With only the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings boasting above-average records going into Week 10 of the season, the NFC North has had issues living up to the preseason billing that they received. With the Chicago Bears expected to compete with a stout defense and an improved quarterback, as well as the Detroit Lions riding on the back of their revamped defense and Matthew Stafford, half of this division has not lived up to its end of the bargain.
Having a first-year head coach at the helm normally does not lead to immediate results, but for Green Bay, they were not in the same situation most teams are when they replace their coach. Not rebuilding (more like revamping), this team had the pieces already in place, they just needed a new leader, which is why their record looks to be closer to where it should have been the past few seasons.
The struggles of the North this year are both welcomed and unwelcomed when it comes to Green Bay. It helps because they have an easier-than-expected foray through their divisional matchups this year, provided the teams that are not living up to expectations keep floundering along. However, it hurts because it makes them look less strong than if they played a tough divisional slate, and it also does not prepare them for tougher opponents for their potential entrance back into the postseason.
For instance, take a look at the NFC West, which boasts one undefeated squad, San Francisco, two above-average teams, Seattle and the Rams, and one up-and-coming franchise that is not an easy team to beat in Arizona. An unexpected undefeated squad in San Francisco is leading that division, with the Seahawks and Rams breathing down their backs, not far behind, while the Cardinals almost gave the 49ers their first loss of the season, falling by three points.
In comparison, the Packers are leading the North with two defeats, neither of which (at home to Philly, on the road at the Chargers) are so-called ‘good’ losses. The three-loss Vikings solidly sit in second place, waiting to pounce if the Packers were to lose again, which helps keep the Packers focused on what is ahead for them and not what is behind them.
Thankfully for Green Bay, they have won every in-divisional matchup so far in 2019, beating each team once – the problem here, though, is that their largest margin of victory over a divisional opponent is only seven points, which occurred in their season-opening victory in Chicago on Sunday night. While they have taken care of business over their divisional opponents so far, their lack of convincing wins over Chicago, Detroit, and Minnesota leave some wondering if this team truly is what they have looked like so far or if it has just been a facade up to this point.
With Aaron Rodgers putting together MVP-caliber performance most weeks, the backfield combination of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams showing out on the ground and through the air, and the return of Davante Adams to help open up the passing game again, this team has been playing above-average ball so far this season. While their defense has had its ups and downs so far in 2019, the general consensus on this unit is that they have what it takes to step up when needed, and they finally can help take some of the weight off of Rodgers’ shoulders late in games.
While no one wants the rest of the NFC North to start winning to make the divisional race a bit tighter down the stretch, a few upset victories over non-divisional teams would go a long way towards helping the Packers finally look like one of the team’s to beat in the NFC in 2019.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23