Today's question: The Green Bay Packers have won the NFC North for four consecutive years. What will it take for them to be supplanted as division champ?
Rob Demovsky, Packers: Their division foes could start by actually winning in Wisconsin; that hasn’t happened for the Lions since 1991. One game doesn’t make a division winner, but it’s emblematic of what has held back the Lions in their quest for a division title. The first thing Packers coach Mike McCarthy emphasizes every season is winning division games. He has created a culture in which those weeks leading up to division contests take on a special feeling. The Packers have won 65.6 percent of their division games in McCarthy’s nine seasons. That is well ahead of the Bears, who have the second-best division mark at 54.2 percent in that stretch. The Packers are even more dominant at home against division foes, winning 75.7 percent of those games under McCarthy. The Vikings are second at 61.1 percent during that same period. Notice that the Lions aren’t second-best in either category.
Jeff Dickerson, Chicago Bears: It would take an injury to Aaron Rodgers. That’s the only way I envision any NFC North team consistently beating Green Bay. But even when Rodgers has been hurt, good fortune seems to smile on the Packers -- like in 2013, when Green Bay still won the division despite Rodgers missing seven games after Shea McClellin broke his collarbone. Not even the lone highlight of McClellin’s career could keep the Packers out of the playoffs. Amazing. Now I firmly believe the Vikings, and maybe the Bears, will be better in 2015. But I just don’t see any of the three squads supplanting Green Bay until Rodgers retires. Brett Favre played 20 years. Rodgers is entering his 11th season. It might be a long time before the balance of power in the NFC North shifts outside of Green Bay.
Ben Goessling, Minnesota Vikings: The key to beating the Packers has been the ability to pressure Rodgers without sending extra pass-rushers. That’s how the New York Giants shut the Packers down in the playoffs after Green Bay went 15-1 in 2011. And even with Rodgers hobbled by a leg injury in the NFC title game, the Seahawks only blitzed him on nine of his 34 pass attempts. To supplant Green Bay, you’ve got to keep up with them in the division and probably steal one of the head-to-head matchups with them. The Vikings might actually be the team with the defensive formula to do it, especially if the additions to their secondary pan out.