Aaron Rodgers is the only quarterback in the NFC North to have won both a Super Bowl and an NFL MVP award. When he’s on the field, the Packers are the favorite.
But Rodgers is no longer on the field. He suffered a broken collarbone in last week’s game against Minnesota that likely will sideline him for the remainder of the season. With Rodgers gone, who is now the favorite in the NFL North? Here are your options:
Chicago Bears. The Bears sit in last place in the North with a 2-4 record but this is a different team than the one that opened the season. Chicago lost three of its first four games with Mike Glennon at quarterback, then sat him down in favor of rookie Mitch Trubisky. In his two starts, the Bears have been far more competitive, losing 20-17 to Minnesota and then beating Baltimore 27-24 in overtime.Chicago takes the beat off its rookie quarterback with the best rushing attack in the NFC. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen provide the Bears a 1-2 punch that averages 136 yards per game. Chicago also has the NFL’s sixth-ranked defense that gets after the passer. The Bears rank seventh in the NFL with 16 sacks.
Detroit Lions. The Lions started fast this season, winning three of their first three games, including a home victory against the Vikings. But Detroit has struggled the last two weeks against NFC South competition, losing at home to Carolina and on the road to New Orleans. The Lions have allowed 79 points in those games with 21 of them coming directly off QB Matthew Stafford turnovers. The Lions struggle to run the ball (28th) and now will be without Stafford’s favorite target, Golden Tate, for a few weeks with a sprained shoulder. But Detroit is playing an aggressive brand of defense and special teams. They rank second in the NFL with 14 takeaways and rookie Jamal Agnew has already returned two punts for touchdowns.
Green Bay Packers. The Packers remained in first place of the NFC North with a 4-2 record despite the loss of both Rodgers and the game to the Vikings last weekend. Green Bay is one of only four teams still unbeaten at home this season with a 3-0 record at Lambeau Stadium. But going forward, inexperienced Brett Hundley is now the quarterback of a team that relied so much on Rodgers to deliver victories. Green Bay could get by with the NFL’s 26th ranked rushing attack and 14th-ranked defense when Rodgers was taking the snaps. But will the Packers have that same luxury with Hundley under center? The Packers still have an elite troop of receivers in Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and TE Martellus Bennett.
Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings share first place with the Packers with 4-2 records. But Minnesota holds the tie-breaker, having already beaten Green Bay in the first meeting last weekend. The Vikings are also one of only two teams that rank in the NFL’s Top 10 in both offense and defense. And with word that Teddy Bridgewater is returning to practice this week, the Vikings now have three veteran quarterbacks (also Sam Bradford and Case Keenum) who have won games and had 300-yard passing games in their NFL careers. But the Vikings major in defense with Pro Bowl DE Everson Griffen (7 sacks) and safety Harrison Smith (3 interceptions).