After finishing up with the AFC last week, we will now be getting into the NFC. First off, we will tackle the NFC North. Despite the Chicago Bears winning the division handily last year, many expect it to be a much close race this year. You could make a case that three of the four team could win the division. The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings both struggled last year and are looking to bounce back to challenge the Bears for the division crown. And then there's the Detroit Lions. Poor Detroit fans. It hasn't been a fun decade for you guys. But hey, if you're bad again, you can take your franchise quarterback in the next draft. Anyways, let's dive a little bit deeper into the NFC North.
Chicago Bears: Who Will the Bears Kicker be in 2019?
The Chicago Bears have had kicking problems for awhile now. Even Robbie Gould struggled in his final year with the Bears. Since 2014, the Bears have tried out multiple guys at kicker like Jay Feely, Cairo Santos, Mike Nugent, Connor Barth and Cody Parkey. None of them worked at all. We all know what happened with Parkey last year. Due to still being salty about it, I'm not going to rant, but you guys can look up his compilation of missed kicks last year. He was cut this offseason, which left the Bears without a kicker.
Looking for answers, the Bears signed multiple kickers, including Elliott Fry and Chris Blewitt. Additionally, they acquired Eddy Pineiro from the Oakland Raiders to add to the competition. Blewitt was released in early June, and Fry was released on Sunday. That leaves Pineiro as the only kicker on roster as of right now. He's made three of the four field goals he's attempted this preseason. The Bears are likely to keep looking around for kickers, but it's Pineiro's job to lose at this moment. Will he win the kicking job? Or will he struggle in his final two preseason games, leaving the kicking duties to someone else?
Detroit Lions: How Short is the Leash on Matt Patricia?
Matt Patricia certainly didn't have the first year that he wants. His team struggled immensely, finishing with a record of 6-10, good enough for last place in the NFC North. Patricia was brought in to try and spark a defense that has struggled for a majority of the decade. He did a decent job, as the Detroit Lions were middle of the road in points per game, as well as run and pass defense. However, that didn't translate to wins, which is the most important measure of a coach. There were talks at the end of the season that Patricia could be a one and done candidate. Fortunately for him though, the Lions decided to bring him back for year two.
How short is his leash though? The Lions are definitely the weakest team in a pretty stacked NFC North division. They are likely to go under .500 in division games. Furthermore, they will be playing the AFC west schedule this year, which means games against Super Bowl contenders in the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers. If the Lions struggle out of the gate, do they pull the plug on the Patricia experience? Do they let him ride it out until the end of the season and let him go? Or do they shock the world and make the playoffs? The latter likely won't happen, but the Lions will be a team to keep an eye on this year.
Green Bay Packers: Can Aaron Rodgers Stay Healthy?
Green Bay Packers fans will probably scoff at this one. Aaron Rodgers is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and if he retired today, would be a first ballot hall of fame in Canton. He's dominated the NFL since he became a starter, and routinely makes opposing defense look silly. However, injuries are starting to pile up for the 35 year old signal caller.
Of course we remember what happened in 2017. Rodgers was rolling out to his right and was hit by Anthony Barr, causing him to break his collarbone. Rodgers would only play in seven games that season, as he watched his team struggle without him, missing the playoffs.
In 2018, Rodgers was injured in the first half of the first game against the Bears. He hurt his knee after a sack by Roy Robertson-Harris. He left the game momentarily, but came back and led the Packers to a win. Rodgers did play all 16 games, but was playing injured the entire year.
Even this preseason he's been banged up. He's been forced to miss the first two preseason games due to a sore back. While in may not be bad at all, it's still concerning that Rodgers keeps racking up injury after injury. How much, if it all, will these little injuries affect him this year? Will he start to show age? Or will he have another vintage Rodgers season and lead the Packers back to the playoffs?
Minnesota Vikings: Can Kirk Cousins Finally Silence his Critics?
For almost the entirety of his NFL career, Kirk Cousins has been a good stats bad team guy. He's taken his team to the playoffs on one occasion, as he led the Washington Redskins to an NFC East title in 2015. They were ousted by the Green Bay Packers at home, leaving Redskins fans in disappointment. Last year, as cousins made the move from Washington to the Minnesota Vikings, expectations were high. The Vikings were coming off of a dominant season that saw them win the NFC North and make it to the NFC Championship game.
Cousins was expected to come in and solidify the Vikings offense as one of the best in the league. However, Cousins was a disappointment in year one. The Vikings did well against the mediocre teams, but struggled when it counted the most. Still, they had a shot to make the playoffs. All they had to do was beat the playoff bound Bears at home and their ticket would be punched. The Vikings came out flat, and put up an absolute stinker for their home fans as they lost, and threw away their chances at making the playoffs.
It's a new year though and anything can happen. Will Cousins finally be able to get his team over the playoff hump? Can he finally win a playoff game and take this very talented roster deep into January and maybe even February? There's no question that he's got the roster to do it, Cousins just has to play his part.