As free agency continues and the draft approaches, every team has some level of excitement. Some are looking to contend in 2022, while others only want to move in the right direction. 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 in Super Bowl LVII. The other 31 will fall short, and there are reasons why each team will not have what it takes. Let’s continue with the NFC North.
Green Bay Packers
Despite having Aaron Rodgers go on a ridiculous tear over the last two seasons, the Packers have been unable to even make the Super Bowl, let alone win it. Without Davante Adams, the Packers just decreased their margin for error. The real issue here is that Green Bay does not have any semblance of depth at the receiver position. They could draft plenty of receivers – even two in the first round – but the Packers do not operate in that manner. They never seem to prioritize the position.
The defense was not the issue in the most recent playoff disaster. After years of collapsing, the Packers held the San Francisco 49ers to just six offensive points. With six minutes left in regulation, the Green Bay made a fourth-down stop to give the ball back to Rodgers and the offense. Rodgers let the team down in a critical spot. Three plays and 80 seconds later, the punting unit was on the field.
The punting unit proceeded to forget how to play football. Jordan Willis blocked the punt, and Talanoa Hufanga picked up the ball before heading to the end zone. The Packers’ special teams units were disastrous all season. Mason Crosby made just 73.5 percent of his field goal attempts, placing the Packers 31st in the NFL. They ranked 30th in kick return average, and they were below-average in punt return average. Moving into 2022, the special teams units still project to be among the worst in the NFL. In a game of inches, the Packers concede many inches with this horror show.
Kirk Cousins is far from a bad quarterback, but he cannot be leaned on to carry the Vikings to deep playoff runs. He has his limitations, as does the rest of the offense. Dalvin Cook has missed 25 games in five seasons, and he is comically inefficient in the playoffs. The offensive line is a mediocre unit that is prone to collapsing at the worst moment. Entering the 2022 season, the Vikings will also have a new head coach in Kevin O’Connell.
Even if the offense were to put the Vikings in an advantageous position, the defense has not shown it can hold up. In each of the last two seasons, the Vikings finished in the bottom 10 in both points and yards allowed. Despite having an offense that has averaged over 25 points per game, the Vikings have finished with a negative point differential in both seasons. The unit has continued to depreciate in recent years with injuries to the likes of Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks being unable to get back to his 2019 form.
Like the Vikings, the Bears have a rookie head coach in Matt Eberflus. This is a death sentence (historically speaking), as rookie head coaches rarely win the Super Bowl. In the rare case they have, the coach was inheriting one of the best teams in the NFL. Eberflus does not fall into this group as he inherits one of the worst offensive rosters in the NFL. Even if Justin Fields pans out, the Bears are lacking along the offensive line and in the receiving corps. After trading up for Fields in 2021, the Bears also do not have a premium draft pick to help out the offense in the upcoming draft.
The defense typically held the team together, but Chicago has opted to blow the defense up. Khalil Mack is now on the Los Angeles Chargers. Roquan Smith, while great, can only do so much as a linebacker. As previously mentioned, the Bears do not have the premium draft capital to get a blue-chip prospect, despite being one of the worst teams in 2021. The likes of Robert Quinn and Eddie Jackson have too much on their plate to keep the Bears’ defense competitive.
Chicago is perhaps two seasons away from being even a middling contender. They desperately need Fields to become a star quarterback, and they will need to capitalize on less than ideal draft capital. If they can find some late-round studs, they could accelerate the process. However, the Bears have not drafted a Pro Bowler since 2017 in any round, let alone a late one.
The Lions will be among the first teams to be mathematically eliminated from making (and winning) the Super Bowl. The problem for the Lions is that they currently have zero solutions. Outside of the offensive line, the Lions do not have a top-tier unit. They have suspect quarterback play, an inconsistent running back, and one of the worst receiving corps in the league on the offense. Jared Goff is not exactly the ideal quarterback, and the Lions could set their rebuild back several years by over-drafting a quarterback this year.
The defense falls in the same vein of ineptitude. They ranked 31st in points allowed, 29th in yards allowed, last in passing yards allowed per play, and 31st in red-zone touchdown percentage allowed. In other words, the defense was horrendous. The pass-rushing unit struggles to make a consistent impact. In turn, the coverage unit is consistently exposed. Picking Jeff Okudah appears to be a disaster just two seasons in.
The Lions should take the long approach to their rebuild. They should take one of the blue-chip edge prospects in the 2022 draft with the No. 2 pick and add reinforcements to the receiving corps and secondary with the Nos. 32 and 34 picks. If the Lions draft a quarterback, not only will they not win Super Bowl 57, but they will also not win any in the foreseeable future.
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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