Pro Football Weekly contributors John Sahly and Kyle Nabors debate which team is the favorite to win the NFC North.
Nabors: John, we're approaching the midway point for the NFL season, and I still have no idea who's the favorite to win the NFC North. Two weeks ago I would have told you the Packers were clearly the best team. Then Aaron Rodgers went down for the foreseeable future. I've never been a big believer in the Lions, and now they've lost Golden Tate. The Vikings still don't have a quarterback and lost Dalvin Cook to a knee injury. And the Bears just managed to win a game in which they completed four passes. Any idea what's going to happen here?
Sahly: I know one thing: All four of these teams will be home watching the Super Bowl this year. Even if Rodgers manages to come back in time for some sort of playoff run, the Packers are a deeply flawed team on defense. None of these teams have the horses to advance any further than a conference title game. So let's figure out who has the best shot to be king of the North. I'm going to take the Vikings. Case Keenum is just good enough. The defense is certainly legit. But mainly it's because I think 10 wins gets you the North this season. Minnesota is halfway there and gets Cleveland this weekend, so, six wins. What do you say?
Nabors: If any team gets to 10 wins, the division is theirs. I'm not sure, though, that 9-7 doesn't win this division. My first instinct is to say that will be the Vikings, but they've already lost to the Lions once and the schedule has been tremendously soft over the last month. They will also most certainly move to 6-2 with Cleveland on deck this weekend. Then things get significantly more difficult with four road games (at Washington, Detroit, Atlanta and Carolina) and a home matchup with a quality Rams team. I'm not sure there's more than one win there with Keenum under center.
Sahly: Maybe it doesn't have to be Keenum, though. Do you think we'll see Teddy time this year?
Nabors: I hope so. I have no interest in watching a playoff game featuring Keenum at quarterback. If not Bridgewater, maybe Sam Bradford can finally get healthy enough to play?
Sahly: We all know that won't last for a full playoff run, though, unfortunately. But if it's Bridgewater, do you think that's enough to get the Vikings to 10 wins? If not, do you think it's Green Bay? An extended Detroit run? Heck, Mitch Trubisky and what looks like a nasty Bears defense?
Nabors: That's what I'm having trouble deciding. If not the Vikings, who? The Packers are on bye this week, but I have a feeling their chance at the division will be decided in their next two games. They get Detroit in Green Bay coming out of the bye and then travel to Chicago. I'm not sure what happens in either of those games.
Sahly: History says the Packers win both of those games, but that's with Aaron Rodgers at QB. If Brett Hundley can win both of them, or at least prevent the Packers from losing both of them, you've got to give Green Bay serious consideration.
Nabors: I like where we're headed with this. Hundley keeps the Packers alive long enough for Rodgers to return and lead the Packers through an exciting playoff run. I can work with that. Anything but Case Keenum.
Sahly: It's a similar path as in 2013 when Rodgers broke his collarbone. Those Packers actually lost three of the next four – and tied the other game – before winning three of four to make the playoffs and win the NFC North with ... eight victories.