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Heinz D.

NFC North 2018 Thread

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Howdy!

All the debate on the other NFCN team's draft in here--https://forums.footballsfuture.com/topic/10178-who-had-best-draft/--reminded me that I had been thinking an overall NFCN thread, starting with a discussion of the off-season, would be a lot more productive than the little scraps of that sort of commentary and opinion that wind up here and there among the other threads. I'm not going to go over the Bears' off-season, as the regulars here are up to speed on that, and relatively familiar with the other regulars' opinions. Anybody from the broader NFCN sub-forum who's interested in our takes on things Bears related (draft and free agency), well...there's a lot of content covering that in these here parts, but the consensus seems to be--the Bears have done pretty well. 

Here's a synopsis of the other North teams moves, for ease of reference:

 

DETROIT LIONS:

Draft:1 (20). Frank Ragnow, C: 6-5, 312, Arkansas, 2 (43). Kerryon Johnson, RB: 5-11, 213, Auburn, 3 (82). Tracy Walker, S: 6-1, 206, Louisiana, 4 (114). Da'Shawn Hand, DE: 6-4, 297, Alabama, 5 (153). Tyrell Crosby, OL: 6-4, 309, Oregon, 7 (237). Nick Bawden, FB: 6-2, 245, San Diego State

Free Agency:

Additions: Outside linebacker Devon Kennard (from Giants), inside linebacker Christian Jones (Bears), guard Kenny Wiggins (Chargers), tight end Luke Willson (Seahawks), running back LeGarrette Blount (Eagles).

Subtractions: Cornerback DJ Hayden (to Jaguars), tight end Eric Ebron (Colts), tight end Darren Fells (Browns), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (Eagles), safety Don Carey (Jaguars).

GREEN BAY PACKERS:

Draft:1 (18). Jaire Alexander, CB: 5-10, 196, Louisville, 2 (45). Josh Jackson, CB: 6-1, 196, Iowa, 3 (88). Oren Burks, OLB: 6-3, 233, Wake Forest, 4 (133). J'Mon Moore, WR: 6-2, 207, Missouri, 5 (138). Cole Madison, OL: 6-5, 313, Washington State, 5 (172). JK Scott, P: 6-5, 207, Alabama, 5 (174). Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR: 6-4, 206, South Florida, 6 (207). Equanimeous St. Brown, WR: 6-4, 214, Notre Dame, 7 (232). James Looney, DE: 6-3, 287, California, 7 (239). Hunter Bradley, LS: 6-2, 280, Mississippi State, 7 (248). Kendall Donnerson, LB: 6-3, 247, Southeast Missouri State

Free Agency:

Additions: Tight end Jimmy Graham (Seahawks), defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (Jets).

Subtractions: Safety Morgan Burnett (Steelers), wide receiver Jordy Nelson (Raiders).

MINNESOTA VIKINGS:

Draft:1 (30). Mike Hughes, CB: 5-10, 189, South Florida, 2 (62). Brian O'Neill, OT: 6-7, 297, Pittsburgh, 4 (102). Jalyn Holmes, DE: 6-5, 280, Ohio State, 5 (157). Tyler Conklin, TE: 6-3, 254, Central Michigan, 5 (167). Daniel Carlson, K: 6-5, 213, Auburn, 6 (213). Colby Gossett, OG: 6-5, 311, Appalachian State, 6 (218). Ade Aruna, DE: 6-5, 262, Tulane, 7 (225). Devante Downs, LB: 6-3, 245, California

Free Agency:

Additions: Quarterback Kirk Cousins (Redskins), defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (Seahawks).

Subtractions: Quarterback Case Keenum (Broncos), running back Jerick McKinnon (49ers), quarterback Sam Bradford (Cardinals), quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Jets), wide receiver Jarius Wright (Panthers).

 

--I think the Lions had a good draft, but I'm not so sure I wouldn't have went RB in the first (to get Nick Chubb), or chosen Guice over Johnson where they did pick. Tyler Crosby was sort of a steal, where they got him. Their free agency was pretty meh. Blount should be a good addition, but...he's Blount. Ngata didn't exactly light it up as a Lion, but I still think they're going to miss him a lot more than they realize. 

--The Packers had a very good draft, with the double dip at corner to start it off a clear indication that they're preparing for life in the new NFCN. I had to remind myself who Burks was when they drafted him, but if he works out, that will address a huge area of need for them. And to all those receivers they picked--you know at least one is going to make it, and most likely be filling the highlight reels this fall. Don't sleep on their big free agent additions, either. Graham is coming from a trainwreck offensive situation in Seattle, and if motivated, Wilkerson is still a force. 

--The Vikings also had a very good draft, although if I was a Vikes fan I'd be a little uneasy they're clearly showing this much faith in Dalvin Cook (who had some question marks before he was injured). Hughes in the first also shows the Vikes understand what the NFCN is shaping up to be. In free agency, they got the biggest prize, and a true franchise quarterback. It's understandable that led to the dismissal of all their other QBs, but it's too bad they couldn't keep Bridgewater. Losing Wright is also too bad, but not a huge deal. 

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By the end of the season, I think it will be clear that this is the second best division in all of football, behind the NFC South. If I was a betting man, I'd put good money on both the Pack and Vikings making the playoffs. If either the Lions or the Bears got in, I wouldn't be shocked--although I imagine the Bears will show the most improvement in the second half of the season...

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Posted (edited)

--The Vikings are the most complete team in the division but their 13 wins last season are not sustainable. Cousins may be better than both Keenum or Bradford but the gap between them is very minimal and does nothing to really put them over the top. They're still a beast on defense and decent on ST's but it'll be interesting to see if the loss of Shurmur hurts the offense as a whole without knowing much about Flip's offensive approach and philosophy at this point. Especially given Cook's injury history. Last season, Shurmur's running game was based around Cook until he got injured and then he used a RB-by-committee, which worked well. So it'll be interesting to see if Flip takes the same approach to help to keep from over-working Cook. 

--The Packers are always going to be a contender and have the best offense in the division as long as Rodgers is still playing. Firing both Capers and Bennett can only be a good thing for them. Barring injury, Jones/Williams gives Rodgers a legit 1-2 punch in the backfield. Rodgers has been missing a MoF target and Graham brings this. Over the last 2 years, 8 of his 16 TD's have came on fade(5) and seem(3) routes with 10 of those in the red-zone. And we all know how much Rodgers loves his damn fade routes. 

--The Lions. I'm not thrilled about their draft at all(which is all personal preference) but that's not the biggest thing to happen in the off-season and why I"m down on them. They are going into the year with a new HC and new a philosophy aimed more towards defense, than offense, behind another former Patriots staff member with hopes of taking them to the promise land. We have seen this movie before, over and over, so you will have to excuse me if I'm not excited. 

--Not going to get much into the Bears because, like Heinz said, we already know them. That said, some of us fans need to curb our expectations. This is basically Mitch's rookie year and as good as this off-season may look to us right now with all of the staff hirings, FA acquisitions and the draft.......realistically, we're not going to see the true effects of all of these changes for atleast another 1 year. Me personally, I'm expecting a 7-9 season(give or take a game). But the record is not what's important What is important is HOW we lose those games. Are we losing them because of poor coaching decisions? Or are we losing them on one bad play made by a rookie still learning his position? Things like that. That will be true testament on how we look going forward.  

Edited by JustAnotherFan

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7 hours ago, JustAnotherFan said:

--The Vikings are the most complete team in the division but their 13 wins last season are not sustainable. Cousins may be better than both Keenum or Bradford but the gap between them is very minimal and does nothing to really put them over the top. They're still a beast on defense and decent on ST's but it'll be interesting to see if the loss of Shurmur hurts the offense as a whole without knowing much about Flip's offensive approach and philosophy at this point. Especially given Cook's injury history. Last season, Shurmur's running game was based around Cook until he got injured and then he used a RB-by-committee, which worked well. So it'll be interesting to see if Flip takes the same approach to help to keep from over-working Cook. 

--The Packers are always going to be a contender and have the best offense in the division as long as Rodgers is still playing. Firing both Capers and Bennett can only be a good thing for them. Barring injury, Jones/Williams gives Rodgers a legit 1-2 punch in the backfield. Rodgers has been missing a MoF target and Graham brings this. Over the last 2 years, 8 of his 16 TD's have came on fade(5) and seem(3) routes with 10 of those in the red-zone. And we all know how much Rodgers loves his damn fade routes. 

--The Lions. I'm not thrilled about their draft at all(which is all personal preference) but that's not the biggest thing to happen in the off-season and why I"m down on them. They are going into the year with a new HC and new a philosophy aimed more towards defense, than offense, behind another former Patriots staff member with hopes of taking them to the promise land. We have seen this movie before, over and over, so you will have to excuse me if I'm not excited. 

--Not going to get much into the Bears because, like Heinz said, we already know them. That said, some of us fans need to curb our expectations. This is basically Mitch's rookie year and as good as this off-season may look to us right now with all of the staff hirings, FA acquisitions and the draft.......realistically, we're not going to see the true effects of all of these changes for atleast another 1 year. Me personally, I'm expecting a 7-9 season(give or take a game). But the record is not what's important What is important is HOW we lose those games. Are we losing them because of poor coaching decisions? Or are we losing them on one bad play made by a rookie still learning his position? Things like that. That will be true testament on how we look going forward.  

I’m not willing to give Mitch the “he’s basically a rookie” tag. He played almost the entire season last year, and while the system and most of the surrounding personnel were a joke he should still have been able to work a lot of the rookie mistake stuff out. I’m not expecting him to be the best version of Trubisky we will ever see in 2018 and doesn’t need to be at that Goff/Wentz 2017 level necessarily but he needs to show significant growth well beyond the expectations that come with a “2nd year rookie” label IMO. 

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Posted (edited)

While I don't agree about the rookie season tag, it's been known now that this offense isn't usually fully-caught-up-with for 2-3 years. I do expect some struggles from MT initially with growth later in the year. I think they win 7 or 8 games.

Edited by beardown3231

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, JustAnotherFan said:

--The Vikings are the most complete team in the division but their 13 wins last season are not sustainable. Cousins may be better than both Keenum or Bradford but the gap between them is very minimal and does nothing to really put them over the top. They're still a beast on defense and decent on ST's but it'll be interesting to see if the loss of Shurmur hurts the offense as a whole without knowing much about Flip's offensive approach and philosophy at this point. Especially given Cook's injury history. Last season, Shurmur's running game was based around Cook until he got injured and then he used a RB-by-committee, which worked well. So it'll be interesting to see if Flip takes the same approach to help to keep from over-working Cook. 

--The Packers are always going to be a contender and have the best offense in the division as long as Rodgers is still playing. Firing both Capers and Bennett can only be a good thing for them. Barring injury, Jones/Williams gives Rodgers a legit 1-2 punch in the backfield. Rodgers has been missing a MoF target and Graham brings this. Over the last 2 years, 8 of his 16 TD's have came on fade(5) and seem(3) routes with 10 of those in the red-zone. And we all know how much Rodgers loves his damn fade routes. 

--The Lions. I'm not thrilled about their draft at all(which is all personal preference) but that's not the biggest thing to happen in the off-season and why I"m down on them. They are going into the year with a new HC and new a philosophy aimed more towards defense, than offense, behind another former Patriots staff member with hopes of taking them to the promise land. We have seen this movie before, over and over, so you will have to excuse me if I'm not excited. 

--The Vikes may not get to 13 wins again, that's true, but I think that may have as much to do with the division as the Vikes themselves. They may end up missing Schurmur (at least short term), but I think Zimmer is like a Gorilla Glue coach. Even if they drop off a win or two, I'd be shocked if they weren't still contenders.

--Agree that the loss of Capers is addition by subtraction. The even bigger such improvement is the loss of Ted Thompson. That man was a bad GM. Having someone in charge of personnel there who even sort of knows what he's doing scares the hell out of me, as Rodgers probably has a good 4-6 years left. And as far as clearing that very low bar of competence, it's obvious to me that Gutekunst has already done that. Beware the Packers. And yeah, folks are going to remember just who Jimmy Graham is, for sure.

--I actually think Patricia has more potential as a head coach than other Belichick proteges we've seen crash and burn over the years. Unlike Weis, Crennell, and McDaniels, he's accomplished a lot, with less than stellar personnel. He also seems to me to be more creative than those other dudes. Time will tell, of course.

6 hours ago, AZBearsFan said:

I’m not willing to give Mitch the “he’s basically a rookie” tag. He played almost the entire season last year, and while the system and most of the surrounding personnel were a joke he should still have been able to work a lot of the rookie mistake stuff out. I’m not expecting him to be the best version of Trubisky we will ever see in 2018 and doesn’t need to be at that Goff/Wentz 2017 level necessarily but he needs to show significant growth well beyond the expectations that come with a “2nd year rookie” label IMO. 

I expect Mitch to excel right out of the gate. The better personnel, better coaching, and better play calling will align with his experience and we'll all be treated to some good football as a result. I doubt we'll hear his name bandied about in MVP talk, but I think it'll become clear why Pace drafted him.

6 hours ago, beardown3231 said:

While I don't agree about the rookie season tag, it's been known now that this offense isn't usually fully-caught-up-with for 2-3 years. I do expect some struggles from MT initially with growth later in the year. I think they win 7 or 8 games.

They'll stumble a bit at first, I agree. I'm thinking 8 or 9 wins with an overall good showing, though. 

Edited by Heinz D.

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Were not in the conversation with GB and Minny. Lions I could see us competing with but thats not to again be the worst in the division. We have pieces in place but the top 2 are tooling for SB runs. 

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1 hour ago, Damikeeeee said:

Were not in the conversation with GB and Minny. Lions I could see us competing with but thats not to again be the worst in the division. We have pieces in place but the top 2 are tooling for SB runs. 

I agree with that, pretty much. However, I think the Bears and the Lions will still be good enough to put the North ahead of most other divisions, quality-wise. Like, say, the AFC South. 

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Minnesota Vikings...

By a distance IMO the best team in this division leading into the season...I disagree with some who feel Cousins isn't much better than Keenum...Cousins is in a different league in terms of talent and was a massive get for the Vikings who will now be able to do more with their passing attack...I also like the fact they went out and got Siemian who is one of the better backups in the NFL...they understand the value of the position...getting Cook back healthy will be massive for them and Murray is a very good do it all rotational piece alongside him...Diggs and Thielen are still one of the best combinations of receivers in the NFL...look out for Korey Robertson who was one of the best UDFA signings in the NFL and will make their roster...if Treadwell can step up it would be massive although I don't have high hopes...Rudolph is a good TE and I loved the Tyler Conklin pick for them as a move TE...now for the bad part of their offseason...the OL...why oh why did they not draft Will Hernandez at the tail end of the 1st? Elflein looks like he is going to be a good centre for a long time but who are they starting at OG? Josh Andrews? Nick Easton? Danny Isidora? you just invested $84 million guaranteed in a QB and those are your options for protecting him inside? That is insane...Hernandez is a plug and play OG who protects him and blows open holes in the running game for Cook...he was the perfect fit and they dropped the ball...at OT they took Brian O'Neill in the 2nd who is all upside but not ready to start this year...Reiff and Remmers aren't inspiring either at the OT positions...they have plenty of talent at the skill positions but that OL is going to hold them back.

Defensively they are a Top 5 unit in the NFL...Griffen and Hunter are an excellent set of DE and adding Richardson inside makes them even better...Richardson has been up and down but I think he is another guy like Randy Moss where if he is on a winning team he is pretty quiet and just gets on with it...it's losing the guy can't deal with...Joseph is the most underrated DT in the NFL and his run stuffing and ability to take up blockers opens things up for the other 3...possibly the best front 4 in the NFL and they have depth to come at you in waves...at LB they have speed and instincts in Kendricks and size and versatility in Barr...good solid pairing although if one went down they look a little short on depth Gedeon is decent tho...at DB again they have a ton of talent and depth...Rhodes was excellent last year and Waynes really came on...Newman seems to be able to play forever in the nickel...then you have Alexander and now Hughes as depth...starting safeties are an excellent pair as well with Smith one of the best in the NFL.

I think overall if the Vikings don't at least make the conference game it's a poor season because with there talent and the coaching staff they have they really should be able too...my only concern it that OL...I think their draft overall was a weird one...this is a team who are clearly one or two players away from a championship and there draft seems to be geared towards the future and give how small of a window teams have to be elite in the NFL these days I don't see why they didn't take higher floor guys like Hernandez in the 1st then follow that up with a guy like Orlando Brown in the 2nd to solidify that OL from day one.

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My best guess -

Vikings - simply a loaded team, Cousins isn't elite but he is talented and VERY consistent. Defense is top 2 in the NFL.

Packers - Rodgers is an elite HoF QB that should retire to be in the Manning/Brady/Montana/etc argument. They got a few good pieces but it will ride on Rodger's arm yet again. If Rodgers falls, then we cleanly jump them.

Bears - Best offseason in the NFL IMO, even if I am not a huge fan of Gabriel being a starter for us. We have a few holes still, but compared to the laughable roster we had 2-3 years ago I'm pretty happy. Also Fox is gone.

Lions - Has some good talent, I'm not sure how well Patricia  elevate them but Stafford seems to follow his great years with "pretty good" years. Last year was a great one for him, the 2nd best of his career IMO.

 

I expect the worst team in this division to be 7-9 if they are not swept within the division. Even if swept then 6-10. If we were in almost any other division I would say confidently we were a 9-7 team with an 8-8 record being rather disappointing. If in the AFC we would easily make the playoffs.

 

 

 

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Green Bay Packers...

I know I am about to be very much so in the minority here but...I think last season we started to see Rodgers play fall off a little...now by a little I really do mean a little and a 85-90% Aaron Rodgers is still better than 99% of QBs but I just think he started to look like a 33 now 34 year old QB...I still think he is a top 3 QB in the NFL but he isn't the superhuman one he was a few years back and the Packers need to start helping him out more...for me they should have done more at RB to take some of the pressure off him...Jones played well last season but a RBBC is not the way to go...for me they have should have found a real gamebreaking RB to keep teams honest more often...keeping Adams was big and the right move but I am surprised that Cobb is still holding on...they need better play from him and for someone to step up and be their #3...Moore or St. Brown could be the guys with both talented picks...Graham is a huge pick up given the uncertainty at WR...in Seattle he was used all wrong...I don't doubt that Rodgers and McCarthy will find the right spots to put him in the be a game wrecker again...I expect a 1000 yard 10+TD season from him...only saving grace for us and the rest of the division is he will soon be 32 years old and has had a little injury history...Bakhtiari is the best passing blocking LT in the NFL today and very underrated...keeping Linsley was big at centre and Bulaga if healthy is a rock solid RT...but much like Minnesota there are some questions at OG...not as bad because Lane Taylor looked good last season...also like the Madison pick as a transition to OG...I think all in all it's a very solid OL which becomes very good due to Rodgers ability to buy time but as I said that might not be so evident this season.

On defence Daniels is still an excellent DL...Kenny Clark was better than I think anyone expected him to be on the nose and should take another step this season...Wilkerson is a guy who if he turns it on can destroy even good OGs but he has to get him mind right...if all are healthy and motivated it's a very good starting ground...depth is an issue though and I am surprised they didn't do more in the draft to address it...at LB Martinez is underrated and does everything well...taking Burks in the 3rd was a solid pick up with more importantly allows Matthews to play nothing but OLB...him and Perry are solid at this point as pass rushers...Ryan & Fackrell are good depth...at CB I am not so sure what the plan is...they have so many young guys at CB with King, Rollins and now Alexander and Jackson...add in House & Williams plus even Hawkins and they have potentially 7 starting CBs...I think they have too many good options and not enough great ones...at Safety I really like the combination of HaHa and Jones but I am shocked they allowed Morgan Burnett to walk...not only is he a good player but he was an outstanding leader for that secondary and given all the youth they have I am surprised they let him walk for $5 million a year.

All in all this IMO is a team in decline...Rodgers keeps them very competitive and is still one of the elite of the elite at the most important spot in all of sport...but outside Adams and Graham I don't see great playmakers...a front seven that lacks depth and a very young secondary and I honestly believe if Rodgers isn't on it they are looking at 3rd in the division.

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Detroit Lions...

Stafford was outstanding last season and looks to have really found his way with Cooter's offence...hard to believe he is still only 30 years old...feels like he has been around forever...I think he will continue to carry the team next season...I really liked the Johnson pick and feel he can finally be the type of RB they need who can run inside and out and will be a force in the passing game...Blount gives them some power inside too...Abdullah and Riddick should see their roles diminish...Marivn Jones turned out to be an excellent FA signing and will continue to rack up yards...Tate is a really good receiver as well and I love the potential of Golladay with another years seasoning...they can really win deep...T.J Jones is decent depth as well...I think Willson was a solid pick up as a move TE and Toililo as a solid blocker...upfront the Lions look pretty good...Decker and Wagner as solid at OT...Lang inside is rock solid...I liked the Ragnow pick up at centre for them and they then have a competition for the other guard spot with Glasgow who has starting experience and Dahl who is a player I really like inside at guard...the Crosby pick that late was solid as well and gives them depth...all in all I feel they will continue to put up big numbers on offence and their running game will be better...just depend on if Cooter wants to use it.

On defence things aren't so rosie...Ansah is still a force upfront but not getting his long term deal will probably led to him not given it quite as much as last season and he has always been inconsistent...Zettel played well last season but would be best served as a nickel pass rusher inside where he did most of his damage...Hand was a decent pick up but in a 4-3 is he a DE or DT? Washington didn't do much for us so I am not sure what will be different...they had to do more upfront and I was surprised they didn't take Landry given the obvious links...inside they have a bunch of decent run stuffers but not much pass rushers and I don't see where the playmakers are...speaking of a lack of playmakers the LB core is really lacking...Davis looked poor last season so will have to come on this...Jones & Kennard bring nothing special to the group and that is even including the fact Jones played better for us last year...they really need someone to emerge...at DB Slay was the most underrated CB and possibly defensive player in the NFL last season...he was outstanding...will be very interesting to see the development of Tabor on the other side...Lawson and Diggs both played well last season but are best suited to the nickel so Tabor has to show more because people will stay away from Slay and rightly so...big fan of Glover Quinn at safety and he has been quality for a long time...Killebrew and Wilson at SS is a good combo as well but again outside of Slay and Quinn I just don't see consistent difference makers for this team...

All in all I see this as typical Lions...will put up points and look good on offence but won't be able to stop anyone on a consistent basis which will cost them again and again...I see them finishing last in the division.

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7 hours ago, Madmike90 said:

All in all this IMO is a team in decline...Rodgers keeps them very competitive and is still one of the elite of the elite at the most important spot in all of sport...but outside Adams and Graham I don't see great playmakers...a front seven that lacks depth and a very young secondary and I honestly believe if Rodgers isn't on it they are looking at 3rd in the division.

I liked your analysis overall. and agreed with most of it, but goodness, I can't agree the team is on the decline. This team has gotten better, and younger at a couple of position groups. Once they jettison Matthews, or pay him something reasonable, they'll be in a lot better cap shape, too. Even if a new Rodgers contract eats up a lot of that money. We're also looking at a new GM who, more than likely, doesn't view free agency as something loathsome. 

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2 hours ago, Heinz D. said:

I liked your analysis overall. and agreed with most of it, but goodness, I can't agree the team is on the decline. This team has gotten better, and younger at a couple of position groups. Once they jettison Matthews, or pay him something reasonable, they'll be in a lot better cap shape, too. Even if a new Rodgers contract eats up a lot of that money. We're also looking at a new GM who, more than likely, doesn't view free agency as something loathsome. 

This team was 4-1 when Rodgers went down but with close wins against iffy Bengals and Cowboys teams. After Rodgers got hurt they beat us, Tampa and Cleveland (in OT). Swapping out an aging Nelson for an aging Graham doesn’t move the needle a ton for me. Take Rodgers off that team and they’re a bottom 25% NFL roster IMO. Outside of QB I don’t think they have a single top 5 position group. That squad with a replacement level QB is a 5-6 win team to me. They have the most QB-centric roster in the league. 

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11 hours ago, AZBearsFan said:

This team was 4-1 when Rodgers went down but with close wins against iffy Bengals and Cowboys teams. After Rodgers got hurt they beat us, Tampa and Cleveland (in OT). Swapping out an aging Nelson for an aging Graham doesn’t move the needle a ton for me. Take Rodgers off that team and they’re a bottom 25% NFL roster IMO. Outside of QB I don’t think they have a single top 5 position group. That squad with a replacement level QB is a 5-6 win team to me. They have the most QB-centric roster in the league. 

Do you think they've improved though? Or is it a wash (they're about the same as last year)?

I also gotta disagree about Graham--he brings a whole other dimension to that offense than Nelson would. He's not a long term solution, sure, but Rodgers needs good weapons right now...

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