Looking ahead to next season, what should Detroit really be worried about in the NFC North pre-draft? The North in 2023 suddenly seems wide-open. None of the teams look like they should run away with the division crown. According to most sports-betting sites, the Lions are the current favorite to win it, but they are still a young team and could have a rocky season with a few serious surprises.
The Green Bay Packers have the worst odds to win the North. While the Packers still have a great defense, with stars like Jaire Alexander at cornerback, Kenny Clark at nose, and Rashan Gary at LB, they are about to lose their best player, multiple time MVP winner, and Hall of Fame lock at QB, Aaron Rodgers, who is departing for New York. They are moving forward with a young and talented QB, Jordan Love, who has all the tools to succeed but could easily be the worst QB in the division. The entire offense looks volatile, but sophomore receiver Christian Watson is a budding star, and if he continues to be a touchdown magnet similar to last year, their passing attack could be just fine.
The Vikings had a good season last year, finishing with the second-best record in the entire NFC, but have lost many pieces of their team throughout the off-season. They have the reigning Offensive Player of the Year, WR Justin Jefferson, and the same QB throwing to him, Kirk Cousins, who is still under contract and has no real competition for his job. The Vikings have lost WR Adam Thielen, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, CB Patrick Peterson, LB Eric Kendricks, and other important players this year. They had a good record last year, but it was a statistical outlier of a season, considering how many one-score games they won. The natural turn of events after a season like that is for their record to regress quickly. Outside of Jefferson, they don’t pose much of a threat.
The Bears are interesting. They have been making significant changes to their team during free agency and through trades in an attempt to surround QB Justin Fields with enough talent to succeed. They had the best rushing offense in the league last year and added star WR DJ Moore in a trade with Carolina. Chicago also had the worst defense in the league; they added some players to that side of the ball, but it would be amazing if they were a top-10 unit in 2023.
So, the question remains. What do the Lions truly have to worry about in the NFC North?
I think that the biggest concern is a young QB taking the league by storm. It seems to happen every year that a new young QB has a year that is miles better than his last one. Fields is extremely talented and with a new WR, could be that player. He produced multiple highlight plays last season, which only led to three wins, but he is still a candidate to take the leap and make some noise in the NFC. The other concern is Jordan Love. If he is as talented as expected and has learned what he needs from Rodgers to succeed, he could also make some big waves. The Vikings feel like a strong second or third placed team, and if neither of the Packers’ or Bears’ QBs can take the next step into stardom, the Lions sit atop a comfortably winnable division.