Now that we’ve reached the midway point of the season, each week we’ll take a look at one division and examine the situation, any surprises and look forward to the playoffs.
Pre-Season Prediction: Green Bay Packers
Mid-Season Prediction: Minnesota Vikings
If you don’t understand the importance of quarterback play in the NFL, look no further than the 2017 Green Bay Packers. The Packers have won fifteen divisional titles in the last forty years, including five of the last six with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Since he went down with a broken collar bone, the Packers have lost three of their last four games with the lone win coming over the Bears, a bad team that has, I will admit, over performed under Mitchell Trubisky. The Packers will have a tougher time this weekend as they host the wild-card-hopeful Ravens, who have shown flashes of brilliance, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Backup QB Brett Hundley certainly looked better against the Bears, and the cheese-heads are hoping he can keep them in the hunt until a potential return from Rodgers. The wildcard is still a possibility at 5-4 thus far, but the running game will need to improve and Hundley will need to get on the same page as Jordy Nelson to make that happen.
The aforementioned Bears have found their QB of the future in Trubisky. This year was always going to be a rebuilding year, so having three wins (3-6) thus far is a boon for the Bears. I had them pegged for four wins, total. I’m not expecting them to tank, but I could see them moving around some in the draft in an attempt to find some specific pieces that will work with Trubisky to build for the next few years. It’s been a long time since the Bears were truly relevant in the division, I’m sure they’re itching to change that.
As I noted before the season, the Lions made QB Matt Stafford a very rich man. They also crippled the team around him to do so. It was simply too rich a contract for a guy who has only gotten the Lions into the playoffs (as a wild card) three times…and never won. The Lions can still make a run at a wildcard berth, tied with the Packers at 5-4 thus far. That’s all well and good, but the highest paid QB in the history of the game should be able to win you a division title, at least once. Unless he gets some complementary pieces, that’s not likely to happen. Even if they do, are they really going to find someone better than Calvin Johnson to help him? I doubt it. Stafford is shaping up to be his generation’s Dan Marino.
The Vikings look great thus far and have named Case Keenum the starter for this week’s tilt against the NFC West-leading LA Rams. Keenum has been significantly better than expected as a third option behind Bridgewater and Bradford. I’m not saying that the Vikings are his team long term, but he’s making a strong case that he doesn’t belong as a backup in the NFL. If he can hold serve for a few more weeks to keep the Vikings from rushing Bridgewater back, he’s certain to land a big deal when the time comes. Defensively, the Vikings have yielded only 18 points per game, ranking in the top ten. They’ll face a Rams team this Sunday that scores more than any other team in the NFL, averaging 32.9 points per game. Something’s got to give. My guess is that the Vikings will lose this one, but maintain the inside track to a divisional title.
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Tom Capo writes about sports, parenting, food, wine and travel; but seldom all at once. He’s currently working on his first novel and collection of shorter fiction. He lives in the Bay Area with all of his girls; wife Allison, daughter Liliana and dog Artemis.