Breaking down Packers’ NFC North dominance over the years
The Green Bay Packers have been the kings of the castle in the NFC North since the division was realigned in 2002.
In the 20 years of the NFC North, Green Bay has won the division 12 times.
The Minnesota Vikings have won the North four times. The Chicago Bears have also won the title four times in that span. The Detroit Lions don’t have any.
Since 2002, the Packers are 23-15-2 vs. the Vikings, 29-11 vs. the Bears, and 29-11 vs. the Lions.
So why have they been so dominant? Let’s dive in.
We could start with Green Bay only having three head coaches in the last 22 seasons: Mike Sherman, Mike McCarthy, and Matt LaFleur have a combined overall record of 207-122-2 (winning percentage of nearly 63%).
Sherman won three NFC North titles. McCarthy won six NFC North titles. LaFleur has already won three in his first three seasons. Each of these coaches come from offensive backgrounds. It seems like these offensive systems they have implemented in Green Bay exceeded expectations, especially when you pair them with elite players… like quarterbacks.
The most clear-cut reason for Green Bay’s divisional success is the first-ballot Hall-of-Fame play at the QB position.
Brett Favre (30-17) and Aaron Rodgers (56-21-1) are a combined 86-38-1 against the Vikings, Bears, and Lions.
In 47 games vs. the NFC North, which includes matchups vs. the Packers of course, Favre had a very solid rating of 86.7. He was the definition of a gunslinger in his career, especially vs. the NFC North. He threw for 11,890 yards, 79 touchdowns, and 53 interceptions.
However, Rodgers sets the standard for all quarterbacks when it comes to facing your rivals. In his 78 career games vs. the North, he has thrown for 169 touchdowns, just 25 interceptions, and 19,407 yards. His TD-INT ratio is 6.76-to-1. His passer rating is 109.5. That is ridiculous.
This is why franchises try to use this blueprint for finding their next franchise quarterback. No team has been able to duplicate elite QB play like the Packers have.
Elite QB play is arguably the biggest key piece of Green Bay’s dominance in the North. But it also helps having talented, key role players and stars alike on both sides of the ball who fit the mold of what Green Bay is trying to accomplish schematically.
Offensively, having great franchise receivers like Donald Driver, Javon Walker, Robert Ferguson, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams, who have all certainly helped those all-time great quarterbacks out.
Tight ends like Bubba Franks and Jermichael Finley were solid in their time in Green Bay.
Having Pro Bowl backfield pieces like Ahman Green, William Henderson, Ryan Grant, John Kuhn, Eddie Lacy, and Aaron Jones doesn’t hurt too much.
Deep, talented offensive lines have been a staple in Green Bay for the franchise’s entire existence. It’s linemen like Marco Rivera, Chad Clifton, Scott Wells, T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton, Bryan Bulaga, and David Bakhtiari who have helped keep the line at a top-tier level for years in Green Bay.
Defensively, having a Hall-of-Famer in Charles Woodson lead the defensive backfield for seven seasons was a massive, Super Bowl-winning boost.
Other defensive backfield studs include cornerbacks like Al Harris, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, and Jaire Alexander. How about a franchise legend like Nick Collins, who helped form that elite safety duo with Woodson?
Other safeties like Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were very good at playing centerfield in their time on Lombardi Ave. as well.
What about up front? Edge rushers like Aaron Kampman, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Za’Darius Smith, and Rashan Gary have helped put the opposing QB on the ground. Run-stuffers like Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, and Kenny Clark have played at a high level up front.
Inside linebackers like Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk, Blake Martinez, and now De’Vondre Campbell have all been tackling machines. Now, the Packers haven’t always had the best overall defensive units in their time since the NFC North came into play in 2002. That’s putting it nicely.
They have only had five top-10 defenses in the last 20 seasons. But it’s been those specific players that have made a difference for this defense. Woodson. Matthews. Clark. Campbell. It’s the cornerstone pieces that have kept that side of the ball dangerous.
Finally, let’s not for get about special teams.
Since 2007, it’s been one man’s show. Mason Crosby.
He is the franchise’s all-time scoring leader (1,806 points). He has a career mark of 81.1%. He has never missed a game in 15 seasons. He might be coming to the end of the line soon, but despite some bumps along the way, Crosby has been one of the most successful kickers in NFL history.
He has the 14th-most points in NFL history and the second-most among active players.
Ryan Longwell, who is currently 20th all-time in scoring, spent nine seasons in Green Bay.
In regards to other parts of the special teams, punting seems to be a year-to-year basis. Jeremy Kapinos, Jon Ryan, Tim Masthay, and J.K. Scott are the only punters since 2006 to stay in Green Bay for multiple seasons.
In terms of the return game, Green Bay has only been able to hold the line and nothing more. Despite a few special teams touchdowns from Randall Cobb, Micah Hyde, and Will Blackmon, Green Bay hasn’t been particularly dynamic in the return game. Their coverage hasn’t been particularly elite either.
The Packers have owned the NFC North in the division’s 20 seasons. They have had Hall-of-Fame QB play, strong production from key players offensively, elite play from cornerstone defensive pieces, and solid kicking from their franchise kicker.
This team is still trying to be more consistent in the postseason, but it appears that getting to the playoffs is usually always a given considering how well they play against the teams from Chicago, Minnesota, and Detroit. That will not change this upcoming season.