The Green Bay Packers dominate offseason coverage with their current quarterback drama. Training camp is a week away, and Aaron Rodgers’ status is still unclear. This leaves the Bears, Lions, and Vikings salivating at the idea of a Rodgers-less season. But even without their MVP quarterback, the Packers still have the mightiest roster in the division.
With Rodgers, it’s safe to say the North belongs to Green Bay once again. But with Love at the helm, the division gets much more interesting. The Lions should continue to be a nonfactor, but the Bears and Vikings have enough talent to put up a fight. The Bears in particular made excellent moves in the draft, including quarterback Justin Fields. How much of a threat could the Chicago Bears be in 2021?
By trading up for Justin Fields, the Bears finally snagged what could be a true franchise quarterback. Fields’ pre-draft rankings bounced through the offseason, with him being QB2 on some lists and QB5 on others. Fields came alive in the college football playoffs, showing poise, skill, and toughness against the best opponents in the nation.
Still, Fields is believed to need extra time to adapt to the NFL; his ability to go through his reads and stay in the pocket will need refined. Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy danced this dance before with Mitch Trubisky, rushing a young developmental quarterback into playing. Fields is more talented than Tubisky, but the team needs to be smart with his development nevertheless.
The Bears have Andy Dalton as the Week 1 starter, but the Bears’ general manager and head coach are on the hot seat. Will patience prevail, or will they once again throw a young quarterback into the fire before he’s ready?
Andy Dalton himself is far from the quarterback he was a few years ago. Which still leaves him the best quarterback the Bears have right now. The Packers face the Bears in Weeks 6 and 14, and which QB they face in those games is anyone’s guess.
Allen Robinson, the Bears’ top offensive weapon, is one of the best wide receivers in the league. Yet he has buyers remorse about his decision to sign with Chicago. While he signed his franchise tag, Robinson has yet to sign on a long-term deal with the Bears, and the disgruntled wide receiver is likely in his last season as a Bear.
In addition to Fields, the Bears drafted Oklahoma State offensive tackle Tevin Jenkins in the second round. Jenkins was a popular mock draft pick for Green Bay and likely helps the Bears’ struggling o-line for the next decade.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears replaced the retired Chuck Pagano internally with safeties coach Sean Desai. The Bears’ dominant defense from just a few years ago is aging and experienced multiple new coordinators. Desai is a relative unknown but likely runs a very similar system. Khalil Mack and Eddie Jackson restructured their contracts to stay with the team.
Put all of this together and what do you get? Drafting Fields and Jenkins give the Bears a brighter future offensively than they had at the end of the 2020 season, but it doesn’t seem enough to overtake the Packers. Even without Rodgers, the Packers still have the better roster and head coach, and even the Vikings have much better weapons than Chicago. While Chicago still has excellent defenders, they’re getting older, and the defense lost a big step after losing Vic Fangio.
ESPN seems to agree, with Chicago being one of the lowest-ranked teams in their Future Power Rankings. Chicago’s forecast for the next three years was 27th in the league, with their aging defense, poor cap space, and low amount of draft capital as major factors.
While the division may be much closer with Jordan Love starting in Green Bay, Chicago is still a long way from snatching the NFC North crown.
Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.