front office by firing general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer. The Vikings had been on the doorstep of the postseason the last two seasons, but failed to capitalize in favorable situations and were left on the outside looking in. Kwesi Adopho-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell are now in as the new general manager and head coach, respectively, and are inheriting a team with playoff aspirtations.
For all their warts under Spielman, the Vikings still have a fairly talented roster. Wide receiver Justin Jefferson is already becoming one of the best pass catchers in the game and running back Dalvin Cook is dangerous when healthy. The enigma that remains is quarterback Kirk Cousins, a player who can do enough to keep the Vikings in games, but can’t seem to be more than just a stat-stuffing passer. If O’Connell can get the most out of him, Minnesota could be dangerous as a dark horse for the division. But we’ve heard that before, too.
AP Photo/David Richard
2021 record: 6-11
Like the Vikings, the Bears fired their front office and went in a different direction with general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus. A roster that had gotten to the playoffs two out of the last four years was now being stripped apart, with players such as Khalil Mack, Eddie Goldman, and Allen Robinson either getting traded released, or not being re-signed. Now, many analysts see the team as one of the worst in the league.
There are building blocks in place, however, most notably with Justin Fields. The second-year quarterback is working to improve his play and has developed a solid rapport with Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet. A deep rookie class also offers hope that a rebuild could be shorter than expected. The Bears won’t compete for the division, but they’re staying out of last place for the time being.
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2021 record: 3-13-1
The Detroit Lions are entering Year 2 under head coach Dan Campbell and are a popular pick to make a big jump from their three-win season a year ago. The Lions upgraded their roster, most notably at the pass rush and wide receiver positions and could see steady improvement to finally crawl out of the NFC North basement.
But the games need to be played before I’m willing to say Detroit is improved. It’s likely them and the Bears will battle it out to determine who gets last place, but I’ll give the slight edge to the latter for the time being. A lot can change after week one, however.