The NFC North was nicknamed the Black & Blue Division, back when there was a NFC Central Division, which was before expansion in 2002. Before a dome was built in 1970, the physical division that played in cold weather was previously nicknamed the “Frozen Division.”
Green Bay has the most Super Bowl appearances with 5, winning 4 championships. Chicago is the only other team in the division to win the big game, as they have 1 Super Bowl themselves. A trio of these teams from the NFC North rank in the top 10 for winning percentage, Detroit being the odd team out. Chicago has the highest winning percentage of the bunch, while Detroit has the lowest and the only 0-16 season in history. When it comes to the playoffs, Green Bay is 30-18, Chicago is 17-18, Minnesota 19-27, and Detroit 7-11.
The new millennium has belonged to the Cheese Heads. Green Bay has won over half the time, 8 the past 15 years. For the record, Minnesota has the most with 18 division titles. Below is a scope into each team’s success.
|Green Bay Packers||14||21||1||5||4|
Fast-forward to the present, 2015, and here’s look at how future schedules are outlined.
|vs. AFC||vs. NFC|
|2015||AFC West||NFC West|
|2016||AFC South||NFC East|
|2017||AFC North||NFC South|
|2018||AFC East||NFC West|
To specify the exact opponents that will be on the NFC North teams’ schedules in 2015, they are: Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, Oakland, Seattle, Arizona, San Francisco, and St. Louis. With those 8 games and the annual 6 division games, that leaves for 2 games to be determined. The schedule formula has shown that those 2 opponents finished in the same place within their own division. For example, Chicago would play a couple of last-place teams in 2014 because they finished in last place. Green Bay won the division and would play against a couple of division winners from 2014, so playoff teams.
With Detroit recently eliminated from the post season at the hands of Dallas, Green Bay will be hosting the team that defeated their rival. As for Chicago and Minnesota, they are looking ahead to the draft with the 7th and 11th pick, respectively. Chicago is the only team making changes at the top in the 2015 off-season, looking to dig out of the cellar with a new front office and coaching staff.
Great players have wrecked havoc on their vials in this division, especially as of late. In the midst of this Aaron Rodgers run, Adrian Peterson is still hanging onto his future. Peterson ruled this division between the great era Packers’ quarterbacks, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. At the same time, Calvin Johnson evolved into “Megatron,” the best wide receiver in the game, as “All Day” Peterson ran wild and became the best running back. After a couple of struggling seasons by Drew Brees and New Orleans, it is now safe to declare Rodgers the undisputed, best QB in the NFC.
What is their “Identity?”
Green Bay knows who they are, an explosive offense orchestrated by an elite quarterback. A balanced offense with the versatile Eddie Lacy in the backfield, and Jordy Nelson catching back-shoulder throws like a work of art. They linemen take pride and protect their QB at all costs. This team found insurance in the 2014 draft by drafting Devante Adams, I say that because Randall Cobb will be a top priority if the wide receiver hits free agency. Nelson earned a contract extension last off-season, so the question becomes, will they invest more into the position? Cobb is certainly worth the price, but will they break up the dynamic duo and depend on Adams? If you look at other teams, you notice so many young receivers are standing out. The defense plays more aggressive at home, where they actually have played tougher and forced turnovers. Odds are, it will either be them or Seattle representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Detroit brought in Jim Caldwell to corral the erratic Matthew Stafford. It also looks like they tried elevate the play of Reggie Bush after bringing in his former offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi, from New Orleans. As we have seen in the past, Bush had another inury-plagued season. Caldwell not only got Stafford to check-down more, but focused to not turn the ball over. The conservative approach helped the team reach the postseason, it was the style of play that ended their season in the first round. There is just too much fire power for them not to take shots downfield and score more points, granted, their ball-controlling offense gave the defense a boost as well. The D ranked 2nd best in terms of fewest yardage allowed with the 3rd fewest points allowed.
Minnesota inserted rookie quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, in due time. Norv Turner, the offensive guru at coordinator, likes what he has to work with moving forward. Losing star running back Adrian Peterson is never in your game plan, so they got to see what backup Matt Asiata could provide. They also got an unexpected, but extended look, at rookie Jerick McKinnon. Sophomore-year receiver, Cordarrelle Patterson, had a disappointing season but at least rookie Charles Johnson became the go-to target. Kyle Rudolph got banged up at tight end and wasn’t a factor in 2014. Mike Zimmer took a hold of this team as the new coach and coached the defense up. He inherits Chad Greenway and Harrison Smith, some Pro Bowl caliber players, and drafted Anthony Barr in the first round. The D should leap into the top dozen or so next season.
Chicago had a mess at the important offensive positions: head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterback. Only Jay Cutler will return next season, awaiting a new general manager and head coach, who’s futures won’t be tied to the headache signal-caller. The O-line needs to get infused but the supporting cast is strong: Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett. The defense was the worst it has been in years. This is a playoff caliber roster that isn’t the rebuilding project you would think of a last-place team. Some coaching candidates are Cutler/Marshall’s former coach, Mike Shanahan, and Baltimore Offensive Coordinator, Gary Kubiak. Both are former head coaches that have a scheme to promote a 1,000-yard rusher, while getting efficient production out of their quarterback.