With the dismantling of the Vikings, the Packers have shown they are still the team to beat in the NFC North.
Coming into the 2020 NFL season, NFL pundits made predictions for each team and where they would finish within their divisions, just like every year. The common theme around the Green Bay Packers was, “Are they really that good?”.
That was a fair question. A 13-3 record and a trip to the NFC Championship game in 2019 would certainly indicate they were a good team. It’s fair to ask because they got walloped in said NFC Championship game and they were playing an easier schedule after finishing third in the division the year before.
Many wanted to believe Aaron Rodgers had a down year last year and expected that trend to continue. After the Packers drafted Jordan Love in the first round this year, it became more believable that the Packers were ready to move on from Rodgers.
On top of that, to the dismay of fans, the Packers didn’t draft a receiver in the draft. They took some players that looked like they were going to go run-heavy this season. Also, everyone complained that the Packers had no receiving weapons outside of Davante Adams. So it’s easy to see why the expectations weren’t super high for Green Bay.
What I don’t understand, is why everyone was so high on the Minnesota Vikings. Many thought they had such a good enough offseason that they passed the Packers and were a popular pick to finish on top of the NFC North in 2020. They added Yannick Ngakoue from the Jacksonville Jaguars and had a nice draft, taking Justin Jefferson in the first round.
But what I don’t understand is why everyone was so quick to make them the favorites. They lost both of their starting cornerbacks and replaced them with a pair of players who haven’t started before in Mike Hughes and Holton Hill.
Behind them is a pair of rookies, Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler. While Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes may not have been playing their best in the past few years, there was still a familiarity and cohesion there. Now, they are basically starting from scratch, which is tough to do even if Mike Zimmer is a defensive mastermind.
On offense, they lost Stefon Diggs, who consistently killed the Packers. They replaced him with Jefferson. While I think Jefferson has some great potential and could be really good, he’s still just a rookie, and rookies generally aren’t very good. Especially not Diggs-good.
It all showed on Sunday.
The Packers came out hot on offense and stayed hot most of the game. They punted just one time, and that came at the 7:35 mark in the third quarter. Rodgers looked like his old self, throwing for 364 yards and four touchdowns, making insanely difficult passes look easy. Davante Adams torched the Vikings’ secondary all game, proving he is one of the best receivers in the league.
I’d like to say it made a difference that Danielle Hunter was out, but even with injuries, the Green Bay offensive line did extremely well. Rodgers was clean all game and didn’t get sacked once. Both Elgton Jenkins and Rick Wagner did very well at right tackle, which is where Ngakoue lined up most of the time.
The Packers’ defense looked good for the most part. Maybe they let up a bit in the second half or played too conservatively, but the Vikings’ offense didn’t do too much until the late in the game. Jaire Alexander gave up some plays to Adam Thielen, but he also had a pick and a huge safety in the first half.
This game was just dominant for the Packers. Hanging 43 points on the Vikings is no easy task. But year two of the Matt LaFleur offense looks like it will be a good one.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions game was one of the ugliest games yesterday. The Bears had no business coming back and winning that game, and even still the Lions were a dropped pass in the end zone away from pulling it off at the last second. Neither of those teams looked anywhere near as good as the Packers did.
I’ll admit, I still don’t think the Packers will get back to 13-3 as they did a season ago, but mostly because their schedule is a lot tougher than it was last year. Whether there are fans or not, the New Orleans Saints showed it is still tough to win in New Orleans after making the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a sexy contender pick, look like an average team in Week 1.
Green Bay still has to go there in Week 3. They also have to travel to Tampa Bay, Houston, and San Francisco. The schedule really isn’t doing them any favors.
But, if they can play as they did in Week 1 at Minnesota, it will be tough to see another team in the division overtaking Green Bay.
The Packers still run the North.