Why Every Team Won’t Win Super Bowl LVI: NFC Northby Ryan Potts June 29, 2021 1 comment
As offseason programs carry on in the NFL, every team has some level of excitement. Some teams are looking to contend in 2021. Others only want to move in the right direction. However, the NFL is unique in that every team has a chance to win the Super Bowl each season.
At the same time, only one team can lift the Lombardi next February. 31 teams will fall short. Here’s why each team will not have what it takes to win the Super Bowl next year.
Let’s continue into NFC by taking a look at the NFC North.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay’s Super Bowl aspirations begin and end with Aaron Rodgers. If he’s not the starting quarterback, they will not win the Super Bowl.
For the sake of this article, pretend Rodgers suits up for all 17 games. What could go wrong?
Green Bay, for as talented as they are, is dependent on Rodgers playing well. When he doesn’t, they are guaranteed to lose. Rodgers has few stinkers, but when it happens, the Packers lose. They lack a counterpunch when Rodgers slips from excellence. To win the Super Bowl, Rodgers has to be excellent in three consecutive playoff games, something he has rarely done in his career.
Stepping away from Rodgers, the defense could be a cause for concern. Green Bay has a weak linebacker room, and they will begin the season with Kevin King as the likely No. 2 corner. While Adrian Amos, Jaire Alexander, and Darnell Savage are exceptional players, having one weak link like King can derail the entire defense. The pass rush, while peppered with potential Pro Bowlers, can be hot and cold at times. Green Bay will need consistency from Rashan Gary and continued great play from Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith.
Green Bay may not have as many weaknesses as other teams vying for the Super Bowl, but requiring Rodgers to play at an elite level to consistently win is a high bar to clear enough times to win a Super Bowl.
Let’s be real for a second. Andy Dalton is not leading a team to a Super Bowl in any capacity. It might be a glitch in Madden, but a Dalton-led team is entirely incapable of winning in the playoffs.
However, Justin Fields opens the Super Bowl window for Chicago, albeit slightly. Even with the offense’s projected improvement once Fields becomes the starter, the defense is slipping from the unit it once was. If the Bears do the objectively correct thing and start Fields from Day 1, Chicago still has to contend with an aging defense. Former All-Pro Kyle Fuller is gone. While the Bears still employ the likes of Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith, and Eddie Jackson, the other eight projected starters are a step below the league-leading unit in 2018. The Bears lost talent (namely Fuller) from a defense that was 14th in scoring and 11th in total defense. A good defense, yes, but the Bears are no longer a threat to carry an offense to the title; it would have to be led by the offense.
Chicago’s offense is improving by the day. They made two of the best moves in the draft, trading up to select Fields in the first round and Teven Jenkins in the second round. However, there is a cap to the progress Chicago can make in 2021. The offensive line is far from inspiring, ranking 27th in PFF’s preseason ranking. The weapons are dynamic, and fans can expect Darnell Mooney to make a sizable leap, but the ceiling in Chicago is a “good offense.”
Kirk Cousins inspires little confidence, but outside of quarterback, the offense is constructed to be difficult to beat. Dalvin Cook and the offensive line are complementary. While the offensive line is not a strong pass-blocking unit, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are as good of a duo as one can find in the NFL.
So, why won’t the Vikings win Super Bowl LVI? The defense.
The names look good on paper. Danielle Hunter is a premier pass rusher. Eric Kendricks is the best linebacker in the NFL. Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson have strong reputations. Even the defensive interior is loaded with Dalvin Tomlinson and Michael Pierce. Minnesota’s problem lies in the team’s depth behind the stars. Particularly in the secondary with Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler, the Vikings will need their 2020 draft class to take a step forward if they wish to compete.
Trusting one of the pair to be a good cornerback in 2021 is logical, but the Vikings need both to be successful. Bashaud Breeland and Mackensie Alexander are solid veterans, but against a Murderer’s Row of wide receiver corps that the Vikings will face, “solid” is not good enough. Even the front seven could be shaky as Pierce and Hunter combined to play zero snaps in 2020. Minnesota’s opponent would quickly punish any rust.
Sadly for the Lions, “culture” is not a valid answer for “how do you plan on winning football games?” With Jared Goff under center, the Lions have a hard cap. Detroit does have a relatively high floor based on a sturdy offensive line and D’Andre Swift toting the rock, but when Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman are the top two options in the wide receiver room, there is reasonable doubt.
Defensively, the Lions manage to have even less in the way of competence. Like Minnesota, some of the names on the defense have decent reputations. Trey Flowers once recorded 2.5 sacks in a Super Bowl. Jamie Collins was a Pro Bowler in 2015. Romeo Okwara had 10 sacks in 2020. Even with some talent, the Lions’ defense is in flux. With a new regime under head coach Dan Campbell, the defense is stuck between the Matt Patricia scheme and the scheme that Aaron Glenn will introduce. In 2022 or beyond, Detroit may have a solid defense, but it is a lot to ask for the previous regime’s players to be successful in a brand-new scheme immediately.
Also, remember that these are the Lions. The last Detroit first-round pick to be alive for a Lions playoff win is 2013’s Ezekiel Ansah. Ouch.
Are you an optimist? All four of these teams have a chance to win the Lombardi.
Follow Ryan Potts on Twitter @MrSplashMan19
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