The Packers Are Still The Class of The NFC North

The Packers traded away Davante Adams. Rival fans think it will sink the team. They're wrong - they Packers still have far and away the best roster in the division.

Rosters are all set, practice squads are loaded.

And the Packers are the team to beat in the NFC North.

Again.

It all starts with the quarterback. Jared Goff and Kirk Cousins are firmly established at their ceiling of "good enough to start" while Justin Fields is still a mostly unknown young prospect. Meanwhile, the Packers have the reigning back-to-back MVP, who routinely wipes the mat with his division foes.

At running back, Dalvin Cook with Alexander Mattison, David Montgomery with Khalil Herbert, and D'Andre Swift  with Jamaal Williams are all fine tandems, but the Packers two-headed monster of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon (not to mention the preseason flashes of Amari Rodgers as a running back) are a notch above. The complementary slashing and pounding styles of these two give the team multiple ways to attack defenses.

The Packers wide receivers, however, are not the class of the division. The Vikings have Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen to go with KJ Osborn and the newly-acquired Jalen Reagor, making it easy to admit that they have the best receiver group in the division. The Bears have an ascending young talent in Darnell Mooney, but little else aside from that. The Lions are in the same boat with Amon-Ra St. Brown and some warm bodies.

Green Bay may have lost Davante Adams, but they're gonna be just fine. Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are proven vets that have familiarity with the quarterback. They won't threaten the All Pro voters, but they will move the chains. Sammy Watkins may not stay healthy all year, but he is a premium talent that just needs to take snaps until Christian Watson and preseason superstar Romeo Doubs come up to speed. Throw in the fact that Aaron Jones is a better receiver than any other back in the division, and things start to even out a little more.

Robert Tonyan, who looks on track to play early in the season, and Marcedes Lewis give the team a great balance of receiving and blocking. If they're healthy, they are as effective as any other tandem in the division. Detroit's TJ Hockenson has elite tools, but he has not ascended to the upper echelon yet. The Bears (Cole Kmet) and Vikings (Irv Smith, Jr) are in even worse shape.

Then there's offensive line, where the Packers may not be healthy early, but easily have the most talented and deepest group in the division. When David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins are healthy, the Packers have All Pro level bookends, plus a solid interior with depth across the board. Detroit has shored up their line in recent years, but they can't match Green Bay. Meanwhile, Chicago and Minnesota perennially roll out trash cans (that aren't filled with dirt) to serve as blockers up front.

But things really get fun on the on the other side of the ball.

When was the last time the Packers had the best defense in the division?

This year, they may have the best defense in the league.

They added depth up front and look to have their best defensive line since winning the Super Bowl (even if 1st round pick Devonte Wyatt rides the bench all year). They have two insanely athletic inside linebackers (one of whom is a reigning All Pro), and the edge tandem of Preston Smith (good) and Rashan Gary (amazing).

Then, their secondary is laughably elite. Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, and Rasul Douglas are an incredible trio and the class of the league. At safety, Adrian Amos has been a fantastic leader and plays at a Pro Bowl level, while Darnell Savage (who has produced solid results with occasional inconsistency) is the weak link of the defense, but still a very solid player.

Meanwhile, the rest of the division is struggling.

The Lions, with #2 overall pick Aiden Hutchinson, have put together a pretty good defensive line, but their linebackers and secondary remain unproven. Minnesota, long a defensive terror, got old, fell behind, and are now focused on being a more offensively-focused team. Danielle Hunter and Za'Darius Smith may be a really good pash rushing tandem, but their secondary is moldy garbage. The Bears, who for years boasted one of the best defensive units in the NFL, look downright average after losing Khalil Mack and Aikeem Hicks.

The Packers have the best offensive in the division (like they do almost every year) and the best defensive in the division (which hasn't been the case since the days of Reggie White). Even with a questionable special teams unit (that has been buffed with an influx of new players and coaches), the Packers are easily the team to beat in this division.

Any rival trash talking should be laughed at audibly.

It's time to get ready for the season!

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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6 points

Comments (31)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
stockholder's picture

September 04, 2022 at 06:57 am

Go Pack Go

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Leatherhead's picture

September 04, 2022 at 07:08 am

Once Upon A Time, there was a dumbass named Christopher Gates, aka the Daily Norseman. In 2010, he proudly proclaimed that the Purple were the class of the division. The previous season, they were in the Championship game (where Favre had thrown the season away, again) and he had a very persuasive argument.

But of course, stuff happens. The Packers won the Super Bowl that year. The Purple ended up firing the coach and then went into rebuilding, again.

So I hate these “class of the division “ proclamations, even when I completely agree.. We’re good. One of the very best squads we’ve had since the merger. And I think we’re gonna knock snot out of the Purple next week. But I’m not going to jinx us like Gates did.

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egbertsouse's picture

September 04, 2022 at 07:45 am

I hope you’re right or for the next few months I will be taking non-stop crapola from my neighbors. They may even break out their old Bert Farve, Adrian Peterson, and Darren Sharper jerseys. I am not kidding, last year I saw a guy in the grocery store wearing a purple Sharper jersey. Maybe he can visit him in prison and get it signed for a couple cartons of butts.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 04, 2022 at 08:08 am

That. Is. Funny!

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mrtundra's picture

September 04, 2022 at 07:54 am

The vikings are always searching for relevance. They will claim a bit of relevance, if they beat the Packers, at some point. Heck, they claim relevance if another team beats the Packers! The vikings need every advantage when they play the Packers, as well. We meet in the first game of the season, in hopes they can catch us playing flat and unprepared. That first game is in their version of a stadium, where the crowd noise could benefit them, to some degree. That god awful horn should be hacked to play GO PACK, GO!!! whenever it is turned on. They paid their starting QB $90 trillion in hopes that would generate MVP talk and maybe some MVP style of play from him. Turns out Kark is just pedestrian. An overpaid pedestrian. I cannot wait for our Defense to smear Kark and Co into that thing that passes for turf, at their stadium. I cannot wait for our offense to dash the vikings hopes of winning the division, once again, this season. I think the vikings will finish third in our division, behind the Packers and Detroit, but ahead of Da Bears. SKOL!!! BAROOOO!!! GO PACK, GO!!!

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Leatherhead's picture

September 04, 2022 at 01:41 pm

Since the Vikings and Cowboys were added to the league in 1960, Dallas has won 5 Championships, Green Bay has won 7, and Minnesota has won 0.

In fact, they've been around for over 60 years with a title. Even the Lions won once back in '57, and the Bears in 1985.

My pastor says that God doesn't hate, but if He didn't hate you, then why would he make you a Purple fan?

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Bure9620's picture

September 04, 2022 at 08:55 am

In addition, division landscape can change rapidly in this league. It was not long ago the Patriots were winning the AFC East automatically. The Bills are the class of the division now, with arguably the best roster in the league and a franchise QB.

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wildbill's picture

September 04, 2022 at 11:35 am

We are just an ARod injury from not making the playoffs. The last team to win a Super Bowl, without a stud QB, was the Dilfer Ravens and that was like 20 years ago IMO. Heck we can’t even get to a super bowl the four years we had the MVP.
Defense wins championships but you still need excellent QB play, which we don’t have behind Rodgers. Until we can put our five best OL in the game I will always worry.

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Bure9620's picture

September 04, 2022 at 12:36 pm

Eagles did it with Foles, Peyton Manning was awful his last year with the Broncos. They could wim games with Love.

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wildbill's picture

September 04, 2022 at 05:05 pm

I think Foles, and a broken armed Manning, are both light years above Love. I read people raving about Love making three or four nice throws in the games but even an average starting QB shouldn’t make 3 to 4 BAD throw s a game.
I don’t see it. Love=Kizer 2.0. I don’t dislike Love, I hope he turns out to be our third HOF but it’s not going to happen.

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coolhand's picture

September 04, 2022 at 04:33 pm

Sure Wildbill, but what team DOES have a 2nd string QB that could take them to the SB?

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wildbill's picture

September 04, 2022 at 04:55 pm

That’s my point, although the 49ers backup has taken them before

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Johnblood27's picture

September 04, 2022 at 10:01 am

The only "jinx" type of issue I truly fear is if I see that GB's own players start talking about their dominance.

I hope that they remain hungry, a quick dose of reality - this team hasn't won even a single game-yet - should do it.

I respect a certain amount of humility much much more than I respect any level of trash-talking, over-confidence and arrogance.

IT
IS
TIME

The baloney stops here and now.

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PackfanNY's picture

September 04, 2022 at 07:25 am

I won’t say I disagree. Of course, in 7 days the time for talk is over. The Packers need to go out on the field and prove it. I do think the Lions and Vikings have improved while the Bears remain a hot mess. However, both have limitations that give the Packers the advantage. They both have boom and bust quarterbacks. One day they can look fine but the next you wonder how the guy has a job.

We can sit here and make compare rosters all day but, thankfully, next week begins the real test.

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egbertsouse's picture

September 04, 2022 at 07:33 am

You got that right.

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egbertsouse's picture

September 04, 2022 at 07:37 am

I need a dozen kaiser rolls to deal with all the baloney being delivered in this article. One more week until the reality checkpoint. Thank god!!!

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wildbill's picture

September 04, 2022 at 11:37 am

Yea but I do love me some fried German baloney with pepper Jack cheese. Just saying

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ricky's picture

September 04, 2022 at 07:46 am

PackFanNY nailed it. On paper, the Packers are dominant, and should easily win the division, and be favorites to at least make if not win the SB. But the games are played on the field, not on paper. And as the last three years of thirteen wins in the regular season, only to choke in the playoffs, have shown us, there are two seasons. And in the post-season, the Packers have come up short. Time to put up when it counts.

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 04, 2022 at 08:12 am

I COMPLETELY agree. It may take a little bit to figure our post-Adam’s life (I see the Packers starting 1-2), but I have faith they’ll figure it out and win the NFC North (hopefully the SB).

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PatrickGB's picture

September 04, 2022 at 08:15 am

I do respect the talent that the Vikings have. It’s not in every position but it’s there. And the Lions look better this year. Chicago looks a mess. So I expect that the toughest games in our division will be in that order. (Yes, the Lions look better than the Bears) . If I had more confidence in our receivers then I am sure we would be a shoe in.

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13TimeChamps's picture

September 04, 2022 at 09:11 am

I've been trying to get on board with all this top-5 defense talk, hoping it's not mostly hype. I remember a few years ago Rodgers declaring "We have a defense!". And while, if I remember correctly, it was an improvement over the previous year, it didn't turn out to be anything special.

But one comment in the article stood out to me. If Darnell Savage is the weakest link on this defense, then we might really have something special here. But it's all on paper right now, just like every year. If the injury gods are kind, we'll find out soon enough.

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NickPerry's picture

September 04, 2022 at 09:34 am

The Packers are still the class of the North. If they get Bakhtiari and Jenkins back SOON, or at least one of them back by week one, I think they're the class of the NFC and have a possible first-round bye again. Obviously, a few things need to go right for the Packers, and maybe for once, they will. But IMO, getting those two back ASAP, is the most important thing for the Packers this season other than staying healthy everywhere else.

99.9% of Packers fans are absolutely positively convinced it's not IF Watkins gets hurt, it's WHEN. Sammy Watkins is a talented WR when healthy. WHAT IF Watkins was able to play say 15 games and the Playoffs? My guess if Watkins was able to stay on the field for that many games, the loss of Adams is alleviated. I know it's not probable, but who knows, strange things happen every year in the NFL. Why can't Sammy Watkins staying healthy be one of them this season?

Defense... When I read Bruce's compliment about Amos I find myself getting upset all over again. Like WHY IN THE HELL hasn't Amos been extended? Sorry, that's my own little pet peeve.

IMO this defense will play many more games as they did against the 49ers in the playoffs than say the narrow victory in Baltimore last season. They have so much GOOD depth on the D-Line, INCLUDING Wyatt. People are so willing to just write this kid off already for the 2022 season. Let's let him get his feet a little wetter and play with guys like Kenny Clark and Jarron Reed first.

The Packers are still the class of the North but that's not been the problem these last few years.

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canadapacker's picture

September 04, 2022 at 09:48 am

"As Chris Berman always says, “And that’s why they play the games.” ""
The Packers are favorite??? I hate the Vikes - but we have lost to them against Cousins = should have won both last year but didnt hang onto the game winning INT.

Our defense is better - I say prove it. Special teams will be special - I say prove it. I also believe in the other saying - take one game at a time. I think that the Vikes will be better and that the Lions will not lose all those games in the last minute or on excessively long field goals and that Fields will be better.

So as Chris has said is very true this year for the Pack - that's why they play the games - I believe that our success as per the past precedent is contingent on spreading the ball around in the passing game and we will win or lose on an improved running game (Jones needs to earn his big check) and lack of injuries at key positions.

I Know blah blah blah - thats why they play the games.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 04, 2022 at 10:17 am

I believe the Packers have a very strong team though it might take a few games into the season for all the talent to develop (rookies & 2nd year players) including the OL and the WR's. Throw in the uncertainty of DB & Jenkins. At the end of the day I do believe the Packers most likely will win the division. Having said that....anyone sleeping on Detroit (looked how they played us last year & now have two blue chip #1 draft choices), and the Vikings. If I was a betting man I'd say those two teams are going to give us fits this year and the division title race will be the toughest/tightest we have had in several years. The division race will likely go do the wire to the last couple of games. A key injury or two might make all the difference. This upcoming Packer game against the Vikings I believe is going to be a defining moment. Not necessarily on who wins and loses, but in how we match up against the Vikings on all 3 levels.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

September 04, 2022 at 10:50 am

The annual NFL draft was put in place to equalize teams and prevent dynasties and for the most part it has worked as designed. However, a good scouting team with a sound general manager can help to mitigate a fall in stature. Additionally, the most important cog in the starting 22 players on a professional football team is the quarterback and for well over a quarter of a century, the Packers have had two Hall of Fame QB's behind center. It is utterly amazing that we have had less than a handful of losing seasons during the past 30 years. I, and the older guys on this website had to endure season after season of frustration during the 1970's and 1980's, listening to remarks like "The Pack is back with Bart the fart" and stuff like that. I don't know what the future will hold after the Rodgers era, but I am thoroughly enjoying discussions like this where we are talking about the Packers still being the cream of the crop in the NFC North Division and having hopes of winning a Super Bowl Championship.

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TarynsEyes's picture

September 04, 2022 at 10:50 am

Being the 'Class' of what has basically been a 'classless' Division is no great feat to be admired, when failing to be the 'Class' of the playoffs muffles the previous accolade roar, which by having 3 wildcard teams makes a Division Championship closer to meaningless, less the exuberance it allows Packer fans to facepalm the long, of late near never competitors in the Division, whose names need not be mentioned and shouldn't be until worthy by actual performance.

For some, even many, it appears a Badge of Honor to boast of winning such a 'Classless' Division, while failing to win in the finals is met with an equal boast of 'just enjoy the ride' mantra which says simply,'Winning isn't everything' especially when you lose, as the favorite, to the lesser, as like those need not be named against the Packers in the NFCN.

This year's Defense is undeniably talented and on paper that allows the hype for a Top 5 Defense, at the least, but let us not be fooled, because this team's success, and chance to win more than another 'Classless' Division Title rests in the play of Rodgers when it comes to possible fruition, regardless of who is or isn't available, as we've seen both scenarios, and lost, though will be denied for various reasons by others, more because of the failure of Rodgers to play like Rodgers, the MVP Rodgers, instead we get a Cutler version of Rodgers. Cruel? Yes. But not so undeniable.

Let the games begin, and hope that an SB appearance is the least we get to boast about.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

September 04, 2022 at 02:32 pm

Tayrn, I suspect you are not old enough to have endured to Packer teams of the 70's and 80's. Those were years when if we happen to upset the Bears, the season wasn't too bad. Victories and success seemed few and far between. Nevertheless, I along with other Packer fans filled Lambeau Field cheering and when we pulled out a victory which was generally considered an upset more often than not, it made our day. Having lived through that era, I relish winning the North Division and winning far more games than we lose.

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TarynsEyes's picture

September 04, 2022 at 03:42 pm

Your suspicion is way off, my Packer fandom covers the 60s. Yes, there was a time that beating the Bears was glorious or any Division team, but I don't live in the past, I live in the present, and the length of my future is shrinking. Beating Division teams is nice, winning Division Titles is nice, but I'm a little tired of the past and Division Titles, I'd like to celebrate more SBS as we should have a couple of times since 2011, and the Rodgers era is closing faster, along with the Packers chances going forward. Nostalgia is a crying towel, and why many look to it when failure comes in January, and erases February.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

September 04, 2022 at 06:42 pm

Good comment, I won't argue with that.

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Lphill's picture

September 04, 2022 at 01:37 pm

The Packers have the best QB in the NFL and plenty of weapons , Devante Adams won’t be missed .

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13TimeChamps's picture

September 04, 2022 at 02:53 pm

"The Packers have the best QB in the NFL "

The Packers have the best regular season QB in the NFL.
The Bucs have the best postseason QB in the NFL.

There, I fixed it for you.

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