Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions in line to run NFC North

Chicago Bears-Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears-Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports /

Since the NFL’s division realignment in 2002, the NFC North has not been the most balanced division in the league, but that should change in the near future. In the 20 years since the NFC Central turned into the NFC North and saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers leave the division, the Green Bay Packers have won the division 12 times, with the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings each tied for second with four division crowns.

Minnesota will likely clinch the North this weekend with either a win versus the Indianapolis Colts or a Detroit loss against the New York Jets.

While the Detroit Lions have never won the division as it looks today, they have finished in fourth place 10 times, and the Bears are second worst with 6 last place NFC North finishes, and will likely end the season in last place for the seventh time.

To put it simply, in nine of the last 20 seasons the Bears and the Lions have both finished in the bottom half of the NFC North, but that all could change in the near future.

The Lions and Chicago Bears both have bright futures under new coaches

For Detroit, second-year head coach Dan Campbell has the Lions playing tough, competitive football, as the team is 5-1 in their past six games. Teetering on the edge of a wildcard birth, the Lions are not only looking good this year but have a great young core to compete in the future.

Young players Aiden Hutchinson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Penei Sewell, among others, give the Lions a strong foundation to build upon, and since Detroit owns the Los Angeles Rams’ first-round picks in the 2023 and 2024 NFL Draft, the team has sufficient resources to round out their roster with more young players.

While the Bears are not in playoff contention this season, the team also has a strong, young core and will be able to add to this foundation in the near future. With players like Justin Fields, Jack Sanborn, and Jaquan Brisker, the Bears have players in place to compete and have the draft picks as well as cap space to greatly improve this roster in the near future.

Similar to the Lions, the Bears have a new head coach in Matt Eberflus, and as the new regime gets their players in the building, there is certainly hope that this team can be competitive within the division.

The Packers and Vikings may be losing key players very soon

On the other side of the division, the Green Bay Packers, who have been dominant in the division with Aaron Rodgers under center, look to be on the decline, as the former back-to-back MVP seems to be on his way out of the league on the coming years, leaving behind an under-tooled offense and a defense that has some young pieces but has been generally underwhelming.

With little to no direction for the future, it is very possible that the Packers struggle in the post-Aaron Rodgers era, especially if their succession plan in Jordan Love does not pan out as the Brett Favre-Aaron Rodgers transition did.

The Vikings will almost certainly win the NFC North this season, but there are definitely some question marks going forward in Minnesota. It is well documented that the Vikings have one of the worst point differentials for a 10-win team in NFL history, but the bigger concern should be how they stack up against the top teams in the NFL.

The Vikings only have three losses on the season, two of which were against top teams in the NFC the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. Not only were these games not close, but they were also somewhat embarrassing for Minnesota. In just these two contests, the Vikings were outscored 64-10.

From now on, the Vikings may be able to put together a post-season run at the conclusion of the 2022 regular season, but there are definitely some concerns for the team going forward. With great players still on rookie contracts, highlighted by superstar Justin Jefferson, the team will have to pay big contracts in the near future while likely losing key veterans like Kirk Cousins, Harrison Smith, Adam Thielen, and Patrick Peterson.

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At the end of the day, the Vikings are a good team right now, but with the Packers struggling at the end of Rodgers’ career, as well as the recent success out of Detroit, it appears that the Bears and Lions could be in the top half of the division for years to come.