Packers are still the team to beat in the NFC North

There’s still a long way to go in the offseason, but the Green Bay Packers remain the team to beat in the NFC North.

The Packers won the division title with a game to spare last season, finishing with a 13-3 record and a trip to the NFC Championship Game.

Despite that, they entered the offseason with glaring needs across the roster, particularly at positions key to stopping the run such as inside linebacker and defensive tackle, along with needing more playmakers on offense.

A week into free agency, the Packers have been active without making a huge splash. They’ve re-signed a couple of players while also signing linebacker Christian Kirksey and tackle Rick Wagner. Yet an argument can certainly be made that the Packers were better off with last year’s starters at those respective positions, Blake Martinez and Bryan Bulaga.

At worst, the Packers are currently slightly worse than last season. At best, they’re about level. That can change, of course, as free agency is still very much open and the draft is yet to take place.

And, despite the team’s lack of big moves so far, their NFC North rivals also have a number of question marks.

Last year’s division runners-up, the Minnesota Vikings, have lost a couple of key players. The Stefon Diggs trade was a fair one and the Vikings received a lot in return, but the fact is they’ve lost a star wide receiver. And the Packers will be delighted about that; Diggs caught eight touchdowns in nine career games against Green Bay.

Signing Michael Pierce was a smart move but the Vikings have lost two-time Pro Bowler Linval Joseph.

The Chicago Bears’ biggest move was to sign edge rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn improves their pass rush without a doubt — he had 11.5 sacks in 2019 — but the Bears lost inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski.

They also traded for Nick Foles who, while an upgrade over Mitch Trubisky, comes with a number of question marks. And to cap it off, the Bears overpaid Jimmy Graham, who was cut by the Packers earlier this month after two disappointing seasons with just five total touchdowns.

The Detroit Lions don’t seem to have a direction. Matt Patricia continues to bring in former Patriots, but the Lions have lost talented offensive lineman Graham Glasgow and traded away All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay.

The Lions have the benefit of picking early in the draft, but right now, they’ve taken a step back.

As noted earlier, it’s only March. Many moves will be made in free agency and the draft will also have an impact on the 2020 season, as will the development of young players on each roster.

The Packers have made a couple of smart signings but are yet to take a big step forward. Yet they remain the NFC North’s team to beat.

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